Ukiyo-e Inspired Nail Art in Tokyo

Apparently nail art in Japan is a big deal.  I had no idea.  Ok, maybe I had an inkling of an idea, as multiple friends who have visited me here in Tokyo have asked me where to get their nails done.  I’ve always been at a complete loss for suggestions, which is not my modus operandi.  So, in order to fill in a gap in my “local” knowledge bank, I set out to find a salon to visit.

After some googling I stumbled upon this article.  Browsing through it, I decided to visit ET ARS in the Daikanyama neighborhood (well, kinda in Daikanyama…in between Shibuya and Daikanyama).  ET ARS specializes in creating gel nail art inspired by famous artists’ works.  With Fuji Rock approaching at the end of the week, I decided to get something that would match all of my festival outfits, but also be a nod to the fact that I’m in Japan.

When you think of Japanese art (traditional art, not anime, haha), the image that pops in to your brain is probably Hokusai’s ‘The Great Wave off Kanagawa’.  Beautiful.  Iconic.  And soon to live on my nail.

You absolutely must book an appointment with ET ARS.  A lot of nail salons in Japan are just one room with their owner/artist working, and this one is no exception.  You’ll also need to be able to speak Japanese to make the booking.  I communicated to her that I wanted Uikyo-e and Hokusai inspired nails when I booked my appointment so that she would have time to think on the design.

You can contact her through their Instagram
Once your appointment is confirmed she will send you the address.

My appointment day I walked the pleasant-enough 15 minutes to the salon from Shibuya station and found the small one room salon in a non-descript building in a residential area.  The room was sparse but cute, with a definite “Daikanyama” vibe to it (think upscale hipster).  She asked me if I wanted to leave it up to her to decide the designs and I said of course!

The Salon
Art books and great taste in furniture.
First time seeing something like this.  It was a fan that sucked up all the nail dust.
She has an iPad with Netflix set up, so feel free to watch stupid reality shows while she works on your hands.
All of the colors she used.

Make sure to allot yourself at least 2 hours for the process.  She is incredibly detail-oriented!  I wasn’t really able to see what she was doing but when she was done….


Hokusai’s “The Great Wave off Kanagawa”.  There’s even a tiny Mt. Fuji!  I’m absolutely blown away by the detail.
And my other hand has Hokusai’s “Fine Wind, Clear Morning”.

The whole set cost me ¥11,000, which is roughly $100 USD.  Not a cheap set of nails, but since they’re gel they’ll last me for quite a while.  You can find gel sets for much cheaper in Japan, but I’m happy to pay for quality and skill.

If you have a favorite nail salon in Tokyo, let me know in the comments!

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