I have no idea what the meaning of life is, but I do know that while half the world is starving, a significant proportion of the richer quotient is wandering around department stores and bijou little fashion concessions just looking for something to buy, to spend some of that hard earned money else what’s the point?  A naughty, unneeded item of luxury on the way home just to pamper; something to buy for the sake of buying, just……….because.




Nowhere is this more true than Japan, where young people live rent-free with their parents until their mid-twenties or thirties and thus have more disposable income than anyone else on the planet; money to be spent on clothes, accessories, sundries, cute nonsense, games, or prestigious European imports: food, drinks, sweets, gums; purchased, wrapped up, ribboned immaculately, in sweet little designer-printed paper fukuro.



Tuesday evening, bored, with time to kill before getting on the night bus home, I myself understood this impulse: I had just been paid and I just wanted to buy something, and so I squandered five hundred yen on a tin of unneeded bonbons I didn’t really want. Finding myself in Seijo Ishii, beloved Japanese purveyor of fine things of that nobody needs, I discovered myself wandering the luxurious aisles with the other post-work consumers, espying on one of the shelves some violet-perfumed confectionery –  Les Anis De Flavigny, Violette, véritables anis de l’abbaye de Flavigny to be precise –  which I got for the journey home, curious as to how the white, sugar-coated spheres might taste; if I could somehow end up perfuming the dull environs of the bus atmosphere with my silent, violet mouth   ( they apparently contain actual violet flower extract, whatever that is, which, as I looked over the tin in the comfort of my seat, I somehow found unusual, and vaguely fascinating).


And how did they taste? Weird.  A brief moment of innocuous hard-shelled sugar: then, an attack of strong-tasting, perfumey violet – tanged, almost acerbic and rich, like perfume, like putting your mouth down in the bath water and sucking up some of the bath oil.


A sensation that only lasts a quarter of a minute or so, though, before a more bland, blanc sugariness comes back onto your tastebuds giving a more anisic, softer core that you can, eventually, after three minutes of sucking or so, begin to crunch down on; your tongue lolling in violet sugar, your brain temporarily lulled, further comatosed.



Woe-betide you if you fail to read the fine print though: ‘DO NOT BITE’ they warn, like a hidden edict from Alice In Wonderland: or your teeth, if the enamel has not already begun melting off from all the sugar, might crack into fractured pieces upon impact with this hard candy; proffering up your lips, expectantly, to be kissed: liquorous, purple violets, and a magma of hot sugar dripping from your pucker, as splinters of denta-fragments dribble, glacially, from your chin…


Filed under Flowers


  1. I buy these at my local grocery store now and then and never read “Do Not Bite” until reading this! I must check the enamel on my teeth!

  2. I think I prefer Parma violets.

  3. Cath

    I love these, ever since I was a kid. I had no idea you could find them in Japan. I’ll have to go to the Seijo Ishii shop.

  4. Sally M

    OMG – I was just thinking about Parma Violets as I was reading this and then you mentioned them. I used to buy those in a “penny twist” when I was a kid and they were bloody weird tasting. I never really liked them but it was like I had a morbid fascination with them – ’twas like eating hardened perfume …

    • it most certainly t’was: but I kind of preferred them. There was a soapy, uniformity of violetness: these have a brief burst of violet oil and then there is nothing but tooth clutching sucre.

  5. Beau is a huge fan of Parma Violets. A sweet shop opened up round the corner from his school, selling nothing but sweets, floor to ceiling, wall to wall, English, European, American everything, first time we visited he left with a packet of polos, second time, and every time since, he leaves with as many packets of Parma Violets as I will allow. Except for one occasion when he bought a 3ft long marshmallow and wore it home as a scarf.
    These sweets sound like a bit of an ordeal, are they intended for breath perfuming?

    • Beau is an absolute gem and the more I hear of his passionate idiosyncrasies, the more I want to meet him again, which I will : NEXT WEEK!

      Really looking to coming back, although the guilt and the subterfuge involved in leaving early is really quite nightmarish, particularly when combined with all the drama of the injured knee. I am exhausted!

