Our Slice of Tokyo

Nailist in Japan: A Story of a Filipina Aspirant

Being a nailist or nail artist here in Japan is not only for glamour. For the past six months, I witnessed how tough it is to become a licensed nailist in the Land of the Rising Sun. I saw this through my friend Jezza.

Learning from a Licensed Teacher

Knowing how to clean the nails and apply polish is not enough should you want to work as a nailist in Japan. First, Jezza looked for a licensed nail school  where she can attend some classes. Luckily she found one near Nishi-Kasai station. Her class is up to six months, two hours minimum every session. Sometimes she has a one-on-one session with her sensei. Most of the time I join them as a model especially when it is near her licensure exam.

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Inside Lea Nani Nail School in Nishi-Kasai

Enrollment fee for a six-month class ranges from JPY 200,000 to JPY 300,000 (USD 2,000 – 3,000) depending on the materials and number of hours of lessons per week. This does not include the payment for the exams and additional supplies.

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Setting the Table before Manicure Practice


Studying the Nailist Bible by Heart


Aside from the lessons with her sensei, Jezza needs to read books and texts on nail anatomy, proper nail care as well as nail design for polish and gel art. This is to know the step-by-step procedure on how to clean the client’s nails and proper application of polish or gel.

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Last Minute Studying Before the Test

She also needs to memorize them by heart for her licensure exams. Absorbing all information in six months is already a challenge. What makes more difficult is that all texts are in Japanese, most of which are in Kanji characters.

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The Japanese Nail Care Bible


Taking the Licensure Exam


Like most professions, one cannot officially practice as a nailist until an appropriate license is secured. To do that, an aspiring nailist needs to pass the licensure exam. This is composed of two parts: practical and paper tests. The exam varies on the appliqué such nail polish and gel nail. And every appliqué has different levels.

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Prepping the Table for the Practical Test

To have a variety she can offer to her future clients, Jezza studies both for nail polish and gel nail applications. Hence, she needed to take to pass two basic licensure exams for both.

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Foreigner about to Take the Nail Licensure Exam for Nail Polish

As her model, I share almost half of her nervousness, excitement, and anxiety. Expecting the unexpected, doing the most we can, and hoping for positive results. On a lighter side, we were able to go to new places and participate on big events.

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Jezza and I after the Exam at Sunshine 60 in kebukuro


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A Beauty School in Oimachi, Shinagawa Where the Gel Nail Exam was Held last April 2016


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Waiting for the Exam to Start at Tokyo Big Sight, Odaiba

Here’s our story during the Jezza’s licensure exam for nail polish. Japanese Nail Art: An Industry Unexplored

And here is our story during her gel nail licensure exam: Tryin’ the Gel Nail Art

Practice, Practice, Practice


As they say, practice makes perfect. For Jezza to hone her skills, she offers free manicure services to her friends and their friends too. She do this after she help her children prepare for school, finish the house chores, after she comes home from nail school; and/or after she comes home from her work. I admire how her patience and desire to be better day by day.

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Practicing for Gel Nail


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Trying Out Other Color Aside from Red

As I am writing this article, Jezza is still waiting for the results of her Level 3 Licensure Exam for Nail Polish. It was her second time to take this exam. Her first try for both nail polish and gel nail was nor successful. Although she passed the practical tests for both, she did succeed on the paper tests. Thus, she had to take the whole exam again for nail polish.

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