Konichiwa from Tokyo! I’ve received many emails over the years from natural haired soldiers (soldiers figuratively, and literally) stationed in random places, but the ones I received from Okinawa and Tokyo were coming fast and furious over the past 8 months. It piqued my curiosity. I learned they have quite the community over there (they hold events and erry’thang), and they are avid CurlyNikki readers but they don’t have access to many products. So I thought it’d be pretty cool to head to Japan to meet with some of the naturals who weren’t fortunate enough to come home for the holidays, take them some free SheaMoisture products and do what we do best— talk hair!

So, after much planning, and in partnership with SheaMoisture and American Airlines Black Atlas, here I am. Also, this just so happens to be the official first stop on my Better Than Good Hair Book Tour! I’m so excited about this, y’all. I came to Japan to support the ‘Curly Troops,’ show them some love and let them know their service doesn’t go unnoticed or unappreciated. Although I’ve received messages from folks stationed overseas and thought I had a pretty good understanding, when I finally arrived on the base, I was overwhelmed. These are women just like you and me, but they really do the impossible everyday.

I was expecting around 15 attendees so imagine my surprise when 50 women showed up, of which 99 percent were active service women (the rest were wives and contractors). They came seeking good information, access, education and fellowship. And that’s what went down. God bless our troops.

Crystal, a ‘Curly Soldier’ stationed here at Yakota Air Force Base, helped organize the event. She is a nutritionist and because of this, she laid out fresh fruit, veggies and a blender so the ladies could juice! Fancy! She was very candid and taught me a lot that day. Among other stuff, I learned (1) as of 2009, locs aren’t allowed in the U.S. military and (2) as an active airman, your hair can not extend 3 inches in bulk or height, and they’ve been known to take rulers to TWAs!

She said she understands the need for standardization, but when the folks who make the rules have the kind of hair that lays flat naturally, they don’t truly understand the challenges of the divas whose hair grows UP. She said, “I need stock and bond in Ecostyler gel ’cause that’s the only way we get it to lay… saturate it with gel!” She went on to say there is no one in the area to give relaxers, and those who do can charge exorbitant fees. So folks are forced to go natural, and that’s how they found CurlyNikki.com. 

Crystal, originally from Jamaica, has been natural for 3 years. She had to do a Big Chop because the permed hair couldn’t keep up with the frequent washes after her daily exercise routine. She said she loves wearing her hair out on her off days but if called to duty unexpectedly must destroy even the bombest of wet sets and pull it back into a bun to meet standards.

After the meetup, she wrote-
“Let me start by saying thank you for coming out and supporting us. Everyone was pleased that you took the time out of your schedule to come talk hair with us military folks. You are a true gem! Just to show you how big your name has gotten, we filled the entire auditorium!!! Which was awesome!! It was very informative and everyone that left the building was so eager to try a new style and their  SheaMoisture products for their hair/body. And on top of that you have the best personality, which will bring you far!!!! We are a growing community of natural sistahs, and I’m pretty sure your coming here gave some of us the umph to continue with the journey and some to even embark on the journey of becoming natural. Again, thank you for making us feel important enough for you to come here!”

Nikki Walton, founder of CurlyNikki.com, is a successful psychotherapist and creator of the most credible online source about natural hair care, maintenance and decoding the psychological ties between black women and their hair. She’s the author of the forthcoming book, Better Than Good Hair.