      I bought these sweets as I thought they would be soothing on the bus journey but in fact I found the flavour overly eccentric. Obviously I was exaggerating for effect, though ( partly because I know you enjoy my teeth melting stories ) but also you can see here that other people really like them.

      With a mother who wears Après L’Ondee, and a child who adores Parma Violets, I think that Beau might really become a violet scent loving young man in the future. With the name you chose for him it is a lovely thing to imagine.

      • As for the breath perfuming, I was kind of hoping so, but ultimately the burst of violette is over too quickly.

        On the other hand, if they maintained that strength of flavour throughout they most definitely WOULD be an ordeal.

    • Sally M

      “he bought a 3ft long marshmallow and wore it home as a scarf” – a tea spitting line if I’ve ever read one! This conjures up great memories of the sweet shop when I was a kid in the early 60s – shelves of jar upon jar of goodies that I’d just stand in front of for ages trying to decide what to buy with my sixpence. I’d love the sound of the sweets falling from the jar into the old fashioned weighing scale and then being tipped into the bag.

  6. I’ve had these, and a few other brands as well. Every time I come across violet candies, I bite. (ha ha) Some are more bitter than others, this brand being of that camp. The tins are always adorable.

    I adore the Mexican violet ‘chicle,’ sold everywhere in Mexico and easy to find here in the US. There are generally 4 pieces wrapped together in an itty bitty pack.

    I know there is a company that makes a violet gum in sticks, but I can’t remember what it’s called. The packaging is a really pretty deep foil purple.

    • I like the idea of a convincing violet gum. In Japan the amount of chewing gum flavours is exhaustive, from lavender kiwi to ‘Zeus aurora curtain’, whatever that is meant to be, but never, to my knowledge, violet.

      There was a pretty potent Bulgarian rose one recently, but again, it was just too sugary. These years of living in a fluoride free water system may have been good for my health in some ways, but my teeth are not in a perfect state as a result and too much sugar can just feel like an attack.

  7. Lilybelle

    It’s funny how a little thing like that can be so pleasing. I love those, but I think I just like the flowery tin more. They used to be entirely tin, and now the bottom is plastic. I have odd buttons in mine. It’s in storage with most of my other things since we moved. I like Choward’s Violet candies. They are SUPER violetty. They are square and come in a silver and violet foil wrapper. I love the pale chalky violet color and the perfumey taste. I think Choward also makes the gum sticks that Annina is talking about.

  8. I remember some violet pastilles that I used to be able to get when I lived in New York, and that I just loved. I think they made rose, too. I loved having perfumey breath.i tend to like perfumey favors for some reason, although a I seldom encounter them. But rice pudding flavored with saffron and rose? Yum.

  9. Martha

    I like the containers more than the flavor. Like Sally M said, ” ’twas like eating hardened perfume.” Unfortunately I have never smelled a fragrant violet plant. I only know the precious little violets that pop up in my lawn in the spring.

  10. All,things bright and biteful …
    When I was 10 there were oblong coloured sweets that looked toothsome. Chocolate in a shiny Shell? Alas for The moment of cracking that left you with a taste of baked gritty newspaper, than just went off and tasted like ??. The taste of nothing, falling to crackly bits in your mouth was gruesome. Since those days I am weary of those. Only the true pepermunt or The real Chocolate throughout and through can entice my taste Senses! Beware of nice looking boxes! . I turn them around and read the ingrediënten. No P or C ? If the box looks real nice I squander the content, deal them out to people who like them and keep the box for ??, of my OWN choice and taste

  11. I just drank rose leaf tea from China with tiny rosebuds floating around an absolute delight for the eye. The green enveloping leaves and a bit of stem produced an earthy faintly tealike taste, very charming. Always drink jasmine tea with chinese food, no wine and no beer, since I am not a beer lover, except in Xtreme high temperatures!

  12. Another brand which makes violette bonbons is Bonte. They are more sweet and violette-y than these ones.
    I do love these types of bonbons!

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