(Guest post by Duncan)



Our meanderings around the lively entertainment district of Isezakicho in Yokohama – a long pedestrianised shopping street which leads from the historical portside town of Kannai south-westerly to the seamy Bandobashi and Koganecho neighbourhoods – often yield fabulous scent bargains, and yesterday was no exception, with Ginza bagging a rare bottle of Must de Cartier II Eau Fraiche!


In the summer, we often wait until mid afternoon to head out and we have a regular route in Isezakicho, which takes in a motley medley of junk shops, recycle boutiques, secondhand bookstores, bygone kissaten (old fashioned cafes serving industrial-strength German roast kohi), an art cinema (called Jack and Betty), and restaurants (Isezakicho is Yokohama’s Asian quarter and the best place to eat Thai and Vietnamese nosh). It’s a fascinating mishmash of trashy (bling hip hop gear, knockoff perfumes, hostess heels and lurid flounciness), highstreet bargain basements (Uniqlo, Bookoff), sex (massage parlour soapland, host/ess bars), and throwback exotica (for example, the bizarre ‘hebiya’ or snake shop, which has pythons suspended in jars of formaldehyde and stuffed scaly things in the window).





It’s without doubt one of the most unaffected and racially mixed disticts in the whole of culturally homogenous and manically regulated Japan – a bit of an outlaw zone actually, a Yokohama ghetto, though it actually feels very safe from a British perspective. Some find it too cheap and close to the bone (let’s not deny the dark exploitative side of the sex trade, which is here in abundance and pretty much impossible to ignore) – but we have come to love this Little Asia, this rather chilled and disreputable entertainment zone. There’s a lot in it if you look carefully. As the Japanese proverb goes: ‘The reverse side has its reverse side’; or to mangle Wilde, even stars are reflected in the gutter!





Yesterday, we started off with a glass of Freixenet on a grass verge in the ‘old man park’ in an adjacent street because Ginza wanted to bask in the sun before hitting our haunts. I’m not good at staying still for long but it was good to quaff some sparkly with the old stick who had been taken up with ‘summer seminar’ onerousness for eight days on the trot. About two hours of rummaging threw up some good reads (best of all being: ‘The Incorruptibles – A Study of the Incorruption of the Bodies of Various Catholic Saints and Beati’ by Joan Carroll Cruz – a New Orleans homemaker who writes of inexplicably preserved corpses at night because she ‘simply cannot tolerate writing if there is housework left undone’!), cheapy T-shirts and ties (elegant blue green silk CK stripes for 100 yen), and a clutch of perfumes (aforementioned Cartier, plus Vol de Nuit spray parfum, and KL Parfum: the folding fan bottle perched in/on an 80s grey and pink semicular prism case).






KL Parfum


As Ginza can’t resist opening up his olfactory treasures on the street even as we are in transit, and then testing them out on available limb space, I was lucky to be doused with Must de Cartier II Eau Fraiche, which I had never heard of but which I immediately took to, as it fits well with the effect I prize when mixing light citrus colognes and simple vetiver scents to bring zing to wood and add heft to zest; indeed, a more elegantly and sensually rounded citric vetiver swathe could hardly be imagined. Cartier nailed it. Too bad this scent was discontinued. Boo.


So I have bagsy-ed this delicious accord and am planning to make it my summer signature scent. The opening is zesty but soapy, even a little proper in a luxuriant way (top notes: mandarin orange, hyacinth, peach, and lemon) and yet as the scent settles a jasmine/daffodil tang emerges sensually melding the citrus on top with the mossy vetiver beneath.


It’s a bit like the love child of Christian Dior’s Jules and Armani Eau Pour Homme – these were two scents that sprung to mind – but whereas as Jules always felt heavy-handed and smelt a tad urinous on me – especially in Japanese summer (yuck) – and Armani is perhaps a touch too reserved and dry/citric-cerebral (much as I admire it, it fades a little too enigmatically on my skin), Eau Fraiche is finely made and fully realised, refreshingly and sexily elegant. (Ginza pointed out that there is a resemblance to vintage Diorella as well – some muscularity under the citrus top notes.)


And so we ended our day admiring the Cartier and ogling Mrs Cruz’s incorruptible ancients and pickled nuns propped up in alcoves, prostrate in glass cases (St. Teresa Margaret of the Sacred Heart in Florence is below) – all over a fine Thai meal in a plush newish restaurant we hadn’t clocked before with white leather, purple, gold and silver decor, a disco ball, toddlers tumbling about on the banquettes, Siam karaoke on loop, interspersed with Gaga, Madonna, and Soft Cell (by us), and plentiful Chang beer to lubricate the colourful corruptions of summer.


Pickled Saint








Thai Todlers





Filed under Citrus, Vetiver


  1. Renee Stout

    I love the way you take us there with you. Good to hang out with you (smile). Loooove KL. My Mom bought that same bottle for me in 1982 and I’ve used it so sparingly that I still have it! KL is now a fortune on Ebay.

    • secretkamakura

      Thanks Renee. KL does conjure that era and I like the package – the grey plastic semi-circular prism is very 80s and the bottle itself is quite opulent and Norma Desmond in its way. Wow you still have it now – that is good going! Well done.

  2. Lilybelle

    What a virtual treat to read about your roamings. ❤ It felt like being there with you! The book on the Incorruptibles would be just the thing I'd pick up, too.

    • secretkamakura

      We have a long history with that area of Yokohama. Ginza worked in Kannai when he first arrived in Japan, there is Isezakicho, which I describe here, and China Town and Motomachi on the other side – a area to do on foot. The Incorruptibles is quite something – will file it with A Nun’s Story and The Happy Hooker!

