What I am wearing today ( aka The Black Narcissus smells, intensely, of bug spray )


There can be no doubt whatsoever that over the last five years or so there has been an intense ( and commercially cynical ) drive to make the Japanese people – traditionally unscented, bath loving people- intensely, and ubiquitously, paranoid about their personal odour.



And now that it is summer, aside the hugely increased proliferation recently of special washing powders, fabric conditioners, and clothes sprays ( what used to be extortionately expensive, imported Downy only is now range upon range of clothes scenting products covered with roses, domestically created highly perfumed laundry products to fill the hysterical void to have sweet smelling clothes), there are also, now, rows upon rows of deodorizing body products, ready in time for the coming July and August sun, some of the hottest in Asia, and a time when advertisements everywhere on trains, on billboards, on TV remind the unsuspecting salaryman or office lady that she had better not stink on the way to the office as she raises her arm to grip the handrail on the crowded, rush hour train, that she had better depilate; wipe herself down with a ‘ powdered, refreshing shower sheet’, body lotion, deodorant spray, and special anti hair stink summer shampoo.



All this is such a far cry from how it was when I first arrived, almost two decades ago ( yikes!), when  a common gripe among foreigners living here was that you couldn’t get a decent deodorant.




Now they come in all kinds of perfumed variants: mostly fresh, obviously: soapy, lemon, grapefruit, rose, marine, and light musk, as sprays, as wipes, as roll-ons, as anti sweat-sheen (‘teka-teka’) face towels; body washes, mouth washes, ‘shower perfume’.




Marketing-wise, it is extremely clever. Get an entire nation of 120,000,000 people, a culture that is notoriously prone to be conformist, fad-driven, afraid of being different, addicted to the fear of smelling bad and you have a perpetual, cyclically winning formula. No one can resist: once the ‘natives’ have been convinced by the conglomerates, foreign or otherwise, of the need to be artificially scented there is, basically, just no going back, like the tribes in the Amazon jungle being visited by Avon ladies.




And today I am as fresh as a mosquito, just moments before doused in a bouquet of citronella, mint, and deodorizing, mentholic body chemicals. Lemon Tequila Nano Ion Body Shower spray to be precise, icy, cooling, sweat-eating, unhuman.




I kind of like it.



Filed under Flowers

16 responses to “What I am wearing today ( aka The Black Narcissus smells, intensely, of bug spray )

  1. Sorry, this post was rushed and off the cuff: I just wrote it impulsively, citronella’d, on the bus. It is am interesting topic, I think, that needs to be expanded.

  2. This is the 15 minute, one- fingered iPhone edition.

  3. I’ve been an admiring reader for some time, Narcissus; I must say I think your latest two metaphors (“like the tribes of the Amazon being visited by Avon ladies”, “fresh as a mosquito”) are so zeitgeisty and brilliant they should enter the vernacular. They’ve made my day (and my day needing a bit of making!). Thanks. Love your brave and beautiful blog.

    • Thanks to you, even though I think that what I say half the time is pure nonsense ( but I don’t care: it makes a nice break from the pedantic irritations of a English teaching, which is why I am happy to make up language).

      The Avon Ladies did though, I’m sure I read somewhere, proselytize in the Amazon, so I can’t really take credit for that!

      I hope the rest of your day continues to get better.

  4. Mmm, I only wish more people would care about their body odours in Singapore! I’m not saying go crazy about it, but because we are a tropical climate, we tend to perspire more, which lands to rather bad smells if one doesn’t take precautions. Moi, I stand in the middle of the train wafting Amouage Gold Man. And people give me the evil eye, when all I’m doing is making the train smell better!

  5. I kind of like the smell of Citronella for its association of whiling the evening away chatting with friends out on the deck.

    • I know what you mean completely. I don’t like citronella per se, but this was like spraying on an anti-mosquito thing for the beach, and it reminded me of summer (and in any case, the base, though not my kind of thing precisely, was a pretty good rendition of ck one. I will definitely be spraying myself all over with it, an engorged mousquite, come the ‘summer seminar’ in august

  6. Renee Stout

    All I can say is that this post was hilarious.

  7. Very humorous, yet also thought provoking. To think of all the corporate heads brainstorming on how to make a nation noted for its bathing rituals, have an awakening to the fact that they now ” need” product to maintain their fresh and clean aura.
    As much as I adore fragrance and shower gels and all the other ephemera of grooming, the summer/ hot months would be that one time of year I am not crazed by scent. I just like smelling ” clean”; clean as in just bathed, not the hideous scent named Clean.
    I am also intrigued by the scent of citronella also. I have a natural repellant, I am allergic to DEET, which smells of citronella and geranium and is just the greatest scent in the summer. It is funny how when the temperatures soar around 30-33 celsius, as they are today, I am just more apt to enjoy the scent of a repellant or Fa deodorant than a full fledged scent; with the exception of Nina Ricci Eau de Fleurs and Fleur de Fleurs, both of which are very floral yet not too heady. One other treat is bathing with Molton Brown’s Japaese Yuzu shower gel, very reminiscent of the orangey scent of Japanese baths; fabulous before retiring for the evening. This reminds me, I need to order a new bottle now.

  8. Dearest Ginza
    “Avon ladies in the Amazon” one fears this and “Estee Lauder counters in the Equatorial Rainforest” are merely a matter of time.
    Hygiene without deodorant is fine. A lack of hygiene with a superfluity of deodorant on the back summer evenings spent imbibing is not.
    Public transport is a terror here when the weather is even moderately warm, especially when there is ‘sport’ to be watched.
    Give me the immaculately bathed doused in citronella anyday.
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

  9. emmawoolf

    Wonderful, Mr G. There is no doubt that the summer months can leave one paranoid in the deodorant department, even here in the windy eastern angles of the UK. I’m a firm fan of Cristalle for these times, as you know, but I agree with brielle that once the themometer hits a certain temp, about 26 degrees C I’d say (as it is here today), I go off proper perfume, but have to wear something. In an unscented emergency yesterday (I was walking to work, realised in horror I’d forgotten to put on any sort of perfume, most shops were still shut apart from M&S, which I happened to be striding past, & now has an odd but interesting beauty dept), I found myself using a tester of Eau des Bienfaits “fragrant body mist” by Roger & Gallet. Nicely light, orange blossomy (blood orange, apparently, there’s one for your mosquitoes), and reminscent of an Italian garden, allegedly. I think I may treat myself for the summer x

    • I like the sound of this Eau Des Bienfaits, a lot. Like you, I have a soft spot for Roger & Gallet. They eschew all the bullshit and just make nice perfumes. I love their deodorants, stick and spray.

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