Addictions are supposed to be at a critical level when they start affecting the essentials: your relationships, your job, your finances; your health.



And I feel that I crossed over some line today, the final day of the pre-entrance examination madness, as found myself committing infringements in the name of vintage perfume and the ridiculously adrenalized thrill it gives me that would make my mothers blush: racing against the clock, risking god knows what as I absconded and went AWOL, on a hunch that I was about to come across a mindboggling windfall, and then finding myself in a total think-on-your-feet meltdown of (it has to be said) rather excellent lessons and feverish, spring-bunny madness.



Today I woke up early and in good mood, way too early considering the hours I have to teach, but unable to go back to sleep. I was all geared up for a leisurely stroll around my Yokohama backstreet haunts, just paid, ready to splurge, (relatively speaking), when I realized that my timetable for this particular day would allow no such thing. I had to go from my school in Fujisawa to my school in Yokohama direct ( although no one is keeping track of me exactly) , and gaijin, or foreigners, can practically get away with murder here if you pull the right face of innocent ignorance (we are, let’s face it, essentially another species to them; aliens, outsiders, weirdos and incomprehensibles and always will be).



So: I know that if I just ‘forget’ to clock in I will get away with it, that if I just….I don’t know, just feign stupid I can definitely get away with it somehow, and find myself running, racing, down my street of luxurious possibilities sweating and panting, darting into one shop then another, constantly keeping an eye on my iphone clock, thinking you f*%@ing fool, why are you doing this to yourself, you know you have to be at the main Yokohama school right now, you haven’t even finished photocopying everything, and yet you are two stations away and running in the opposite direction.













AND WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER PLACE….god that cabinet that keeps getting replenished (two Parfums de Rosines, recently, not dirt cheap but a sixth of their brand new price), what might be in there? And then that other Chanel Dior ‘brand’ shop; remember how excited you were recently to get that old chestnut, that scent you love but would probably never fork out for a full bottle; L’Artisan’s MÛre et Musc Extreme, for virtually nothing……..?













Let me ask you though. I know that although a lot of people who stray onto the Black Narcissus might just chance on here out of curiosity, to read about this perfume or that, but I know that many others of you also are real addicts like me, possessed. Delirious. Now what would you do if rather than the rip-off, overly priced occasional buys at flea markets you were presented with at most metropolitan Sunday afternoon flea markets , a situation where beautiful, vintage and new perfumes arose, where these perfumes were constantly presenting themselves to you, at utterly affordable prices, in these brand emporia and thrift shops: would you honestly be able to resist?





I cannot think of a recent time where my heart and brain were wrenching themselves so much in utterly opposing directions (my behavior today in truth was nothing short of reckless) but, like any madman I was resolute: nothing was going to stop me. I would make up some savage excuse if necessary and wing it in the classroom (when, if I am honest, I always teach best anyway, though the smell of hysterical sweat might rise up more in the chalky, and concentrated Japanese atmosphere and trouble those earnest and overly serious students I am constantly presented with).







In fact today was the day that two of my very sweet students, who I am very fond of, were taking an exam that I had spent a whole year preparing for. I had gone in on weekends, had prepped them, done my pep-talks, wished them luck, and should probably (not probably; definitely) been waiting at the main school to greet them afterwards and look at the paper before heading off to Yokohama, acting adult, and proper, and teacherly.





Instead I was there, in that place I feel so at home (it’s no mystery; with some sleuthing on here you can find exactly where I am talking about if you want to), picking up bargains left right and centre, stuffing them into my workbag unbagged,  then RUSHING back to school in a panic, going through what I was going to do in my mind as my work bag was laden down  with precious, unrepeatable perfumes……god I know you understand.










Today’s haul.






Not for a pittance, as can sometimes be achieved (I have a piece coming to you soon that will make your eyeballs bust out of their sockets…..just you wait; you will not BELIEVE what I found last week in Tokyo, and for the price… will go down in history),



but today, for just the price of one decent niche perfume, probably (I4,000 yen, about I40 dollars) I obtained; and possessed;






(ALL VINTAGE, obviously  (need I say that?). Yes, all vintage, a word or concept I would not be remotely hung up on as I am not old fashioned or stuck on the past when it comes to any other art form; neither in music, nor cinema, nor literature, nor the visual arts, were it not for the fact that in the majority of cases THE REMAKES OF ALL THESE PERFUMES JUST SMELL LIKE SHIT, and therefore there is absolutely no point in buying them.








