nails 101 in japan

Ever since I was little, I always played  the violin so I could never grow my nails out, let alone have any type of real manicure. So after I moved to Japan, my violin days had ended and I started to get my nails done–and soon I was hooked!!  Yesterday, I finally got my nails done again–for the past 2 months I was giving my nails a “break”.

So first off, when you go to the nail salon you choose whether you would like sculpted acrylic nails (スカルプ “sukarupu”) or gel nails (ジェル ネイル).  1. Sculptured nails are made with the help of a foil that is attached to your nail. Then acrylic nail powder is laid on top, after 20-30 seconds it sets and the foil is removed.   2. Recently, more and more ladies are choosing gel nails, as it overlays on your real nails.  Or if you are looking for more length, you can put the gel over plastic tips attached to your nail bed. The gel helps to strengthen your natural nails and can last up to one month! It dries with a special UV light machine.

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I chose to do extended gel nails (長さ出し ジェル ネイル nagasa dashi gel nails).  As I have done my nails for a long tine, my nails had become thin and weak, so every once in a while I decide to take a couple months break. While I was giving my nails a break, some of them broke off or chipped off, so I needed to put the plastic tips on to give my nails extra length.

Your nails are cut short and prepared for tips (チップ chippu). 1. First they find plastic tips that correctly fit the width of your nail and trim them before so they fit correctly before attaching them to the tips of your nails.  2. After the tips are glued on, you must decide on the length. As I often use the computer, I didn’t want my nails to be too long. The longer they are the harder it is to type on my computer and cell phone. They use a special cutter to cut all of your nails the same length.

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After choosing the length, you decide on the shape of your nail: oval, round, sqaure, square-off (squoval), point /almond


1. Before I used to like sqaure, but i realized that it made my fingers looks stubby, so now I usually choose oval. I think this shape looks classy and elongates the finger. The nailist then shapes your nail with a file into your desired shape. 2. After shaping your nails, they file the down your entire nail so that the gel will properly overlay.

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This is the hardest decision, choosing a color and design.  Here are some of the colors they had available. They include matte colors (ツヤ無しマット tsuya nashi matto), colors with pearl in it (パール入り), glitter (ラメ) and hologram colors (ホロ).


There are so many designs to choose from. I chose a design from one of their books. When you choose a created design, you have the option of changing the colors (カラーチェンジ). I decided to change the colors to peach-ish pink and white. I kept the silver glitter lines and I liked the stone art, but I didn’t want the blue stones added. You can change the stone shape, color and size.


Some easy designs.   1. French (フレンチ)   2. Backwards French (逆フレンチ gyaku french)  about 3/4 of your nail is colored   3. One Color (ワンカラー)    4. Glitter Gradient (ラメグラデ)   5. Color Gradient (カラーグラデ)


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1. Now its time to paint on the first gel coat–which is a clear base coat. After they finish one hand, you stick your hand in the UV light machine to dry. 2. They they begin with the design. The nailist painted on the pink portion first–is 3/4 of the tip of my nail. My nails are like wider version of french nails.

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1. After the pink portion was dry, she painted on the white portion on the remaining 1/4 area of the tip of my nail. Then it was back under the UV light.  2. With a really thin brush she outlined both the pink and white areas with silver glitter (ラメ ライン ra-me line).  Of course this needed to dry under the UV light. On my right hand my pointer finger (人差し指 hito sashi yubi) and ring finger (薬指 kusuri yubi)have extra lines, and on my left hand only my ring finger has extra glitter lines.

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When my nails were dry, it was time to add stones (ストーン アートstone art) to the three nails with extra glitter lines on them. A small layer of clear gel was put on the area where the stones would be.  Then It was set to dry. And finally the top coat, a thicker coat of clear gel was added. After it dried they felt my nails and smoothed out any rough edges. The last step was dabbing cuticle oil on my nails.

After about 3 hours my nails were finally done (this took way longer then usual )!!


I love getting my nails done. To me, its like getting your hair cut, it makes you instantly feel good!! So, what type of nails do you usually get? Do youhave a specific shape and length you like?


ms fancy pants tokyo & wedding nails (circa 2010)


  • March Nails Shibuya (マーチ渋谷店)
  • 2-10-14 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku Tokyo
  • 7F Aoyama Alpha Bldg
  • Mon-Fri 10:00-21:00
  • Sat-Sun/Holiday 10:00-18:30
  • 03-6427-2833

31 thoughts on “nails 101 in japan

  1. Pingback: spring nails@ march nail salon | ms fancy pants tokyo

  2. I’m headed to Tokyo in two weeks for holiday and want to get my nails done while there. Can you tell me the approximate price of this design?

