A couple of hours ago, at the spur of the moment, I decided to go and get my hair cut. Since coming to Tokyo, I have always been for haircuts with Kayo at Cubic Dada. They are brilliant there and I have no complaints. It was just that I decided to get a haircut there and then, so I walked myself into Tony & Guys in Hiroo. Even though I did not have a reservation (obviously, it being a spur of the moment thing and all) they had a stylist free, so I went for it. The haircut was lovely – not better, nor worse, but what strike me as interesting was how comfortable it was for me to be there, even though the stylists were all Japanese and spoke pidgin English, like at Cubic Dada. I realised that I was comfortable because it felt exactly like a Tony & Guys in London. We do find comfort in things that we know and are used to, don’t we? If only they had a Headmasters here in Tokyo!
Of course, when we talk about global franchising today, Starbucks would come to mind and would probably be one of the most popular topics. I remember when Starbucks took over Chiswick High Road. It was quite literally that, as Starbucks came in and bought over five cafes, all on the same road. I used to go to Starbucks, but not that often as their coffee isn’t that great in London. It was just convenient. However, Starbucks in Tokyo actually serves good coffee and it turns out that it is a good hang-out too.
Starbucks is usually where we go for our Japanese lessons. It’s comfortable, coffee is good, and they don’t kick you out even if you sit there for the entire day. Actually, all cafes in Tokyo don’t kick you out, even if you sit nursing a drink for a good six hours. I have actually done that! The other thing is of course the global brand. Other than a few drinks on the menu that is localised, the rest of the menu is the same wherever you are. As they say, “why change a good formulae, eh?” So, do these franchises make us feel more at home whilst we are away from home? Or actually, I reckon these franchises give a new meaning to ‘habit’, as this is now a ‘habit’ that you can take with you, anywhere in the world. Good or bad? I doubt it is as clear-cut as that, but I have to say that when I feel alienated in this wonderful city, I find myself seeking refuge in one of these establishments. I say they should bring over Pret A Manger too. Now that would be heaven for me.