I went for a walk in the woods with my friends Ryan and Nami and their young daughter Eunie. They knew that I was about to enter a period of time during which anyone who mentioned my hair would be asked to cut off one of my dreadlocks. Eunie was somewhat too young to worry about this, but Ryan and Nami knew that since they knew about the project in advance, they were exempt from eligibility to cut off any of my hair. As such, they did not mention my hair.
The first person to mention my hair was one of a group of four Japanese ladies who were descending Mt. Takao as the four of us were ascending. Having responded to my "Konnichiwa," one of the ladies exclaimed at the length of my hair, and I stopped in the path and approached her. For the first time, I said my "spiel", a semi-prepared explanation of the project that had just begun, and pulled out my scissors. The lady was surprised and the whole group seemed very excited.
Without much persuasion, the lady who had mentioned my hair selected and cut off a dreadlock, with an air of determination. We then had to decide what should be done with it now that it was free from my head. We discussed the various merits of the lady keeping the lock, or of me keeping the lock, or what about possibly leaving it by the path, and then suddenly the lady who had cut the lock remembered the shrine on top of the mountain and suggested I go and leave it there as an offering (to what or whom, she did not say). So I took the dreadlock with me, and after the second dreadlock was cut off, we got to the top of the mountain, and to the shrine, which was a little way over the other side. I wondered where the most appropriate place to leave a dreadlock at a shrine might be, but in the end simply tied it to the fence next to the money box.
Having this first dreadlock cut off was quite an emotionally exciting experience. I felt a real sense of "This is it: There is no turning back" and when the hair was detached, it seemed quite strange to hold it in my hands in front of me, this now separate entity that I had been so attached to for 9 years.