CHANEL N° I9 parfum, I4ml

CHANEL N°I9 parfum 7ml

CHANEL N° 5 parfum 7ml    (all boxed; unopened; sealed)




GUERLAIN MITSOUKO parfum I4ml, sealed, in rare ‘tulip’, frosted glass flacon – definitely an heirloom type thing


WEIL ANTILOPE parfum I4ml (oh my god my new love: I LOVE THIS: an obsession is born.

Grassy, Calandre like aldehydic chypre but with something else going on, something with a real warm kick I will have to review it I am wearing it on my right hand as I write this)


REVILLON CARNET DE BAL parfum I4ml , boxed, sealed (haven’t opened it: I am leaving that one to you: thinking that it won’t be me, that I can sell it instead)


ROCHAS MYSTERE parfum spray 7ml (the HOLINESS; god I love that scent; the peaty unbelievableness: this one is going in my personal stash, though I have heard that it is quite sought after and lord knows I understand why)



BALENCIAGA Fleeting Moment small edt (intriguing; sandalwoody, erotic)



CALANDRE METAL edt, a personal favourite.




Now some of you reading this will be bored; it will be like hearing the football results on a Saturday afternoon, while  others (those who know how gorgeous some of these things are )will be swooning,leering,  or tearing out their own eyebrows, but the point is this:






I have decided that I am, after all, despite what we talked about recently, going to put some of these beauties aside. As a nest egg. As perfumed collateral.




The friends who know me in my actual flesh and blood guise know that I am not a stingy or materialistically greedy person at all (probably more the naïve, and tragically romantic sort), that I have given away tons and tons of perfume in my time and will probably continue to do so (a very lovely Mitsouko extrait was just handed out last weekend in fact to a person I had never met in my life before) but I have decided, nevertheless, that although I could never sell any of these perfumes to people I know, including you, for even a single yen of profit – I just couldn’t – I would simultaneously have no compunction, at some point in the future, in setting up some kind of vintage perfume shop in Europe, whether in physical form or on the internet, where certain choice perfumes will be sold at the going rate. At the maniac, lusted after rate.




Is this bad?




I mean the N°I9 I got today (probably my favourite perfume and one I am still to review) I just had to open, as I always do, as it literally is different in every bottle, from batch to batch, and the I4ml extrait I opened earlier this is literal perfection, a perfume I will enjoy in extremity and treasure, into my dotage and beyond, and anyway looking online I see that it is not that valuable anyway compared to certain other things  (people the vetiver; the iris; the leather, all in MAGNIFICENT proportion; this one is especially vetivery)



No, I don’t regret opening that one at all (as I don’t regret the exquisite Moment Suprême you made me open by Patou: I was in bed last night and suddenly craved it: turned the light on: found it: put it on and it was just so lovely and magical that I slept like a baby surrounded by its lavendered, ethereal beauty and don’t regret in the least that I probably could have made the odd buck from it).




Mitsouko, though………. Diorissimo. Chanel N°5. Joy. L’Air Du Temps. Madame Rochas.Miss Dior……..these are all redoutable monuments of perfumery that I love and respect in great measure but which I have little actual affection or desire for, to wear on the body, myself. I can look at them, and snap them up quite coldly. Every time I see a Mitsouko I just wish it were something else. I think for perfume lovers there is nothing more exciting than Guerlain, and to walk into some crappy old bric-a-brac store and see a vintage Guerlain box on the shelf really does make life living for. I ADORE It (wouldn’t you?), but at the same time, spoilt though I am, I always think but why can’t it for once be something like L’Heure Bleue? Or Parure or Chant D’Aromes parfums  (exquisite, eXQUISITE). Though some of you claw at your eyelids in lust for vintage Mitsouko, for me she is as common as the kitchen table. I know her inside out.




If it were Shalimar………………All Shalimar, naturally, shall be worn by yours truly and he alone : this is my sex perfume, my guaranteed winner in that regard…. I can just stand naked and pour it over my shoulder and let it run right down my body – it lasts no time whatsoever. It smells gorgeous on me. It is me, completely. The same with Bal A Versailles and Vol De Nuit: these are MY perfumes, the ones I adore, the ones I was made for, and I couldn’t try selling them even  if I tried. Something in me always breaks open the seals (I even couldn’t help myself tearing open the N°5 this evening as I have found that it makes a lovely sleep perfume (do you know there were two more of those unopened N°5 parfums in that shop, at I,000 yen, or ten dollars, or seven pounds or whatever it is, just standing there? Should I have got those as well? Is there a market for the vintage? Can somebody tell me? Are there any 5 addicts out there reading this blog who can tell me?)









