Monthly Archives: May 2019
Although in theory I am in favour of solid perfumes – more discretion with application, a more controlled sillage; ease of carriage – in practice I rarely buy these concretes as they just don’t pack enough punch; are not concentrated enough for the money ; lack duration.
At the same time, I am constantly scenting myself subtly throughout the working day, usually in the form of my tinted vaselines that I mix up with citrus oils : in the winter it was Japanese iyokan orange: right now I am in lemon mood. After a week or so, once the essential oils have been absorbed into the grease you get a delicious, instantaneous boost- to the lips, the hands ( to stave off chalk : as a germ barrier).
I have been doing this for years and years – a non negotiable part of my monthly ‘budget’: not only do these gels or balms smell lovely, the kids in the class often express mini wonderment and start looking round to see where the invisible non- lemons are suddenly appearing from.
Charis, one of the aromatherapists I frequent in Fujisawa, often also stocks various scented curiosities from across Japan and the rest of the world, and recently they have started selling little mini solid perfumes that are pleasingly potent for a midday dab yet also display something very Japanese in their delicately heldtogether erotica.
Osmanthus – see packaging above – is a very apricotty, almost animalic gardenia tinged kinmokusei with a slurry finish that is proper, yet suggestive, something like Rush meets Patou Sira Des Indes. Cosmos, the one I took to first, my eyes I am sure brightening in glee when I inhaled it, is probably COMPLETELY unsuitable for a man my age ( and yet I loved wearing it last week ; just a touch on the back of the hand after lunch ); a sakura blossom meets morello cherry meets peachy soapful innocence and a shine of the early dawn that sets the good mood racing.
I wasn’t quite so keen on the sumire, or violet, because I couldn’t smell the violet in it – often a problem with me – nor the matronly lily-of-the-valley, might I might have to go back for Camellia, which is a red silken ointment like a sheening, craven Samsara – not quite sure when I would wear it but I do think I need it ( after all, these are only ¥800, about five pounds); I will certainly be stocking up on the Cosmos – and the Yuzu as well.
Yuzu anything in Japan is often founded on a blunt and musky ‘grapefruit’ molecule I can’t abide – after all, these citrus fruits are so different – but as yuzu essential oil is so readily available here – only marginally more expensive than lemon and bergamot – I knew that, though perhaps a little of that aspect lurked within the cheerful pot, it could easily be doctored.
So back I went to Muji, got my yuzu oil, and went to work mixing and spooning into different containers with added vaseline ( for solidity – it was a bit liquid ) until got the smell I wanted.
Refrigerated, the result : a beautiful, fresh yet gentle yuzu balm; perfect to touch gently anywhere on your person ( “wow, you smell really nice – like yuzu”) he said after I had walked back up the hill the other night. You couldn’t get this effect with a spray perfume – it would be too all-caressing and immediate. With a solid, secreted in your pocket, there are quieter, more synergistic, possibilities.
There are a lot of wacky perfume names out there, but Sycophant strikes me as one of the most hilarious. So when a friend of Duncan’s, ordering some vinyl from an independent US record and book shop, kindly asked if I would like to get some fumes – all tied up with actual book releases
how could I possibly resist ?
Choosing the above unhesitatingly just because it made me laugh ( only 13 dollars for the ‘pure perfume’), other possibilities from the Kick Books range include
which I also went for for the boring and simple reason that I have always wanted to go there
In fact, curious packaging aside, the Maldives perfume makes absolutely zero impression on me. I was hankering after something tropical but instead it smells just like a pale and nondescript mouldy rose. Rubbish ( it will look good in the house though).
Its sycophantic stablemate is not much better in olfactory sensibility or intelligence ( are people, myself included, going actually for the smell , or just the novelty value?) Whatis happening here, clearly, is that people’s sense of irony, visual and intellectual selectivity – all very Grindhouse Tarantino / Rodriguez 50’s kitsch – are being appealed to when the smells themselves, sidelined, are at the brain stem level of sophistication ; this sounds snobby and arrogant I know, but you sometimes forget that the vast majority of people are simply not scent literate. It’s the amusing or even titillating label on the bottle
that brings in the chortling and inquisitive punters.
