Nonprofit Organization National Welfare Beauty and Barber Training Association (Fukuribi)Hitomi Iwaoka
Tell us about the National Welfare Beauty and Barber Training Association.
The National Welfare Beauty and Barber Training Association is a nonprofit organization commonly called "Fukuribi." As the name suggests, it is an NPO bringing enlightenment to people on welfare beauty and barbering. The organization is now focusing most on the appearance care service for cancer patients including medical wigs.
Originally, Fukuribi was engaged in visiting beauty and barber service wherein our staff members visited the houses of elderly or disable people and cut their hair. During such activities, we received various consultations, and among such consultations, there was the problem of medical wigs for people who lost their hair due to anticancer drug treatment or who suffered burns.
Although the term "medical" is used, there is no clear definition for medical wigs. In addition, although companies are exercising their ingenuity by realizing durability to allow one to one and a half year-use or using materials kind to the skin for the lining, the prices and qualities have wide variations and there were few high-quality and cost-effective wigs. Thus, we decided to deal in medical wigs by ourselves.
What kind of wigs is Fukuribi producing?
We are producing semi-custom wigs made only from human hair. Normally, many wigs are ready-made and made of chemical fibers. However, these kinds of wigs have fixed colors and hair styles such as short or bob and thus they can hardly be customized.
However, Fukuribi's wigs enable customers to make various customization. First of all, we have two sizes, S and M. Customers first decide their size after a trial fitting and then a hairstylist of a partner salon who has received specialized training cuts the wig to the preferred hairstyle for each customer. You can enjoy your hairstyle by applying coloring or getting perms to make the wig have a fashionable hairstyle.
You can try, consult or purchase these wigs at more than 100 partner salons across the country that are affiliated with Fukuribi.
What made you get involved in Fukuribi?
Originally, I was working at the reception desk of a beauty salon. One day, I met Mr. Akagi, the director of our organization, and accompanied him on a visit to a nursing home to see an old lady with dementia receive a haircut. As I was watching, I saw her facial expression change very quickly during the haircut. I even doubted if she really had dementia and I realized at this time that visiting beauty and barber service was an amazing job connected to human dignity. Because of this experience, I jointly established Fukuribi and expanded the scope of activities with Mr. Akagi.
Nowadays, visiting beauty and barber service is gradually gaining attention and spreading, but it was hardly recognized when we first established our organization and thus we continued to carry out steady activities. As a result, we have now been covered by the media as the leading expert and are even offering training programs on visiting beauty and barber service in cooperation with large companies.
Tell us about the future developments.
Japanese beauty and barber skills have high levels on a global basis and Japanese hairstylists or barbers are even offering training programs in China. We may expand our activities in other countries in addition to expanding the scope of activities in Japan in the mid-to-long term since there are needs in Japan where the number of elderly will obviously increase and these experiences could be utilized in other countries.
In addition, Fukuribi opened a real platform named "Appearance Support Center Aichi (Apisapo Aichi)" close to the cancer center in 2015. At this place, appearance care service is not only provided by wigs but also for overall appearance such as nails and skin. By having this kind of base, we enjoyed increased confidence from hospitals and increased public recognition, leading to increased inquiries. This shows that customers feel more reassured when they have an actual place to make direct consultations. We are also planning to establish a facility similar to Apisapo Aichi in Tokyo. We would be happy if Fukuribi users increase due to such facility.
Our hope is to make welfare beauty and barbering more common. Our wigs could be normally sold at nearby beauty salons and there is no need for Fukuribi to be special.
We are expecting to continue our activities with an aim to create a society where "welfare beauty and barbering" is not a special but an ordinary service.