The wild lilies are all out right now : : : : : : I love the smell
Source: FOUR LILIES
London is rightly regarded as one of the world’s most magnificent cities. Visitors from overseas flock to the UK’s capital in droves each year for its history, grandeur, and plen…
I am sorry, but I just can’t think about perfume.
All I can think about is that ridiculous, ludicrous, selfish buffoon, and my country of birth’s stupid, stupid, STUPID decision.
I am furious, eaten up inside, and utterly beside myself with impotent rage.
BECAUSE I HAVE ALWAYS CONSIDERED MYSELF A EUROPEAN, AND I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY DO NOT WANT TO LEAVE.
As its name suggests, Cristalle is diamond-cut and delicate: a crisp, pretty, and very Parisian floral chypre of slightly cold-hearted mien that lends the perfume a distancing, enigmatic quality – at once a citrus-galbanum, sherbety hycanthine jasmine freshness (all the joys of spring), and yet a darker, more pensive tension lying beneath this crystalline veneer in the vetiver oakmoss base that lines the high heeled assertions with a more gossamer vein of depressive melancholy.
An eau de parfum, a clever retweaking by Jacques Polge to update and bring the (at the time) somewhat obscure Chanel scent more attention, was introduced in 1993 that overlayed the essential character of classical Cristalle with a fuller, revitalized, fruitier beginning (a more pronounced peach, ylang and mandarin note in particular), but this robust, sharper remake was also rather gorgeous, if a little shrill in comparison to the more demure and refined reach of the…
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Last summer, on a warm night in Paris my boyfriend (editor’s note: The Narcissus’ younger brother) and I sat at a little candlelit table outside a brasserie. The embers of the hot day stretched into the night and the air was close and languid, the sky above us hung with fairy lights. As we sat there, buoyed by wine and holiday thrill (it was his first trip to Paris, and I’ve always loved it) a man approached us clutching garlands of jasmine. As in many European capitals at the height of the tourist season (and probably elsewhere too) this happens quite a bit in Paris. Men approach you with armfuls of roses or jasmine flowers and offer (or pester) you – or more typically your boyfriend! – To buy them for a couple of Euro. Normally I have to say that I’m not swayed by it – it seems a little cheesy somehow (particularly the overpriced, always flat scented roses encased in their little plastic cones) but on this particular night, on seeing our reluctance and perhaps recognising the hour (it was already late) our seller, instead of fading back into the night put the flowers under my boyfriends nose. ‘Just smell them, I promise you won’t be able to resist the perfume. They come from Madurai.’
I’ve rarely seen a person visibly swoon, but as Greg smelt the jasmine something about him melted, his eyes glazed and the words ‘Oh my god’ left his lips, and then ‘that’s outrageous.’ The little garland was 5 Euro. He bought it immediately, knowing it couldn’t last longer than a few hours but needing to possess even momentarily, a slice of this pure, unadulterated beauty. The scent of that little, unprepossessing lei was utterly intoxicating. Bewildering even. Smelling it, the outside world rushed to a remove and the space between us was filled, suddenly, thrillingly with invisible gold. I know how hyperbolic it sounds, but those flowers were truly a tumble into a dreamlike state: so potently honeyed and lush, brimming with exotic, liquorous nectar. So beautiful! We kept that little ever-wilting bundle for months afterwards, smelling it occasionally as it faded inevitably into crunchy sepia potpourri. Even in its demise its dying puffs were a reverie against the grunt of London outside.
