Being in Atsugi was getting on my nerves. It felt too urban: there was not enough human interaction to ensure a steady stream of dreadlock-removing encounters. I was just about ready to give up and head back to the hills, when I decided to go into the cheapest noodle shop in town for a bowl of soba. As I ordered, trying to make the decision between kitsune and tempura, I got chatting with the lady serving the noodles. She asked me why I spoke Japanese, where I had travelled, and then suddenly speaking in English, she said the words, "nice hairstyle!"
At this, I leapt joyfully into my spiel, and revealed to her that she was now entitled to cut off one of my dreadlocks. She was slightly taken aback, but was happy - when she had a moment - to come out from the kitchen to cut off a dreadlock.
She chose one from just above my left ear.
It was somewhat entangled with other dreadlocks, so took a couple of snips and not a little concentration, but was soon free, and my head a little lighter.
When I asked the soba lady what to do with the lock, she seemed to want to keep it as a 記念品 kinenhin - a memento of the encounter, but when I asked what she would like to exchange for it, she became less sure. So she went back behind the counter to think about it while I ate my kitsune soba.
After eating, I took my tray back to the counter, and asked the lady what we should do with the lock. She completely changed her tune and announced that as a preparer of food, she could not accept a dreadlock, and I should keep it. As for what to do with it, she said, "I'll leave that up to you."
If one party is less willing to partake in an exchange, does this become a form of abuse? Especially in a culture like Japan where it is almost impossible to voice a direct opinion such as "please go away and leave me alone". It seems that at first, people quite like the idea of keeping a dreadlock as a memento or keepsake, but when given the time to think about it, no longer seem to want it - especially if they have to attach a value to it by exchanging something for it.
I decided that since the lady who cut this dreadlock was wearing glasses, I would tie it into the shape of a pair of glasses. So I went outside and did so.
I did not wear these glasses much, partly because they were rather itchy, and partly because they might inspire comments about a hair that was no longer attached to me, thus complicating the issue of whether a prospective cutter knew about the process previous to mentioning the hair.
Atsugi had proved useful and slightly interesting, but continued to get on my nerves: I decided to leave and head for Hakone, a more rural and touristy area in the hills.