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"Grandpa! Your leg! What happened?"

Starting my career

My trainee period was completed in 1961. I saw some light in my future, thinking the barber's license would assure that I would survive without feeling hungry.

I joined the staff of a barbershop in Sueishi-cho by the sea. In that area, half the men were fishermen, the other half company employees.

I like to watch the sea. I chose the shop because I liked to see the sea. It shows a lot of different faces; beautiful blue on sunny days, heavy leaden grey on cloudy days. On calm days, when I get close to the shore, small fish jump back offshore, leaving ripples. Ships and boats pass far away, drawing white lines of waves. I feel peaceful when I am on the shore.

Typhoons approach and create big waves, more than 10 feet high. They hit the concrete quay, spray the water 20 feet or higher above us. It becomes hard to see far away. That scares me, yet I feel somewhat relaxed and moved.

In that shop, I was regarded a beginner, something different from a fully qualified barber. I quit in a year. Then I made an appointment to see Mr. Kawabe, the former employee of the shop where I had been trained. He patiently listened to my story when I talked about what had happened during the year.

Mr. Kawabe suggested that I come to where he worked, because the master of the shop was very skillful.

Next morning, he was waiting for me at the shop, Tokyo-do. "Are you willing to work here?" Kawabe asked me. "Yeah!" I replied.

There were 8 barbers, including me, and 7 chairs in Tokyo-do. It was a kind of fashionable and clean shop. It was one of the biggest barbershops in Nagasaki City. At first, I commuted. I was learning more than working. Master would soon say, "Kawabe, don't let Komine use the iron." or "Komine, don't use the iron" whenever I did something wrong. He had a good enough reason to say so. My customer would shout "Ouch! Hot!" when the iron touched the skin of his head.

I noticed that I needed to practice more than I could do within the normal working hours. "Will you let me live here, Master? Just a small space under the eave will do." I asked. "Do what you want, if you really want to." Master replied.

So, I often worked on trainees' hair after work. My skill improved remarkably, as I had had proper basic training. Within a year, I was able to do almost everything Kawabe did.