World Sign
Vol. 56: Bustle of Beauty Salons in Nanjing

More than ten years have passed since the Tienanmen incident in 1989. Commercial districts in China, even in the capital of Beijing, were then often squalid and run-down, with the appearance of makeshift huts. Even the faces of the people walking through the streets looked dirty, as if they were unable to wash themselves every day. Anyone might have thought that the Chinese had no idea of how to make themselves look neat and respectable. But visiting again last year, the transformation was absolutely astonishing. Of course, a similar transformation occurred in Japan between the immediate postwar years and the era a decade on.

One thing that particularly struck me as having changed enormously was the beauty salons.

Shortly after arriving in Nanjing, I began walking through the busiest part of the city when it was already past 10 o'clock in the evening. Most of the shops and restaurants had shut down for the night, and just one or two here and there were still doing business. But for some reason or other, it wasn't just the restaurants that were still open: apart from the restaurants, all the establishments that were still open were beauty salons. I had a peek into one of them.

The sign indicating the salon was a twisted pole in red, blue and white. While much like the poles used outside barbers' establishments in Japan, this one was entirely glass-plated and looked very stylish. The salon was still full of customers and brimming with life. I had a look at the salon's business hours and was surprised to note that it stayed open between 9 o'clock in the morning and 11 o'clock at night. But, of course, China is a country where married couples both go out to work. Women now have the financial means to make themselves look attractive, but I couldn't help reflecting on the fact that their efforts to do so had to be made late into the evening.

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