Like anthomaniac vampires clawing desperately for the next fix of indole, we’ve since been trying to find a true perfume replica. It should be something with depth and body, with the decadent gilt of honey and a waxy tang that hits you incandescently with a swish and swoon. Not too polite or watery (personally I’ve never really got on with scrubbed up Febreeze jasmines – too mannered and dull) but not necessarily a hairy backed monster either. Slightly Oriental perhaps, and bolstered by little touches of this and that here and there. But essentially: that smell, trapped in amber, mummified. An Empress jasmine. While Greg has taken to wearing the strident A La Nuit (even to work – how wonderful), my closest findings so far have been the divine Amouage Jasmine Attar (a gorgeous, truly catnippy elixir) and Dorin Jasmin Fullah (slightly ‘browner’ – redolent of the Syrian sands, indolic and more classic somehow, but nevertheless a real beauty.) Indult Isvaraya has the ‘right’ sort of jasmine buried inside it, but here it is braided with mothy patchouli and a dry umami plum so that it becomes coiled, sylvan and ritualistic. I love it actually, but for this purpose it doesn’t fit.
Treasure hunting through the shops the other day I came across a little bottle in smart grey glass. The modest olive green label houses only two words, in a small elegant font: Madagascan Jasmine. Can there be a more alluring name for a perfume? Yes, admittedly it’s purely descriptive and there are no hyperbolic allegories flounced overhead, promising nymphean powers of attraction and magnetic allure. But for me at least, within those two words lies a world of romance, of intrigue, of complicit and yielding seduction: thick, verdant groves and steamy exotic air hanging heavy with the scent of starry little flowers.
Created by perfumer Michel Roudnitska for the Sydney based florist Grandiflora, this perfume is in essence a soliflore study of the Stephanotis Floribunda variety of jasmine, commonly found in the heady climes of Madagascar and often used in bridal bouquets. A greener variety of the genus than the more commonly used (in perfume) jasmine sambac, this plant is a spindly climber with tough stems and large constellations of small starry flowers that orbit the axil of every waxy leaf. Like an Impressionist painter working en plein air, Roudnitska worked from a plant on his desk crafting drafts, honing roughs, studying every nuance of the living flower. He has created something really remarkable.
This perfume moves in small, delicate circles between clear, raw verdancy and honeyed flowers, by turns snappy and crisp and sweetly sultry. Aloe ooze slips coolly from fibrous stems mimicking the chilled verdure of a florist’s fridge. Then the botanical blast ebbs as the nectar of the flowers rises up, their pregnant stamens lolling heavily with pollen. It is neither squeaky clean nor furrily indolic, but almost alchemically, entirely natural – and living. It drifts from the bottle the way a photograph develops in a dark room: from blankness, ghostly forms begin to swirl in dark waters until like an apparition they solidify in front of you.
While this is a true soliflore, its finery and deftness of touch renders it much more than simply a study. There really is something reaffirming about it. This is jasmine caught in a butterfly net and bottled gingerly, preciously for posterity. It feels encapsulated. When I smell it, I feel pulled down into a portal: here is the damp darkness of the forest, its steamy floors and strange cacophony of unrecognised sounds and songs. Here is the rich fruity soil and the flutter-by hummingbird dancing with the flowers. Here is a little box of Madagascar on my desk, a jar of titillating primordial nectar. It manages to feel both ancient and essential in its evocations of nature, and as a perfume, entirely modern thanks to its linearity and minimalism.
It isn’t my Empress Jasmine (it’s no where near close enough to the sultry/slutty Queen of Sheba border, and slightly too green at times for me – but this is just a personal thing. My skin often does awful, industrial solvent things to green perfumes.) However, this perfume is so exceptionally beautiful in its own right that I felt compelled to own it – even if I only ever use it as a little magic carpet for my nose. It is an otherworldly lullaby, a paean to the astounding, humbling, unfathomable beauty of the earth – transient and long, long lived; fragile and resilient; spiritual in it’s awesome design and synchronicity.
Roudnitska recommends the perfume for yoga. I’d agree that there is a great deal of meditation within it, and a sense of the devout somehow. When the built up, smokily urbanised, terror pocked world we live in seems in tumult, when pandemonium abounds and your heart feels heavy from the evil lunacy that leaches from every news report, it can be a small balm to be thrust back into the beauty of nature. The heartbreaks of reality aren’t diminished, but a little balance is restored in your soul. To be reminded that somewhere out there, beyond the mayhem, flowers are perfuming the jungles of the tropics. Untouched, unseen and doing it anyway just as they always have. That the world is still beautiful and how lucky we are to share it for a little while.