      • secretkamakura

        sorry for hellish screaming typos here – painful to reread: ‘a area’ arrrggghhh the glottal stop – obviously insert epithet of choice ..&*^()

      • Lilybelle

        Lol! I like your filing system. 🙂

  3. Tora

    Did you call Neil ‘the old stick’?? Hilarious moniker!! I love your tale of the reverse side, and giggle every time to place words like ‘yuck’ next to your more elegant and eloquent phrasing. Hanging out with you two, would be beyond fun. Since I am never likely to visit japan and I know you guys would never visit Orlando, I will just have to be happy with your rare, but most welcome posts, Duncan.

    • secretkamakura

      Thanks Tora. Yes I did indeedy call him that. Poor Ginza has been rather bogged down at work whereas I have been banging around on holiday, so he hasn’t been able to dissolve in the sun yet. I thought stick described the tension in his body from the intensive courses he is teaching!! But this was good therapy (junk trail therapy). Funnily enough, you mention Orlando, and we may be flying in to Orlando this Christmas for a family holiday at a beach nearby – after which we are planning a trip to Cuba – so we may visit Florida after all! See you then??

  4. Such a fabulous post! I just want to hop a plane to Japan and go promenading around town with the both of you, the treasures you unearth are just gloriously interesting ; the book sounds quite intriguing. The KL is just sooo desirable.
    Hope you guest post again soon.

    • secretkamakura

      Thanks Brielle – actually all the perfumes and purchases were fantastic – only a few days before I found Ginza a bottle of Diorissimo Parfum in a junk shop in Zushi the other day – Zushi is the town neighbouring Kamakura and just on the border where there are haunted tunnels (a long and bloody Samurai history in that area – though I have never seen a ghost myself!), just on the border there next to these fabled tunnels is a junk depot which I walk to from time to time and there it was Diorissimo – for 500yen – Japan is amazing like that. KL is a lovely scent. Vol de Nuit is so mysterious. Beautiful. Eau Fraiche is just lovely – do you know it?

      • Oh, the haunted tunnels sound fabulous. A bottle of Diorissimo for Ginza sounds like the name of an art-house movie, and a wonderful find also.
        I adore Eau Fraiche, it is such a delicious scent, I actually have worn it in the past. I find it just delightful thinking of all these treasures just waiting to be found, so pleased the both of you are rescuing them.
        Looking forward to your next guest post.
        Now of to Wikipedia the haunted tunnels 🙂

      • secretkamakura

        That area is intimately connected with Minamoto Yoritomo, one of Japan’s greatest Samurai generals, who made Kamakura the capital of Japan 800-odd years ago. He kept his favorite mistress in a house in Kotsubo – she was moved to a secret location in Hayama just down the coast when his wife Masako got word of her!! One of the most mysterious places there is the cave/grave site called Mandaradou…

  5. I agree, both would be great to hang out with and both are good writers as well!

  6. Fabulous writing! You’ve managed to make the seedy part of town seem very desirable. You are the Yin to your old stick’s Yang 🙂

    • secretkamakura

      I think you are right Hajusuuri, thanks – I am indeed the yin to Ginza yang. That whole area is a lovely place to do on foot – Kannai is fab – very dignified and spacious, China Town is nearby, and then Motomachi and Yamate, which are again quite different. Isezakicho is our personal favourite and the best for scent bargains and for second-hand clothes/bric-a-brac finds – and for food, too.

  7. ninakane1

    Great post Dunc and beautiful writing. I loved visiting that area with Neil when I was over with you. There’s something deeply relaxing about it. Loved the piped music over the street tannoys, the little junk shops full of kitsch (for some reason a shop filled with little Scottish souvenir dolls sticks in my mind!), and the street cafs selling chicken delights. Wanna go to the Jack and Betty Cinema next time I’m over – total Cassavetes! Good to see you guest blogging. More please m’sieur xx

    • secretkamakura

      oh yes you would love jack and betty – two little velveteen cinemas – one obviously jack and the other betty – i only hope it doesn’t fold – but i think it is too much of a beloved institution to do so. well i will try another guest post this summer holz but only if it is entirely different to this one. thanks for indulging me. xxx

  8. One day we will come hang with you guys.
    Portia xx

  9. Adore it! If Portia comes to visit, I’m coming too!

  10. Tara C

    What a fabulous post! We need more Duncan guest posts. 🙂

  11. Nelleke Oepkes aka Booknose

    Pickled nuns!! I envy you. Would have bought it myself. And all that on top of zingy wood and hefty zest! M Cartier must have been quite astonished finding himself in decaying vinegary religious surroundings.

    I walked beside you digitally. Right up my street and definitely my cup of tea! Missed this in 2014 or maybe I was not into The Black Narcissus as yet.

    It felt very definitely pre-greenbeastie! Those were the days …
    And I enjoyed meeting you in the cloud parfume. Add the accent on the e as I can’t find it.
    And all the best for you both in these days.

  12. Robin

    Amazing finds and wonderful writing, Duncan. You paint a vivid picture. I think we all wish we’d had the chance to wander around that district with you and Neil. I know I was enthralled. It’s this kind of Japanese experience that has me itching to travel there. Like nowhere else, not remotely. And you two fit right in, in so many ways.

    • Interestingly, I absolutely hated the place when I first came as I found it just so UGLY( which it still kind of is ). The Eurocentric mind only likes certain architecture – but gradually I changed and it deeper into me and now I find big heavy monolithic stone buildings vaguely horrifying. It is amazing how sensibilities can change : when I was in Italy recently I was simultaneously in awe of its unchanging beauty and simultaneously dying to get back to Japan, shimmering in neon in the distance

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