    • Hi Danielle. This design was about 6,000JPY for extended gel nails and the design. I go to March Nails in Shibuya. It’s reasonably priced and I love all the designs there. I have linked a design page that they have now. The first price listed is for gel nails your natural nails, the second is extended gel nails, and the third is for sculpted acrylic nails. This is taken from a website called hot pepper- which gives you coupons related to beauty. If you can read Japanese you should look at this site. Here is March Nails regular website also. All the designs can be altered too. The colors and the stones and what not. If you have any more questions feel free to ask.

  3. Thank you for the info! I just moved to Tokyo and started looking for an affordable nail salon and trying to understand the local trends.
    I have another question: are you expected to tip you nails technician ? if so what it the appropriate amount?
    thanks in advance

    • Hey Inna!!! Thanks for reading my blog! The salon I go to is really reasonable and they are very skilled! No, there is NO tipping in Japan so the price is whatever it states. Recently nails are getting cheaper and cheaper, but the price depends on how intricate/simple you want the design. I think between ¥4000-8000 is normal these days. Sometimes you can get it cheaper depending on the day and time you make an appt. If you can read Japanese please check Hot Pepper Beauty online or they have paper magazines separated by location. If you have any more questions feel free to ask!

      • Thank you so much for the quick reply! I don’t know any Japanese so will try to find someone that can help me with the site.
        I live in Azabujuban and all the places around my area charge around ¥6500-¥9000, so I’m happy to hear there are more reasonable prices out there

        thank you again 🙂

      • Well you should try and find a hot pepper beauty magazine. They are usually around stations and sometimes at convenience stores. They have all sorts of nail pictures and coupons for going to salons and things. Here is a link to the salon that I go to. It is located in Shibuya but very close to aoyama/omotesando area. Behind Hikarie–if you know where that is. Even if you can’t read Japanese you can see the pictures and the prices. The first price is for your natural nails the second price is for extended nails and the last price is for sculptured nails. Hope this helps.

    • Hi Aincendio,
      Thank you for reading my blog! For appointments, it depends on which day of the week you would like to go. Weekdays during working hours are usually open. It can be difficult to get an appointment on the weekends. My schedule is flexible, so I usually just ask for the first available appt which is almost always in the same week. If you can’t get an appointment at one shop, you can always call another branch or just go to a different salon. But I would recommend making an appointment couple of days in advance. Hope this helps!

  4. 💅High I was just wondering do they do refills, no one seems to mention refills, or do they just start from the beginning all the time, I love your posts💅

  5. Pingback: Japan Info Swap » English Speaking Nail Salon in Nagoya

  6. OMG~ thank you so much~ I’m studying at Saitama University at the moment and really need to get my nails done for the weekend. I’m definitely going to this place tomorrow. So glad I found your blog! 😀

    • Hi Linda!! Thanks for reading my blog! Wow you are studying at Saitama Univ–that’s great! I went to Jochi Daigaku (Sophia Univ). I love March Nails! If you look on Hot Peeper beauty you can find some coupons that you might wanna use and you can make a reservation online too. Lemme know if you need any help or have anymore questions!

  7. Hey there.
    I’m in Japan at the moment and booked an appointment at March Nails for the only day I could but I have a tight schedule.
    I want to have my nails lengthened with a simple design and was wondering how long it usually takes?

    Thank you 🙂

    • Hi Mim!
      Thanks for checking out my blog. It’s actually really really quick. Do you have anything on your nails right now? I mean gel nails? If you don’t it will take about an hour, depending on how quickly you choose the color and design. If you have nails already on that you need to take off it will take an extra 15-30 minutes. Hope this helps!

  8. Hi your blog is super informative! As a nail regular going to japan, it helped so much. Do you know if salons in general are open with foreigners and does walk ins? Thanks.

    • Hey Natalie! Thanks for reading my blog. I don’t know any salons that do walk-ins. A lot of places have at least one person that an speak broken English. But if you know what you want or have pictures they can usually figure it out without speaking much Japanese. The salon I go to has like special nails every month that you can semi customize, so it makes it very easy. Or they have a simple plan where you can get one color or gradation and two nails with stone art. The nail salon is called Nail Salon March in Shibuya. They are actually doing a special campaign right now, where feet and hands are 6980. I can give you more details if you need it. As I speak Japanese I don’t specifically look for an English speaking salon, but here are some English ones I have found, and . I have been to es in the past. Hope this helps!

  9. I am a nail tech with over ten years experience
    I would like to work and learn more about nail field in Japanese
    thank you

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