So our quarantine from the world comes to an end. D goes back to work in just a couple of days. I return on Thursday. Just as the cases in Tokyo are escalating. Sometimes doubling by the day. And the always prevaricating government, desperately trying to avoid an economic crisis at all costs, only commits to puny, measly, half measures. Avoid restaurants and large gatherings. ‘Telecommute’ from home (try telling that to the majority of Japanese salarymen, for whom being seen to be sat at the desk is the point, no matter the productivity). No karaoke. Don’t go to nightclubs. But pin ball machine parlours (where the powerful get a lot of their income, and where hundreds of smoking, gambling addicts sit cheek by jowl fingertips smearing screens, breathing the worst air you can ever find in this country ) – absolutely fine. ‘No viral clusters have been found at pachinko!’ proclaims yet another bureaucrat blinking in a suit.
Our little bubble – where we have been protected, and very happy, is now being encroached upon by the outside. It is unavoidable. I know that. We have to work. It’s just the timing. Everybody knows that the Japanese government has been alarmingly, exasperatingly inactive; underplaying everything. In denial. Cases are on the rise in Tokyo – just twenty minutes from Yokohama on a packed train, where I am supposed to be going to next week (the irrationality: ‘avoid crowded spaces! Stand six feet apart!, when it is literally impossible in such a crowded conurbation and I have no other way of getting there), when the worldwide mortality rate is now, according to the WHO, approximately 3.4% I feel more fearful. It is getting closer.
A friend of ours who lives in Fujisawa – where the headquarters of my work is based – is currently in hospital fighting the coronavirus on ventilators. Sealed off from other people. He was something of a sensation, actually, featured on the national NHK news, returning from England – though he maintains that he probably caught it before leaving Japan as he didn’t really go anywhere in the UK – he is seen as a typical example of infection coming from the gaikoku : abroad. It comes from outside. The foreigners are the carriers. Which is just very laughable. Abe has finally decided to close all borders – at this stage – to countries in Europe and all areas of China (only now?! how about during the first weeks of January you dumb fuck when it might have actually made a difference?) Like most people in this current situation we veer from feeling alarmed and very angry : if this turns into a ‘foreigner thing’ I will not be able to control myself, to resignation and black humour or else just retreat into our lovely little world in here which I could very happily continue for the rest of the year and beyond. But THERE HAS BEEN NO SHUTDOWN. PEOPLE ARE HAVING HANAMI CHERRY BLOSSOM PARTIES. THE GOVERNMENT HAS BEEN DOING NOTHING. PEOPLE ARE SPREADING IT IN TOKYO. Japanese people. They are all in close contact: it has nothing to do with people from outside. Yes, it is possible that those returning from other countries may bring the virus in as well, so the immigration precautions are obviously necessary. However, anyone who is not a complete imbecile knows that the virus is already in the country : god, there seem to be so many of those around at the moment,in power around the globe – Jair Bolsonaro, the brainless president of Brazil proclaiming bizarrely the other day that ‘”Brazilians are uniquely suited to weather the pandemic because they can be dunked in raw sewage and don’t catch a thing. God is Brazilian”, something that made me scream out loud laughing when I read it in the morning newspaper (D was almost in tears laughing at Duterte’s command that people in the Philippines who venture outside during the quarantine be ‘shot dead on the spot’ WTF! FFS! being the only reasonable reactions. They all make Donald Trump look positively sensible in comparison. And Bolsonaro has apparently since come down with the virus himself…..
No, the magic of isolation couldn’t last forever, I realise that (unless…………unless there really is a pandemic coming our way and the Japanese authorities finally relent). But I wonder if they ever really will. It would be seen like giving in to defeat. As weak. Like other countries: a stubborn resistance to ever letting people ever have the more comfortable option, which of course goes against the grain of graft and endurance, of samurai stamina no matter how difficult the circumstances, which can be impressive at times, but which at others it can be gut-twistingly irritating.. How many times have we been let out of work before an approaching typhoon just after the trains have stopped? When there was no way back? When I had to stand in a taxi queue being buffeted by bone breaking gale force winds and lashing rains as my umbrella blew up like Mary Poppins and I stood desperately trying to root myself firmly to the ground with the top of my strength and not get blown into a concrete bollard until finally, after what felt like an eternity, waiting, drenched to the pores, getting into a freezing air conditioned taxi and paying an absolute fortune to get home? When they could have just let us go home thirty minutes earlier…….But No. You have to gamman. Put up with things as much as you can.
I much prefer it in here. It feels like paradise. We realized yesterday that we have been happily eating home-cooked food for a full five weeks. And how much we have enjoyed it. It has been so cosy. I can see all the cherry blossom trees in the surrounding hills – I don’t need to go out and have some regimented picnic coohing and aaahing underneath them sucking up virus. It has been reinvigorating, and perfumed. Samantha at I scent you a day put up a very interesting post about the pleasures of perfume the other day during isolation, the essence of it being ; that you might as well ; just go for it : spray yourself silly, to distraction – because if not now, when?
