Snow, Dreadlocks, and My Twelfth Year
This is the first entry for the I.D. Advancement Panel since starting the new year, but it’s a little late to call it a “new year”, isn’t it? Anyway, I hope for your continued support in this year.
Now then, Tōkyō has seen many snowy days this winter, and just the other day we had quite the snowstorm. It’s nothing but a nuisance to me now—this snow that won’t let me wear my favorite shoes outside and disrupts train schedules. But in my younger years any accumulation of snow sent me rushing outside to play.
In my grade school days, there was a small hair salon on the road I took school. It was built around the time I was in third grade. At the time it was an unusually stylish salon for our part of town, but its popularity meant what little space it had was always filled with customers ever since it opened. A lot of girls from my school who had their hair cut there, but there was another reason we went: the attractive male stylist who treated us kids kindly and on the same level as his adult customers. Only two stylists worked there. The other was a beautiful lady who sometimes gave us cute rings she made from beads. I thought fondly of them both.
When I was in sixth grade, I and three of my friends went there in our yukata on the day of the summer festival. After getting help with putting on the yukata from a friend’s grandmother, we all went to the salon, allowances in hand. We wanted to have our hair done up and decorated with cute flower ornaments to match our outfits.
We arrived to find no other customers, so we lined up to have our hair done. While I waited I declared to the male stylist, “When I’m in high school I want to work here part-time.” I swore to do anything, from cleaning to greeting customers, to which he replied, “OK, but only after you turn 18.”
“Aw, do I really have to wait that long?” I said.
“I bet when you turn 18 you’ll have a bigger dream, and you’ll be so caught up in that dream that you won’t think about wanting to work in a place like this. But if you’re so interested in this business that you still want to work here when you’re 18, I’ll hire you.”
Hearing this, I kept insisting. “When I turn 18 I promise I’ll still feel the same about working here as I do now!” “OK, I’ll reserve a spot,” he said as he took out a slip of paper. On that paper I wrote, “When I turn 18 I’ll work here,” and signed my name. Next to that he wrote, “I’ll hire you,” signed his name, and agreed to keep it in a safe place in the salon. On seeing that my friends wanted to make “reservations” too, so four names ended up on the paper.
Incidently, the night of that particular summer festival I didn’t come home until well after curfew and so received a severe talking-to from my parents. But looking back, I feel that time may have been the most mature and also the most childish point of my life.
One snowy day that winter, when I passed the salon on the way home from school I saw that stylist outside, in a snowball fight with some kids. I stopped to join in and had fun throwing snowballs with everyone. Several days later I found out he had left his job. Apparently he struck out on his own and set up his own salon. Another lady started working in his old position. I was shocked by the sudden news, but I also felt a little angry. I wish he would have told me. Leaving without saying anything is just too mean.
That spring I entered junior high, and I passed by the salon less and less. But on occasion, when I stopped by to have my hair cut, the lady there often said, “We still have that contract saved for you.” After my family moved to a different neighborhood when I was in high school, I never went back to that salon. At 12 years old, I had believed that I would work part-time for that kind stylist, and that I would never change my mind.
But when I turned 18, the age I wrote on that “contract”, I was in the middle of recording “DIVE”, my second album. Just like he said, I’m absorbed in something that won’t let go of me.
That sight of him, with his dreadlocks and goatee, running around in a snowball fight with children, left a tremendous impression on me. I think of him whenever it snows.
That’s how it was.