My Spiel:

If anyone mentions my dreadlocks to me, I tell them the following spiel:
"Thank you for mentioning my hair. Anyone who is kind enough to mention my hair..."

at which point I pull the scissors from my pocket
" asked to cut off one of my dreadlocks!"

Friday, July 2, 2010

Encounters 11 and 12: In The Tatami Room

Encounter 11: The Second Refusal

Many of the larger family-oriented hot springs and bath-houses in all parts of Japan have one or more large multi-purpose tatami rooms where it is possible to order food and drinks, eat one's own food, or simply relax after a hot soak. I usually use such places to drink Pocari Sweat and to catch up with my diary. 

After emerging from the bath at Hakone-no-yu onsen, I had been given some left-over food by a group of ladies on the other side of the room and was writing my diary entry about my productive time in the bath talking to the man who took a dreadlock without exchanging it for anything when a lady came in to clean the tables. As she wiped the far end of the table at which I was seated, she made a passing comment about my hair, either saying that it was very long, or how bothersome it must be.

 I presented to her my spiel about what I was doing and explained why she was suddenly an unwitting participant in a performance project. 

Her general attutude was that of refusal, saying what a waste it would be of all that lovely long hair, although she did go as far as taking the scissors and starting to choose a dreadlock to remove. 

Just before making the cut, however, she said that she would call the others (which others, I wondered) and come back. 

She left me on tenterhooks, in a state of gradually diminishing expectation. And that was as far as the second non-removal went.

Encounter 12: The Tenth Removal

I had been given more food than I could eat. I returned the large collection of almost-empty food boxes to the table on the other side of the room with a note to say thank you to the three ladies who had given me the food. Two ladies and two young children had occupied the next table over while I was eating. Realizing that my actions may look rather odd, I explained to them that I had been given lots of food. Amazed that I could speak Japanese, they started plying me with questions. While we were chatting, the first group of three ladies returned, and, finding my thank-you note, expressed amazement that I could write Japanese as well as speaking it. (The cultural myth of the impossibility of Japanese is a myth that is held dear in the hearts of those who speak it as a mother-tongue.) 

Between the two groups, I was being hit with a barrage of questions from both sides. I realized that a mention of my hair could not be far off, and began to wonder which group would be the first. It turned out to be the most local and most talkative lady of all, the older of the two ladies accompanying the two children. As I explained my project, she seemed fairly calm, although she was surprised when she realized that I wanted a whole dreadlock cut off. As there were a few people in the group, I selected for them a nice big thick multiple, formed of about 4 or so dreadlocks fused together. With only two snips, the deed was done, and my head was further cleared. 

The lady wanted me to keep the lock as a 記念品 kinenhin or memento of the occasion, but I told her I already had plenty of dreadlocks and plenty more memories. At which she immediately expressed her own wish to keep the lock as a 記念品 kinenhin. This was fine by me, and when I asked what she would swap for it, she came up with the perfect exchange: a bottle of shampoo.

 None but the purest non-additive shampoo had graced my dreadlocked scalp for 9 years, so this was a perfect exchange: a reintroduction to shampoo. My one concern with the shampoo bottle was that it might be rather heavy to carry around. But since I had just got rid of the single largest clump of hair on my head, I was not too worried about an extra weight.

The next encounter took place the following day.

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