One of the most singular (and in some ways, peculiar) perfumes available, Baïme, by Paris-based Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier, is a fresh-cut basil salad; savoury, green and piquant. While basil is occasionally used as a top note in fragrance along with citrus, it is rarely the main story. Here, however, like Diptyque’s classic Virgilio, basil leaf is the defining feature, and if you are not a lover of this herb, then you can immediately forget Baïme.
As a cool and distinguished scent though (perfect for a formal white shirt and suit) this uncompromising, androgynous green perfume is worth trying. The accord at the heart extends the herb salad theme with thyme, marjoram, and mint; and dries down to a very elegant base accord of spiced jasmine, vetiver and anise.
For some serenity.
The height of August.
Clean white sheets in a cold, summer room.
Shut the world out tight.
When you awake, revel in the cool, private cathedral of your sheets.
The blinds, drawn for now despite the sins of midday, will keep out the heat and sun.
The room is almost dark.
Let’s sleep just a little bit more.
Over there, in the shadows, is the bathroom.
And that hard, violet-blue soap against the white.
But not just yet…
A strange, luminescent perfume, Santa Maria Novella’s Iris is not a perfume that speaks of those beifiori in the usual, powdered, orris form, more a peculiarly old-fashioned acqua di colonia – spruce, hale and poetic; detached; with a timelessness and time-stripping aldehydic blue that seems to last forever:
We had had one of those busy Saturday mornings and afternoons, traipsing all over Tokyo and Yokohama, rootling through junk at the Salvation Army and scouring the recyle shops of Yokohama, but aside a new collection of one dollar books and a few unusual odds and ends for future costume preparation (our next event, the circus-themed ‘Trapezista’, with performances and clowns and freaks and glittering show girls is only three weeks away), there wasn’t any eye-catching perfume.
Yet eventually, as is often the case, the two rather pleasing scents that you can see in the picture above did surface among the dross. Madame Rochas, in the eighties Byzance bottle, I got for 1,000 yen (about ten dollars) and, just tossed into a bargain bin full of old lipsticks and half used gels and soaps – a boxed, mint condition bottle of the now rare-to-find and loved by many, sumptuous in her fulsome 80’s heyday glory, Byzance, for just five hundred. Five dollars, when converted, or as it sounds even cheaper in English money, ₤3.32. Which, considering that bottles of Byzance now go for around $300 on the internet, is really quite something of a bargain.
Such finds certainly quicken the pulse and put you in a good mood when you sit down for a pint of beer with your loved one and set about trying them on your skin. I have always liked Madame Rochas in its original vintage incarnation, though until now I had only tried it in the sixties parfum. This eighties edt is a very different scent, but made with the same quality materials, as perfumes always were back then. But where the parfum is cool and demure, compressed in its white marble rigueur into its essential components of rose, jasmine, ylang ylang and aldehydes, the eau de toilette is warmer and more enveloping (and sexier, in actual fact, particularly on me): the heated, musk/sandalwood base more a basin of sensuality for the florals, mainly rose and ylang, at the heart of the scent, the aldehydes and citric top notes giving expansiveness and freshness. It is very nice, and, for me, the strangeness of seeing Madame Rochas in a different flacon only adds to its appeal.
Byzance is one of those perfumes that is sometimes mourned for by its fans as it is one of those decade-specific, but perfectly made, scents, that have been unjustifiably discontinued. Of the classic Rochas perfumes, only Madame Rochas (1960), the incomparable Femme (1943) and Mystère (1978) – my personal favourite – still exist (in neutered and watered down, unsatisfactory reformulations), alongside the ever popular – in France, at any rate, Eau De Rochas (1970). While some of the masculines have been given a revamp recently – you can still buy a current version of Moustache, for example – the house of Rochas does tend to create perfumes that fall along the wayside, often releasing perfumes long after the fact and just missing the boat. Byzance (1987), for instance, is immediately recognizable to anyone with any direct experience of perfume history as being very influenced by the beautiful (and in my view, superior) Ysatis by Givenchy, albeit a softer and more light-hearted tribute. While I will come back to Byzance in a moment, it strikes me that Lumière, Rochas’ on point, American-smelling floral from 1984, was in some ways a more original and olfactively successful scent.
