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


















Filed under 'Orientals', Antidotes to the banality of modern times, cinema + perfume, JAPAN PHOTOGRAPHY, LUXURIANCE, PERFUME AND PERFORMANCE, Spice


  1. Renée Stout

    I was mesmerized by Opium in the late 1970’s when it first came out and to this day, my vintage extrait still mesmerizes me in the same way. Nothing compares to it. It’s sad to know that the reformulated “Opium” that they’re currently offering in department stores is the only version a younger generation will ever know of it.

    • Which is why I was so keen to come across one of these getting rarer extraits….I really wanted Belgium to know and wear it. Part of me wanted it in my collection like a museum piece, but ultimately it’s something you have to wear on the skin; or on fur…..

  2. David

    I miss Shinjuku nights, especially in ni-chome. I told you I am living vicariously. Hey, maybe sometime in the past I saw you and D there. I went there until 2011, and then one appearance back in 2013 when I came back to Japan to pay back taxes.
    I love that song O Superman. I didn’t understand it at all when I first heard it as a teenager. I heard it again last year when it ran through an episode of the American TV show “Better Things.” (I rarely recommend a TV show, but it’s brilliant….the song “Smile More” by Deap Valley was featured this season…..check that out).
    I am praying to stumble upon a vintage Opium. I need to get back to the SP flea markets (but my husband drank the Kon Marie kool aid 😦

  3. Love your pics, Neil, and, as always, your story-telling is first class.

  4. Such mesmerizing photos! I absolutely adore how magnificent a night you must have spent was in Shinjuku; we are still planning on visiting Japan and would love to be there when you are all having a performance.
    Opium is a magical creature! She is so plush, and a touch elegant, but truly rough and downright raunchy around the edges. She is a seductress extraordinaire! The ad photos on the top are all so special to me, I truly am the bottom middle photo, dark hair slicked back, red as blood lipstick, vampy dress. Your friend Michael, as Belgium, embodies that same look also.
    I love it all!
    Oh, and to let you know, I will be in Barcelona this week on Thursday. I will be looking for treasures to share.

  5. Robin

    Ric, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.

    Talk about alien! Your life is a planet or two away from our little cabin in the Canadian rainforest. Our latest big excitement was this morning, when we went outside and saw fresh black bear scat on the lawn and the shed door half ripped off, dangling from one hinge, deep claw marks through the wood.

    I love your world of city life and nightlife and glamour and costume and performance art. At 10pm, we’re invariably asleep. Nice to live it vicariously.

  6. Thank you so much for the perfumes you’ve gifted me over time, and in particular this newest one, vintage Opium (received on the way out the door today and currently in my bag, a sinister hint of sex permeating my classroom, haha).

    Thanks for this incredible piece, that was a magic night and having you and Duncan and Laurie there made it even better. It feels like a door has opened somehow, very excited for things to come.

    Cannot wait for Belgium to drown in Opium!

  7. Tara C

    I love the photos and the whole surreal atmosphere I imagine while reading the text.
    What are the coin lockers for, and aren’t they concerned someone could leave a bomb inside one?

    • Next year for the Olympics they will undoubtedly be out of use. But they are actually quite handy – especially the big ones – when you want to leave a suitcase and stroll the city.

      Although recently there was also a murder case in which an old lady was left inside one; also a famous novel: ‘Coin Locker Babies’

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