Funnily enough though, despite saying this, I might actually wear Sycophant to work. It’s actually really rather pleasant : a sort of muguet meets Body Shop Oceanus meets modern Chloe by way of turn of the century cleaner than thou floral :the kind of scent that is still very popular in Japan, – particularly for men, believe it or not – shampoo fresh and unaggressive – and though I don’t have an obsequious bone in my body, a touch of this grime-eroding fragrance on the wrists under my work uniform, as I bow and acquiesce to the best of my ability each day will, I think, work kind of perfectly
( why does this perfume come with black and red dice ?)
Michael Judd is a brilliant photographer, filmmaker and performance artist from Australia who lives in Nagoya and Osaka : like us, he has something of a double life, teaching in the week for four days or so then indulging in his imagination on extended weekends, where he absorbs the neon ghosts and soul of the city into his eerie, velours celluloid.
As Belgium Solanas, the mesmerizing alter ego that often has cabaret audiences ( myself included ) in tears – there is often something overwhelmingly dreamlike and touching in the distilled cinematic melancholy of the performances : Michael appeared in Duncan and Yukiro Dravarious’s hilarious comedy horror film Girl Goned from two years ago and is going to edit their new opus, ‘Spoiled Identity’, the first scene of which we filmed in Golden Week ; analytical, sincere and unflinching – his is a towering, formidable presence.
At Space Witches, an art performance event held in the bowels of deepest Shinjuku, Belgium came on stage, an hour or so after midnight, like an alien air hostess meets Judy Garland meets Sean Young replicant from Bladerunner, holding a copy of Bowie’s Heroes, to a medley of songs glitch-edited over Laurie heartbreaking Anderson’s O Superman, a spellbinding staging that culminated in a spontaneous hugging of my friend in the audience,
A male and female pro-wrestling couple, jostling in the throng of the most packed together electric honeycombs of Shinjuku had earlier spotted D and I ( and smelled me) in Giorgio Red; the girl had apparently said to her boyfriend ‘Follow That Hair! : they then jumped in the cab with us, and the man was soon in emotional floods of tears at the end of Solanas’ performance, which in its lack of tack and its deadly, heart rending earnestness left a black hole of emptiness and longing in the pit of your heart ( in a good way ).
An alien being emitting much needed empathy for this world.
I was standing next to Laurie when they embraced, and could smell commingled sweat (from all our dancing ), and traces of Van Cleef & Arpels’ Gem coming off from the silver dress, an elegant, spiced and long discontinued floriental from the late 80’s I had given Michael in lieu of a flacon of vintage YSL Opium parfum, which for some reason I had always thought he should wear on stage.
Opium, an almost mythical monolith of a perfume, stills smells sexy, and so FAMILIAR – almost too much so – as though it were imprinted in our collective DNA, but inevitably the current formula is vastly thinner and less complicated than the original distilled tiger cordial of resins, spices, vanilla, flowers, mandarin oranges, and seemingly a million other ingredients doused in balsams and patchouli that for me is the very essence of late 70’s and early 80’s glamour. Scoring a sealed bottle of the extrait recently, I decided to send it to Michael. He won’t be able to wear it in the classroom ( where he usually is to be found in Gorilla Perfume’s Breath Of God), but as Belgium, I am excited to sense that opiate of Studio 54 excess drifting from the stage……. perfume, in this context, can consolidate, re or de-emphasize an art piece, or simply take you to an added dimension.
Off stage, as guests and performers chatted and drank together in the interval before the next act ( a hypnotic, bald, female Buddhist stripper covered from head to toe in exquisite calligraphy), Michael took my hand and said we had to go and take some photos up on the streets outside. Handing me his camera, I snapped away outside ramen bars and coin lockers, and felt, for a few minutes, that we had actually gone back in time, almost as though we were Jerry Hall and Helmut Newton
, like ripping through the fabric of time