It is strange that I had never even heard of this fragrance, though, until I came across a cheap second hand bottle one afternoon at a fleamarket here in Japan. In fact I did have two bottles of Lumière, one in a bottle shaped similarly to Madame Rochas and another, in better condition, in exactly the same bottle as the Byzance Madame Rochas (you had to read the label on the bottom of the bottle in fact, to find out what it was). The company must have re-released all their scents at this time in the same flacons for uniformity and newness, and the thick glass and sturdy materials do seem to have nicely preserved the contents within as all three of these perfumes smell pristine, lush, and clear. So much so in fact that my mother made off with that particular edition of Lumière when she came to stay last year. She always rocks a jasmine to perfection, in any case, and Lumière is a great rock jasmine: one of those solar, luminous florals that take you to the promontory of a slow, happy, cocktail sunset, or else just straight back to the naïve penthouse optimism of the eighties. Its sun-fused fruit shimmer of honeysuckle, tuberose, hyacinth, orris and back-combed aldehydes put me in a good mood every time, as the perfume really does capture the feel of all those feel-good, glamorous, eighties movies and the beautiful evening light of L.A, which has to be experienced to be believed. Maybe things were never quite as innocent as we perhaps thought, but it is always nice, in any case, to sometimes believe that they were.
I should have heard of it, though. By my teenage years I was stalking the perfume counters back in my hometown and knew all of the perfumes on them (or so I thought), even though it was sometimes embarrassing and shame-inducing for an adolescent boy to be smelling ‘women’s’ perfumes. I just gulped and asked anyway, because I wanted to smell them. It was certainly easier to do with Helen, certainly, we mad teenage perfume partners in crime, but I bet she doesn’t remember this one either. Taken off the market, like Byzance, as is often the case with Rochas perfumes, perhaps it just didn’t quite capture the public’s imagination, didn’t have a strong enough tagline or like the other pervasive blockbusters such as Poison and the like, the same big melodic punch.
Byzance is a gorgeous scent, though. Rich, warm, enveloping, sweet and sexy, it is in some ways the archetypal floriental, totally redolent of that period (Red Door, Alfred Sung, Carolina Herrera and their brethren), all jasmine, tuberose (in some ways a re-working of Lumière, I would say – they were made by the same brilliant perfumer, Nicholas Mamounas, who also made Mystère): ylang ylang, Turkish rose and other white flowers, spiced up tidily with anise, carnation, cinnamon and cardamom, given glamour and glint with notes of fresh mandarin, basil and aldehydes in the top, and sensually laden down in the heart and base, with a soft, vanillic veil of amber, sandalwood, heliotrope, and cedar. Complex and symphonic, in other words, one of those classic off-the-shoulder numbers made to seduce, although if I am honest, I do find it a touch on the sweet side and lacking the sheer audacity and depth of the marvellous Ysatis, which obviously inspired Byzance but which did the same thing but in a more animalic, intense fashion. As a softer, more streamlined alternative, though, this Rochas rarity is still lovely, even though I could never possibly get away with in on myself. As one Basenotes writer says, probably only the only man who could get away with this would be Rupaul – it just smells wrong on a man’s skin (whereas the eighties Madame Rochas I found smells great – perfectly androgynous and suitable, and something I intend to wear it as a subtle daytime scent).
