7 things in his bag: Shunji Matsuo

At 64, Mr Shunji Matsuo still cuts a dashing figure in a striking floral scarf, Rick Owens drop-crotch pants and sheer jacket. His hair is carefully dyed and highlighted with chestnut tones to cover the greying strands.

In person, the Japanese hairstylist, one of the first to offer trendy Japanese-style haircuts in Singapore, looks at least a decade younger.

If anything, the bachelor is the perfect example of how one should age with grace.

It is fitting, then, that he is working on a community project called Makeover Magic with the National Trades Union Congress, to give 36 men and women, aged

55 and above, free hair makeovers to boost their confidence. This is the fifth time Mr Matsuo is working on the Makeover Magic project, which started in 2010.

He has done the event once in Tokyo and thrice in his hometown of Kobe.

He embarked on the initiative after noticing that many middle-aged people in Japan look old and unhappy.

"I want those people to be happy because ageing is a beautiful thing and there is nothing to hide," says

Mr Matsuo, who has been based in Singapore for the past 17 years.

His secret to staying youthful?

"Miso soup," he quips.

Being passionate about his work definitely helps too.

He left Japan at the age of 23 for Los Angeles in the United States, where he attended the Yamano Beauty School. Then, he found work in New York City as the assistant of renowned hairstylist Suga Yusuke, where his "life changed totally".

Once at Yusuke's, he was no longer the small-town boy from Kobe.

"I went to Donna Karan's house to blow her hair and

I worked on Cindy Crawford's and Naomi Campbell's hair for editorials in American Vogue and Harper's Bazaar," he recounts.

Tired of the hedonistic lifestyle in New York City, he moved back to Asia in the early 1990s.

With the help of an Indonesian friend, he started the Shunji Matsuo chain in Jakarta in 1996. Later, he opened his first Singapore salon at the now-defunct Wellington Building in 1999.

Today, there are 10 Shunji Matsuo salons in Singapore, and one each in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. Mr Matsuo styles the locks of up to 20 people a day, four days a week at his flagship salon in Takashimaya Shopping Centre.

He is not slowing down outside of the salon, either.

Tomorrow, he will be showcasing 40 paintings, as well as more than 20 sculptures and headdresses at his art exhibition, Artistic Impressions. It will be held at the Japan Creative Centre till Nov 13.

Next year, he plans to collaborate with one of Osaka's biggest hair schools, the Zone and Section Academy, to open a new academy here to groom up-and-coming hairstylists.



I keep my passport and different currencies inside. I take it along every day, in case I need to fly at short notice. I visit Japan at least once a month for business or to see my family.


This book teaches me how to be a good leader. It is compact, so I can read it wherever I am.


I believe in natural healing, detoxing and fasting. I was recently introduced to this mineral and hydrogen ion solution to improve my health. I add two or three drops to my water every day.

4. WIG

I need to order another 30 pieces of this as I will be doing a headdress installation at the Japan Creative Centre this week.


My friend gave this to me to keep evil spirits at bay. It is from Hokkaido and made by the Ainu people of Japan.


I usually wear neutral colours when I work. I keep a scarf in my bag to add colour to my outfit when I am out of the salon.


I carry at least four notebooks in my bag. I use them to jot down ideas, plan my days and sketch hairstyles.

This article was first published on Oct 31, 2014.
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