I realize that in writing this post, which I should probably delete as it makes me look like some kind of manic maniac ( I did have that real rising sap plenitude of excitement you get in springtime today, though : I think I actually was a little bit mad as you can probably tell ; the plum blossoms were out, you could smell it in the air; the cold had been banished for a whole afternoon, I could really feel the spring and summer not so far away, and I just couldn’t help myself with any of this although you realize that in this day and age any parent or student could google me and read this and that I could lose my job, which I need to be able to write the blog and pay back my debts oh lordy ……oh shit this is going to have to be one of those self-destruct, limited edition posts, one of those ones that I will wake up with a pounding heart at 4am thinking oh fuck what have I done; why do you always have to just follow your instincts come what may: why can’t you exert any self-restraint, ever……







Is it Japan? This trussed up country you adore and hate in equal measure that makes you make a fool of yourself in public so?





This beautiful and maddening country that bizarrely, bizarrely; BIZARRELY, keeps turning up such heart-roasting mountains of undesired, tossed aside, yet UTTERLY DESIRED AND THOROUGHLY WANTED, BY ME AND BY YOU, perfume?





Filed under Flowers


  1. Manic, crazed, and above all brilliant as always, dear Neil! I must go to Japan if only for the perfume! And the ramen. And the yakitori. And the vending machines. And the fish. And the fruit. Oh, you get what I mean 🙂

  2. I love your passion. I wish I was that passionate for something, anything…
    To add a daring comment to a daring post that might be deleted anyway:
    Often when reading your brilliant pieces I wish that you were not gay and I was not married…

    • I am sure all these comments are limited edition but that is a very daring and beautiful thing to say my Hitchock exquisite blonde

    • And Madame O, strangely, and this IS strange seeing that you have suddenly appeared at this moment, your Caleche, the one I gave you, the one I have yet to replace in that calfskin Hermes box, was also there today on the shelf, unused. I wanted to buy it but that was the only one that was too expensive for today’s adventure. It is sitting, would you believe, among some ugly old computer games, just there on the shelf. I naturally thought of you, and how it must be looking immeasurably better in your home in Vienna, and here you suddenly are.


      • Perfume synchronicity, as Tara calls it, at work. 🙂
        One can trust that anything Hermès is always the most expensive…

        Your Calèche is my most treasured perfume, so precious I keep it like a secret, shielding it from the world in Gollum-like possessiveness. It is irreplaceable, yet I use it drop by golden drop to delight in its beauty and ruminate the fleeting nature of perfection.

  3. Olfactoria, I love your comment…especially the last line.
    Neil, I used to wear Antilope…I wish I still had a bottle of it.
    However, I do have a few vintage bottles of Chanel No. 5 and all are somewhat different but all are divine. As for Metal…I have two back-up unopened bottle of that which I bought many years ago in fear that it would no longer be made. I adore that perfume. And I don’t think you are alone in your passion for perfume. Most of us perfumistas are the same way or at least close.

    • Antilope is rocking like there is no tomorrow as I sit upstairs watching De Palma’s Dressed To Kill even though it is 3.09 am ( I have only come downstairs to read this as the cat has demanded to be let out).

      As for my ‘passion’……..these feelings as with everyone are not in my all the time. I felt strangely, not dead exactly, but totally not myself for the last six months of 20i4. Somehow, weirdly, America has released me. I still have to write about it in more detail.

      Was it New Orleans do you think?

      (And Metal: YES. So bloody beautiful)

  4. David

    I know how you feel. One of the things I miss most about Japan is the junk shop I used to frequent. Oh, I will never forget the first thrill of getting a vintage Celine case for 1000 yen. Oh, the treasures of that shop: YSL suits, Gucci ties, vintage Addidas sneakers, old bossa nova albums, iron teapots, ancient calligraphy cases….nothing was marked with a price….. my heart would beat fast as the owner calculated my stash…. 5000 yen for all. I came to perfume late, and perfume was never this shop’s strength, but I found a few vintage treasures. I spent a fortune on shipping stuff to Brazil (thank God Japan still has sea mail) and I gave away so much. But that mad thrill of discovery! I needed that so much living in Japan. Here in Brazil, there are other things,

    • such as………(you I know I almost lived there: it was literally a choice between those two countries).

      They could hardly be more different from each other. Perhaps they represent opposite core elements of our personalities.