We are lucky. I realize that. We have these lovely weekends, where we just recover from the teaching week – although that is also going very well at the moment and I am enjoying it now I have got back into the swing of things; the new students and I have settled into each other finally, and are enjoying the mutual atmosphere of the class and what we are studying. Nevertheless, the energy it all requires is certainly often exhausting, and so it is always great, when the weekend finally comes, to just indulge fully in whatever we want, whether it be write, play music, watch films or recently, even make them (!), plan some event, walk around Kamakura or just explore a new area of the metropolis, do our performance art at the Closet Ball run by our good friends in Asagaya, whatever : we live in a self-acknowledged bubble of dreams and beauty – very much deliberately, I might add, neither of us ever having been able to deal with the hard-edged, metallic dreary corporate reality of lumpen, so called ‘adulthood’ back home, and, in all honesty, even if we were to find ourselves on our death beds tomorrow, I don’t think we would have any regrets. I know in the last few years particularly, we have both experienced a huge amount of pure, genuine, happiness, and I know that that is not as common as it should be. Plenty of people are miserable. Life is not easy for anyone, for countless reasons that I don’t need to elucidate here, the world is a mess, and scarily so, getting more polarized and intolerant as each moment passes, and it can be hard sometimes, in all honesty, to find genuine peace, calm and contentment.
Of course you know what I am going to talk about next, but I can’t really not. The events in Orlando last Saturday night were appalling and upsetting, and yesterday, in the unusually cold, persistent, rain, I did feel an absolute pall of – not abject misery exactly – but certainly great sadness, come over me. I spent the day alone, feeling pensive and depressed, just reading about the shootings, shocked to then hear that a friend of a friend was one of the victims murdered (shot in the back as he tried to help his boyfriend escape, a man from Sarasota, where we spent New Year’s with Duncan’s family in 2014), pondering the fact that we had only been in the same area of Florida quite recently ourselves, that we also had been dancing the night away in a gay club in Tampa as well, although, as is usually the case, it was full of all kinds of people, straight, mixed, whatever, just people dancing on a Saturday night – a evening of great fun and hilarity we still sometimes talk about, and that someone could have just then come in and senselessly massacred everyone. Whether it be from mental illness, or religious fervour, some nut job could just have calmly sauntered in with his easily-obtained battery of weapons, pointed a gun at mine or Duncan’s head, and shot us and forty seven other people in the middle of their lives, cold dead.
I suffered a great deal as a young child because of the realization that I was ‘different’ and from the fact that was also living in a homophobic environment (my hometown, Solihull, was once chosen by the Guardian newspaper as officially the most homophobic place in the whole of the UK); then going through some kind of religious torment as a university student convinced I was damned, somehow evil, and going straight to hell. I was in a great deal of pain. And it was only after thinking rationally – I have a good brain, after all, and just had to use it – reading a lot of different kind of books and hearing the words of differing thinkers, but far more importantly, just listening and trusting my inner voice, that I was just being my natural self and that nothing could make me go against my own instincts because then I wouldn’t even be a real human being, plus then meeting Duncan, and moving to Japan, that my life began to fall in place and solidify as real and properly fulfilling.
As I have written before, I certainly don’t want to be pitied, nor for people to think that I had a bad childhood. If you read this blog you will know how vivid my imagination was as a child, that perfume often takes me back to joyous past experiences, which is one of the reasons that I love it so much, an immediate passage back to half forgotten experiences. I was an utterly alive child, sentient, sensitive, absorbing everything, probably to an unusual extent actually (my parents often can’t believe how many things I can remember from my childhood); I had an exhilarating teenage life, particularly because of my love of music, cinema, perfume and literature, and I view my awakening adolescence back then as a wonderful time as well. That ‘other thing’ was compartmentalized to a certain extent, repressed and pushed down into the recesses of my psyche as much as I could, (which is why I am so neurotic now, I think), and it certainly didn’t wreck the other more vigorous aspects of my life.
