Yoshino’s Barber Shop

by Tom Horgen

UDir. Ogigami Naoko

Utopia has its costs. And they’re often not too pleasant.

In “Yoshino’s Barber Shop,” a small Japanese town maintains its apparently idyllic routine by abiding strictly to tradition. And as the title suggests, one of the town’s primary traditions forces all males, young and old, to have the same hair style: a very old-school bowl cut. Tradition is so strict that the woman who runs the barbershop where everybody gets their hair cut is often found repeating messages, such as “Tradition is a wonderful thing,” into the town’s public address system.

Of course, disaster strikes the faux utopia when a boy with bleached hair moves to town from Tokyo. The boy, Yosuke, is told to immediately conform to the town’s silly haircut. But when he opposes the ritual and other boys begin following his free-spirited attitude, the forces of tradition come out swinging. At one point, we actually see the barbershop owner chasing Yosuke down with a scissors.

The film’s gorgeous visuals and comedic tone give it a whimsical, almost fluffy feeling. But don’t be fooled. Its depiction of the proverbial tug-of-war between tradition and new ideas is quite involving. The film very subtly investigates the way blind tradition can create repressive and harmful environments. But it also depicts the recklessness that can occur from throwing out tradition without properly understanding its history. (Tom Horgen)