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Barber cuts hair of suspects at police station for 50 years

by Sumiyo Yoshikawa

Kyodo

A 74-year-old barber in Niigata Prefecture has been cutting the hair of suspects detained at a police station in the city of Murakami for the past half century.

“I started because I heard no one else was willing to do it, but I didn’t realize that I have been cutting hair for so many years,” said Satoshi Komazawa, the second-generation manager of a barbershop that opened around 1930.

Although his 45-year-old son has already taken over the shop and the police station was moved to a spot about 1 km away in 2007, Komazawa still visits the station to cut detainees’ hair several times a year.

“If I retire, the police cell will be full of people with shaggy hair,” he said. “I will come whenever they need me.”

Komazawa was first asked to cut the hair of detainees at the station when it moved near his shop in 1963. He estimates he has given about 500 such haircuts over the years.

For security reasons he is allowed to carry only scissors and electric shavers. No razors allowed.

The detainees sit in a chair in a room while being watched over by two police officers. They are allowed to tell Komazawa in what style they want to have their hair cut.

He said he used to feel terrified when suspects who were handcuffed with ropes around their waists came in and that the tattoos around their necks made him nervous.

Each haircut is priced at a fixed ¥1,000 and has remained the same for dozens of years.

Komazawa is permitted to converse with the suspects but has never pressed them for personal information.

“Do you think I could ask them what they did to be put behind bars?” he said.

He has run across some acquaintances in the facility, while others who had their hair cut by Komazawa at the station came to see him at his shop after being released.

Komazawa said he always hopes that the suspects whose hair he cuts will be rehabilitated and that he will never see them again behind bars.