Nevertheless, it certainly wasn’t a bed of psychological roses. And although I do understand homophobia, perfectly, having the (un)fortunate ability to emphathize with virtually anybody or any idea, what I don’t understand is the idea that you have kill people to make your point. Nor the idea that, if you believe in God, that you think you have the right to judge people to the extent that you can snuff out their lives. Surely, you should just get on with your own life and leave it to the creator to decide on judgement day (if there is such a thing) and let that deity then do the sentencing. How can you take it upon yourself to take that liberty? What kind of arrogance is this? And how, logically seen, and from looking at any religious scriptures, can destroying lives in such heartless fashion be seen as virtuous in any case? Is that what ‘heaven’ is? A place full of people that have murdered?
Religious ideas aside, the day to day, undeniable realities of the Orlando shootings are surely the stupid, stupid, gun culture (based purely on the greed of the firearms industry and the politicians it supports), which allows such tragedies to happen in the first place. American readers reading this: what, do you think (if anything), can be done? Will people ever let go of their firearms? Why do Americans love their guns so much? Is it something in the national psyche that will never ever change? I understand the whole ‘wild frontier’ thing, the hunter, the whole cowboys and Indians shebang, the emphasis on freedom and all the rest of it, but doesn’t all that belong in the nineteenth century (if it even did then?). To me, guns are nothing but objects of terror. I don’t even want to be near one, let alone hold one, or god forbid, use one. How can they be so easily, readily available? How can you just order one on the internet, for god’s sake? I honestly want to understand.
Because in Japan there are virtually no guns. Only the yakuza organized crime gangs have them, and even then, they only shoot each other, and even then, hardly ever. The public never comes into contact with them. They are simply not part of the culture. They belong only in the movies. Yes, there are bizarre murders on occasion, here, of course, and plenty of twisted and insane people wandering the streets, but the great thing, you know, is that they don’t have guns. Nobody does. Because nobody actually has any access to them.
Much as I have criticized what I personally feel are the negative sides of Japanese culture, inevitable when it is so different from my own (which is why it has fascinated me for so long), criticized it for its harmful oppressive repression of emotions (which, nevertheless, conversely, does create a beautiful harmonious atmosphere in a myriad of ways), at the same time, the great, blanketing ambiguity of Japanese culture, its avoidance of black and white, its love of obfuscation, its love of privacy, the acceptance of the unspoken and the reality that there is more to people than meets the eye, all this means that in many ways, as long as you behave correctly in society, you can do what you like in the privacy of your own life with no one intruding or trying to murder you for being different to them. In many ways despite is surface conservatism, Japan is an intensely liberal place. This is why subcultures flourish so wonderfully here: whole worlds of individuals following their hearts in their own private, personal ways, living the way they want to, yet still belonging to a culture that is far more egalitarian yet simultaneously prosperous than most western nations.
Which is why I am thankful that I can spend the weekend with my lover here in any way I see fit. That we can plan our performances, that I can drench myself in Rochas perfumes, have them by our bed at night, a touch of Byzance to send me to sleep, some Madame Rochas worn stylishly with a white shirt, dress in any manner I see fit, dance in a Tokyo nightclub in any way I want without anyone batting an eyelid, let alone come in and want to blast me and my friends to death.
Madonna once caused a minor kerfuffle when she was in Japan a few years back.
Asked what she loved most about the country, she, to the nationalist dismay, didn’t praise the temples, the sushi, the literature, or the sake, but rather, she gushed passionately about the toilets.
“ I love the toilets”
the perennial provocatrice exclaimed in her typically imperious manner.
“The toilets? “
the collective consternation.
Who, in reality, though, can actually blame her?
Once you have got used to these beauteously convenient contraptions, these genius works of toilet technological art, nothing else will ever do again. In fact, I would even go far to say that once you have known the most technologically advanced of Japanese restroom conveniences, you can never, ever, ever, go back.
It wasn’t always this way.
The traditional ‘ o-tearai ‘ is a nightmare.