  5. Neil, I think it could definitely be New Orleans–if New Orleans can’t release someone, nothing or no one can!

  6. carole

    Oh God I love you! Chanel as a sleep perfume??? Cutting class to buy…perfume? And then writing about it so that the rest of us can enjoy it too??? Thank god you exist.

    I love the idea of the store. One question-do you honestly believe you could sell them? I bet you would give them to people who loved fragrance the way you do, but would you really sell them?

    I still have lots of EDP Mystere. Today I bought Fendi (original) and Theorema, and Shalimar EDP. There is also a bottle of First, but I don’t know this scent at all. Should I purchase it, or eave it for someone else to enjoy?
    Best regards,

    • First is dazzling and beautiful if you like those classical aldehydic numbers and jasmine. I adore it.

      As for the selling: yes I could, certain things that I don’t need. It breaks the romantic beauty in a way but I think in certain cases it would be silly not to.

  7. chayaruchama

    I feel you.
    I smell you.
    I refer to the fragrant madness as my ‘medication’.
    I medicate myself according to the circumstances, the burning need, desire.
    I refuse to go to bed without the appropriate medication.
    That said, I firmly believe in spreading it around as well; my goal is to help provide the personal olfactory soundtrack for others, if they wish it (and I they usually do!).

  8. tonkabeany

    so exciting to read. i know that exhilaration, not with perfume, because, obviously, i don’t have that kind of access, but I have felt it, really only a few times. and if i had what you had, i would without a shadow of a doubt, have been racing those streets…on a spring day? of course! in a semi-hysterical, adrenaline fuelled whirl.
    blog…profile….award/s….book……more profile….exquisite little perfume shop in Berlin….there could be no more perfect a trajectory!

  9. I can 100% relate to this post of yours, Neil. Substitute your back streets for the interwebs and I’m equally addicted to the hunt, and in love with vintage.

  10. Tania

    I could never resist those shops – I’d be in all the time, checking for new stock. It’s just as well I don’t live there, I’d be down to living on plain noodles in a cradboard box on the street, with another box holding all my vintage treasures!
    Isn’t Antilope gorgeous?!? I discovered it a couple of years ago.
    I think you should absolutely sell the ones you don’t love. Nothing wrong with that bat all! Have a bijou shoppette in Paris, open only by appointment, and get whatever the market will bear for them. 🙂

  11. Rafael

    Just finishing this mad, thumping, crashing, breathless report. Candidly, I don’t think anything else tonight is going to match the rapture of your article. Many praises on the nomination btw. Toward the end I thought to myself “Ryan Murphy needs to know about Neil. There’s a need for this charachter. We just haven’t found the author yet.”

  12. Oh sigh. I love reading your thinking process – though we are diametrically opposed people, I do love seeing/hearing (smelling?) your point of view.

    And yes you should get those No. 5s. And sell them to me. Sigh. I have such a soft spot for that rich old beauty…

    • I will have a look if they are still there then.

      I am interested in your thought processes also: how are we diametrically opposed?

      • I plan EVERY. THING. I absolutely plan for my retirement money – not because I want to live in the future and not now, but because I need to in order to feel safe and secure. I am terrible at living in the moment. I love the people in my life but I am less good at loving my own impulses, good or bad. I am not prissy about sex or the luxurious smells thereof (I think there is where we cross over) but demonstrably, more willing to sleep with girls than you. 🙂 (Though I haven’t in a long while.) I love your approach to imagery, the rawness with which you write about feelings and impressions, your refusal to polish or blunt things. In overintellectualizing I often lose the first best raw edge of my own writing, probably my own thoughts.
        Also, I do NOT think Samsara is “too much”. 🙂 Perfumes impress me; I often wear just the tiniest dab, not because I have to, partly because I prefer them that way (and I can smell them on me for a very long time) but also because I perhaps measure out my pleasures with coffee spoons. I collapse at the knees to think of you using as much perfume as you describe. I don’t think I have ever even emptied a bottle! I love your ruthless enjoyment of irreplaceable vintage. I love the way you *consume* them. In many ways you are wiser than I am.

  13. Oh, this is one of the very most enjoyable, thrilling things you’ve written!! I’m so glad I stumbled across it today. I needed this, exactly this, today. Thank you.

    • Yes, rereading it just now as you commented on it I can feel the genuine energy surging through it. I am quite predictable in my biorhythms actually – getting all energised and excited as spring approaches, I feel as if I am really coming out of hibernation. That day was particularly exciting though, though I disappointed myself by eventually opening ALL of the perfumes in question. ..

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