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. 















Filed under Flowers


  1. Nice finds! I have been to a Salvation Army store (in Montreal) and I don’t think I’ll ever set foot in one again. It may just be that particular one but I cannot stand the smell of old clothes and shoes. I may be missing out on some finds, a small price to pay for avoiding another unpleasant experience.

  2. Laurels

    I was wondering what the photo in your header is. (Was? My grammar is deserting me.) It always gave me the impression of an owl staring out at me. Congratulations on all your great finds. I need to start going to thrift stores again.

  3. Whoa! Good haul! 🙂
    I wish we had places like that here – the only way for me to find an old perfume here is someone’s grandmother still has a bottle hidden somewhere…

  4. Lilybelle

    Oooooooh, lovely! I would just die. Bal a Versailles! ♥ And I adore Caleche (is it true that the vintage doesn’t smell as good in a spray? Good to know). And I saw Fidji there, too, in your pics, didn’t I? I can’t believe you bought The Happy Hooker!! I remember that naughty book from the 70s. That’s hiliarious. I never get tried of hearing of your shopping exploits. I always get a vicarious thrill (even if I do get a little jealous).

    • The Happy Hooker, yes. This year we have discovered trash literature. It’s funny: I can do high and low brow with cinema, music and even perfume, but not with literature usually. If it’s in the middle, a la Dan Brown or whatever, it is utterly unbearable for me. And yet in the summer a friend sent me a trash horror erotic novel and it was brilliant. Strangely beautiful in its odd writing style. And the cover of this book is brilliant.

      As for Caleche, No 19 and in fact any vintage parfum, I never buy them in spray now. Been burnt and disappointed too many times. I think there must be some kind of chemical put into them when they are in vaporisateur format that degrades the smell itself in the long term. Bal is different for some reason.

      Fidji was there, too, yes. Quite a lovely perfume, that one, although I think I already have a parfum of that somewhere.

  5. Rafael

    On your mention of Poivre: I LOVED that scent and wore it confidently and to much acclaim until Caron jacked the price. Over a good cry with the salesgirl at the Caron boutique in NYC she suggested I try Yatagan (and bless her, sent me a big sample bottle). She said “Yatagan is Poivre without the florals. You’ll Love it.” and I do! I can splash on whatever dense floral in dark, secret places and then finish it all off with Yatagan and immediately the two will mate and become that elusive, oakmoss-y,loamy smell I’m always looking for.

  6. fleurdelys

    I’m awestruck – there are no stuffed birds or water buffalo horns at any Salvation Army or Goodwill store I’ve been to! Nor those wonderful perfumes either. Sighing with envy.

    • You know, I thought as much. The one I used to go to in Cambridge was a relatively miserable affair in comparison as well, though it had good records and CDS.
      For Tokyo, it feels pretty down at heel, but then again, it IS still Tokyo!

  7. Jennyredhen

    do they have furniture at this Salvation army?

    • They most certainly do, but I can’t vouch for its quality.
      What I like about that place is that they have everything: books, clothes, furniture, bric-a-brac, records, perfumes and so on , and all clearly categorized. It has a great atmosphere as well: really friendly.

      Cheap, fun, and highly recommended!

  8. Wonderful descriptions and photos – thank you for posting. Brought back many memories of living as a student in Japan ’87-’92 on a limited budget. I still enjoy the tiny dolls and objets I found on my Salvation army visits.

  9. Reblogged this on The Black Narcissus and commented:

    SO in the mood for all this kind of thing.

  10. I have died of jealousy. I went bright green and keeled over, insane with envy. RIP me!

    • Yes, if only it was still like this though! This was a golden age of only five years ago when the booty was so bountiful it was dangerous for your heart rate. The pickings are much slimmer these days at the flea markets and the like, and yet there is still always that chance that something amazing could come along!

  11. Robin

    “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. . .”

    I know the feeling and after reading this I’m craving it again. I had a dream like that last night, wandering through some mysterious, dream-like (naturally) place that was filled with magical, vintage-y extrait bottles I’d never heard of but that all smelled like the best vintage Chanels, Guerlains, et al. It was cruel to have to wake up.

    So sad that those experiences may mostly be in the past. I fear it’s the same here. Used to be one of my favourite things to do, and I’d savour the moments and well as the anticipation. Perhaps these things come in waves. For our sakes, I hope so.

    Marlene, my trusty connection here, will be at the season’s first flea market next week. I’ve been waiting for it and her since last August.

    I tried Rafael’s suggestion and layered Yatagan — with vintage l’Air du Temps parfum and Etro Dianthus. It is glorious.

    • That is a freakish (and extremely innovative) idea. What the hell did it come out as?

      And hilarious and fantastic that you JUST HAPPEN TO HAVE ALL THE REQUIRED INGREDIENTS TO HAND.

      • Robin

        It wasn’t exactly Poivre, Neil, but it was exquisite, greater than the sum, and gave the impression that it was a whole-cloth composition rather than three compositions existing one on top of the other. It just meshed. Quite a surprise, actually; usually I find that in layering I can still smell each perfume individually, which distracts and detracts.

        Yatagan is great on Ric but it didn’t work as well for me, and the florals were just what it needed to be wearable. Carnation/dianthus is spicy by nature and I’m thinking that maybe those spices shared with Yatagan were the threads of the meshing. Also, vintage l’AdT has a rich, complex base at the same pitch as Yatagan, so those two merged nicely. The Dianthus kept the whole thing fresh and free of muddiness. I think. Can you replicate it yourself? (I wouldn’t doubt it.)

      • I have, kind of: a bastardized vintage bottle of Bellodgia parfum that I added tons of black pepper and clove oil and a bit of ylang!

      • Robin

        Sounds as though it was in serious need of resuscitation.

  12. Nelleke Oepkes aka Booknose

    Oh, oh and oh again!
    A walk made in Scent Heaven and such an incongruous combination with the Soldiers if Salvation
    Arina and I/me ? Used to visit the French brocantes, flea markets, in days gone by.
    It all came back to me reading your magnificent perfumed trip down Memory Lane.
    She came back laden with lamps, rarthenware, almost passed away furniture with woodworm tenants, and whatever took her buying fancy. From her I learned the expression “ Over de kop gaan “, literally translated To summersault; she spld it on the Amsterdam fleamarket Noordermarkt to always greedy customers.
    I returned laden with antique and vintage foot- and headwear, books, and all the tantalizing whatnots of a century ago. Sometimes you could almost picture the previous owner from the stuff on the stall.
    By the way, commenting your photograph and for your informationthe Happy Hooker, misd Xaviera Hollander what’ s in a name Dutch and (as of now) ) Happily Gay is still the same erotic Muskeyeer with a flock of female followers and fans.
    Arina is no longer there but the memory, just like perfume lingers and thrills to the touch.
    Your scented Trip down Memory Lane ticked all my boxes; falling asleep postponed instead writing this and trying to get it sent (2nd time and fight with the digital warlords of Us Word

  13. Nelleke Oepkes aka Booknose

    One of Arina’s last buys was of a pair of Nun dolls and a Nun on a bicycle, typically Dutch( allthough purchased in France; whenever I see the photographs I took of her buying, carrying and selling them I still smile . Arina once did a Play Back and impersonation version of Majoor Boshart, a very famous Dutch Salvation Army Female soldier, performing Amazong Grace on a Harmonium in genuine Salvation Army uniform, including amazing 19th century type Hat (female version, very Dickens). Groupie standard, lots of recruits afterwards, only not acceptable in the Army, being Gay!!

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