The bazaar at the Salvation Army store in Tokyo is held every Saturday from 9 til 2, and on the infrequent occasions that we decide to go, D and I always end up scrambling to get out of the house in time when we would rather be staying in bed. Yet somehow the shining beacon of potential bargains always beams bright enough for us to make the long-winded journey to the bristling heart of the metropolis, Shinjuku station (the busiest station in the world – 3 million people use it every day) and from there a meandering trip to a nice little neighbourhood called Nakano-Fujimicho, where the Salvation Army has its headquarters.
It has a lovely, bustling atmosphere, very friendly and non-avaricious, Tokyoites and foreigners and people who look rather down on their luck rummaging happily together through the well-organized sections (clothes, books, furniture, knick-knacks), while pop music blares from tinny transistors and Duncan and I feel entirely in our element. How can we not? Although not every visit to Sally Ann does yield – I think last time we came back empty-handed, the thrill of the mystery, of what might be there, never, ever abates. As I make my immediate beeline for the perfume section, tucked inconspicuously within a corner selling old jewellery and cosmetics, I approach cautiously, slowly, teasing out the moment as the bottles or boxes come into view and heartbeatingly enter my consciousness ( I remember once seeing what I knew was a vintage Caron box, and feeling my heart practically stopping with excitement……….oh my god, which one is it? Oh go on, be Poivre). It wasn’t, but it was Narcisse Noir, and you can see the very box in the header I used to create the Black Narcissus at the top of this page, along with narcissi just picked from our front garden. Ah the joy of it all; of the mystery bottles, of what small, abandoned vintage miniatures might be lurking within those drawers….
(- the aesthetic unattractiveness of this messy drawer really does belie its contents…..)
And yesterday was a miniature bonanza. There was plenty of vintage Calèche, but I usually avoid it spray form as it never smells as good somehow. And I mulled, briefly, over an unknown Nina Ricci (damn! just checked on Basenotes and it must have been Phileas, a masterpiece apparently, and it could have been mine for only fifteen dollars…I thought it smelled quite masculine and spicy but couldn’t quite make up my mind). But you know, you can’t buy EVERYTHING, and I had already hoovered up a stash. The people at that place are always so smiley and lovely and once you have plonked down your loot, they tot it all up on a calculator and then give you an immediate discount; quite different from the flea market, where a lot of beady-eyed bartering goes on.
My grand total came to 4,400 yen (43 dollars, or 27 pounds), and for that amount I got a brand new collection of vintage extraits, all pure perfumes (!!!!!!!!!!!!), and three that I had never even smelled before. You are probably tiring of hearing and thinking bout these exploits, but I myself never will. No matter how many times I go to these places, there is always a surging tumult in me of delight when I come across these things, but anyway, shut up, I hear you say: just put us out of our misery and tell us what you found this time, for such a relatively paltry amount of money.
Well, of course, Bal A Versailles, which for some reason I was kind of expecting as I have just been reviewing it – I do have a kind of sixth sense and am often plundered with synchronicity – and it smells quite perfect actually: I want it, but D has claimed it for his mother as a Christmas present (I understand : Daphne wears it well, and she is one of the best instinctive fragrance layerers I have ever met. She would combine it, say, with Montale Aoud Roses and Santa Maria Novella Patchouli and smell really quite gorgeous – she is a Taurus, and lord does she like those perfumes earthy).
Next came a pristine vintage Yves Saint Laurent Y, which is elegance itself, and
vintage Coriandre parfum! Now this really did make my heart stop. I don’t actually know it very well; I remember that Liberty used to have the reformulation but it didn’t make much impression on me at the time, yet many vintage enthusiasts often rave about this perfume, and now I have the opportunity to understand why. It is deep, velvety and mysterious, a coriander-laced rose chypre that reminds me, slightly, of Patou 1000 only less uptight; more extravagant. Stunning. This is definitely a perfume I will actually wear, and I will review it again properly later at some point.
Also in this little space (you see I turn things slowly round; lift them at a snail’s pace to further my delight, like prolonging the pleasure of opening Christmas presents) suddenly I see – my goodness – extraits, parfums! of rare perfumes by Worth. Now this is serious discovery. Je Reviens I know inside out and worship like the oracle of Delphi, but here in my hands I find that I suddnely have
Miss Worth I had never even heard of (just a flirty, aldehydic rose musk) but the legendary Dans La Nuit? The one in that gorgeous blue boule of stars that Lagerfeld ripped off later for his Sun Moon Stars? (remember that one?). This is the f@$£&n’ parfum! And I love the font on the back of the box (yes, these things matter….) and the perfume is extraordinary. Downy, enveloping, mysterious and strange – as the brilliant Perfume Shrine says, an ambery oriental reminiscent, vaguely, of L’Origan and L’Heure Bleue (now THAT would be my holy grail….if – and it will never happen, as the bottle is just too opulent to find itself thrown nonchalantly among old perfumes for sale – but if I did find the parfum of L’Heure Bleue I think I would just start caterwauling, ululating with joy, and be carted off immediately to the nearest mental hospital- but anyway, yes, Dans La Nuit, for 500 yen, or five dollars, is definitely one of 2013’s best vintage bargains. It is beautiful. And I can’t wait to live with it, think about it, and get back to you later.
What else? A Trésor parfum, half used up, but I don’t mind ( I didn’t even know there was a parfum). It smells lovely and reminds me of my friend Denise. You know what, I might even wear a bit to work, a bit of peachy transgression to brighten up these increasingly cold afternoons. Also, a vintage mini parfum of Schiaparelli Shocking You, another perfume I had never heard of (did they have flankers already back then?). This has turned and funky and smells of nothing discernible, but I like just having the bottle as well. Finally, there was a room spray, the sweetest vanilla peach chocolate monstrosity you can imagine, but I kind of like it actually – I reckon it will come in handy when certain ambient conditions are required. A spritz or two of Des Jour Et Des Nuits, with the aroma of freshly ground coffee in the background will make for a comforting environment come Christmas. Which the Salvation Army Bazaar felt a bit like, yesterday, to be honest. Laden down with booty. D was a total bag lady, carting about plastic bags of clothes, books and china he had found (vintage Balenciaga and Trussardi ties for 100 yen a pop included) for the rest of the day. I got a book and a nice pair of midnight blue corduroys as well.
Pleasantly tired from all the adrenalined fun of the haul, we stopped off at a very nice Italian restaurant for lunch (a delicious mushroom and oyster spaghetti), and planned our further Saturday adventures for the rest of the day – which included a mime show at an underground venue in Omotesando – me examining my perfumed treasure over and over again on the table cloth of the restaurant and realizing how lucky, as a perfume enthusiast, I am to be living in Japan. I never take it for granted.