A hole in the floor on a raised platform, it forces you to squat like an undignified primate if you get the gist of it; and if you don’t, or cannot, like myself and plenty of other grimacing non-Japanese, you are forced to perform the most obscene and mortifying contortions to do your business without sinking into flailing dehumanizing degradation; hands clawing at the walls and the toilet roll dispenser trying as you grunt and panic and try not to topple into the horror, in moments of thank-god-there-are-no- cameras-in-here, privately humiliating, shame.
Plenty of such unsuitable ‘conveniences’ do still exist across Nihon, especially in almost all of the railway stations, and they are stressful and disgusting if you are caught unawares in the middle of your day and aren’t in the mood for Cirque Du Soleil acrobatics and creative, contemporary dance interpretations. And with the Tokyo 2020 Olympics only four years to go and the inevitable coming influx of the westernised hordes, some metropolitan think tanks are now apparently ‘scrambling’ to revamp their urban water closets with the more up to date, but really quite expensive, hi-technology alternatives. The majority of the population, however, has long outgrown its traditional squat til you drop benjo, and has come to only expect the best, and the cleanest, when it comes to its sparklingly white, self-refreshing ‘Washlets’ and ‘Purelets’.
To the first time visiting gaijin, the most hi-tech editions of these beloved latrines are truly a dream of comfort, hygiene and simplicity, catering to your every need when you are on the go between assignments and find that you suddenly have to ‘powder your nose’: a veritable think tank of preconsidered needs and solutions, among futuristic, white-walled interiors.
You enter the facility.
Sensing your presence immediately, the lid of the toilet is raised, automatically, slowly, the throne pre-flushing and re-cleaning itself to assuage any doubts you might possibly have had regarding its cleanliness.
You ready yourself, eager to get on with the operation, safe in the comforting cocoon of your surroundings.
Worried about ‘sounds’? in case, someone, somewhere, might know what you are up to?
Toto has it covered. Cover Up buttons can be pressed, bird noises or sea waves to counter the primal shame, as you settle in, soothed , for the proceedings. If you are in an upscale restaurant or shopping centre, soft jazz, harp music or Chopin preludes, piped in from invisible speakers ensconced in the walls, will also accompany your shameless ablutions, as you sit, cradled in civilisation, awash in a beautiful sea of pika pika, blurred and oneiric, twittering.
Now comes the fun part (no wonder people seem to spend so long in these places!)
Swathes of velvety toilet tissue expended (oh, how it never runs out as it often does in less conscientious nations; oh the copious rolls of back up paper, that nobody steals here, miraculously as they might back home, stocked up by scrupulous cleaning ladies, soothe your future anxieties), now that you are ready, at long last, for the machine-intensive, meticulously computerised, clean-up operation.
The ultra-tech toilets in the highest of the toire manufacturing categories sometimes make distinctions between ladies and gents, providing ‘forward’ ‘back’ and swirling options for the pudenda (‘oscillating‘ and’pulsating‘, though I have not, as yet, tried either of these alluring options). You can also control not only the temperature of the toilet seat (fabulous in winter; unfortunate if someone has left it sweltering on a hot summer’s day and you feel like you are being bottom slo-cooked like a casserole), but also, for your pleasure, the jet strength as well (there is even a function called a ‘massage’).
Inevitably, first time visitors sometimes emerge from these space age toilet booths flushed, dreamy, and googly-eyed with a sometimes slightly guilty look on their faces as though they had been indulging in a spot of overextended ‘afternoon delight’. They wonder to themselves, how can going to the toilet possibly ever be this much fun?
But whether you have let the Japanese toilet robot explore your nether regions in an unorthodox manner is entirely up to you – let’s face it, no one is ever going to know – but at any rate, with the ‘powerful deodorizer’ button having been activated along with the wavy ‘blow dry’ button to tidy things up nicely, anyone who has been in one of these delightfully well considered places feels vastly more contented and squeaky clean than they certainly would have done otherwise. If there is one thing that Japan is justly renowned for, it is in its glorious attention to painstaking detail. And when it comes to the water closet, or the powder room, or the bathroom, or whichever euphemistically shrouded name you might want to give it, this country has it totally, and absolutely, down pat.