I agree. No point holding back at this stage. Spray it till you taste it. Bathe in it. I indulge to my heart’s content; scent up the cocoon like King Ludwig and his private, castle lagooned Swan’s Lake, slowly drifting on gilded gondola, surrounded by intoxication and oblivion. Some days, like Cleopatra I have gone to extreme, powdered lengths. Long showers in ‘Muse’ soap – a Japanese staple, very creamy and balanced, leaving a perfect surfactant, creamed base ready for your next stages on skin. I have then been availing myself of the almost absurdly baby powder like bagno schiuma, of Erbolario’s Iris – which is wildly infantile and powdered as a puff , as well as small doses of the very same perfume’s body creme, an inexpensive but perfect appropriation of Lorenzo Villoresi’s classic Teint De Neige (but which could also work underneath perfumes like Chanel’s rose violet Misia:) this cooing, sugared baby of a scent has the smooth, long texture of orris root but more talcumed pressed together with swathes of with violet and hawthorn, vanilla and balms – I emerge from the shower and apply some Imperial Leather talc to my gleaming shoulders and trunk just for good measure and then – quite naturally – some Shalimar – because why not….; soon, within a week I will be smelling of nothing more than stress sweat and fabric conditioner, of soy. Just be quiet and let me have my moment of unadulterated indulgence (D laughed out loud when I approached him in the kitchen the other day as he was painting a shelf; what to me was a delicious regression into chalk and parma violets, was to him just a cloy as I moved towards him in my pyjamas with arms outstretched like a Chucky Doll).
Louis Vuittons’ Contre Moi (‘Against Myself?’) strikes me as quite an unusual title for a perfume, although I do recognise that we all do things in life that aren’t always in our best interests, that we self-sabotage (including all the confidential material I expose about myself on this blog; this blog is dangerous for my life). To be honest, I never really liked Louis Vuitton, that grand conglomeration, even as an idea, let alone a perfumery, so I am perhaps not the right person to review their perfumes; to listen without prejudice. Yes, it may be divine to see Audrey Hepburn with her train of valued valises as she suavely enters a hotel in Charade, because no one was more elegant, and so in certain contexts, the logo on those hard, durable, impossibly expensive suitcases as they are loaded up into limousines is iconic. But though this has thankfully died down now, for the first fifteen years or so when I came to Japan it seemed that each time I got on any public transport here every female, no matter how rich or poor, had to have an LV handbag (was this written into the constitution?) with that tedious, tedious logo (so aesthetically unappealing! Such vulgar conspicuous consumption!) – and it became such a ubiquitous visual and ethical/philosophical eyesore ( that people would literally believe, in their sad hearts, that owning such an ugly accoutrement would somehow confer respect on them no matter what else they were wearing, or how it contradicted the overall impression they were giving off, the impulse behind the purpose to just keep up with the Joneses or rather Suzukis; all of this was quite devastating to me: couldn’t they see that LVMH was just geniusly milking it at their unthinking expense?). If Guerlain were to suddenly launch a prȇt a porter or couture range, models stalking the runways in Thierry Wasser’s ‘spectacular’ wedding dress finale, I know there would be a glitch in my brain centre: : : something in the water does not compute. Guerlain just should not be doing clothes. My body’s blood cells are rejecting this. And somehow, I have always felt the same about the clothing collections of Louis Vuitton: they feel………unnatural. Not what the doctor quite ordered. Dior, Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent: yes, they always straddled the entire empire: the lipsticks, the extraits, the coats, the shoes and the dresses. But Louis Vuitton’s perfumes, all of which I have smelled cursorily, some of them quite decent, quite deft, still just give me the feeling of being trapped in polystyrene wrapped in polyurethane in a stock cupboard locked as the light go out with a preening store manager’s key : I feel like merchandise, about to be transported by cargo ferry, to a dockland somewhere near Shanghai.
Contre Moi the perfume itself is quite pleasant. Nothing original, but a decent orange blossom vanilla (both Tahitian and Madagascan), ‘fluffed’ and rounded with sharp synthetics, sensual – in an office context – with its herbs, roses, and magnolia petals: I paused for a moment when I sprayed it, and took it in. Mmm. Yes. Efficient. Commercial. Cute, in an adult kind of way. Perfectly acceptable. And yet, for me, slightly dead inside. The chemical miasma of a mass orchestration of ‘notes’ in the air I feel whenever I dare to survey the insides of the gravely respectable boutique in central Shinjuku; taking the long, ceramic swabs from their holes dipped in LV and receiving a tight, pinching feeling at the top of the sinuses or even the mean, dark core of my head. No, these perfumes are not for me. They remind me too much of exactly what I don’t miss. The transactional exchange of ‘designer goods’. The employed, being ferried along by public transportation to their computers. The frenzy of the city, of asymptomatic office ladies in regulation heels leaving virus on the escalator, unknowingly, as they rush to their destinations and appointments. THE HORROR OF OUTSIDE.
24 responses to “INSIDE AND OUTSIDE : IRIS by ERBOLARIO (2012) + CONTRE MOI by LOUIS VUITTON (2016)”
Drowning in a cloud of Houbigant’s Orangers en Fleur today- perfume, powder, & lotion. I know some have complained it is banally pretty – but I love it because it reminds me of the groves of blooming orange trees in my native California (sans the smog).
Japan’s reaction to COVID 19 from the Diamond Princess disaster to the lag in shutting its borders with China is puzzling. Here in Nepal, the Chinese border was shut for a few days in January then reopened in March for cargo only. The Chinese are now climbing Everest on the Tibetan side in a supposed show of post-COVID 19 bravado. We are on lockdown for 2 weeks now as a 19 yr old Nepali student returning from Paris tested positive 5 days after she had been repatriated. Nepalis are used to being on lockdown for weeks at a time due to strikes called by various Maoist factions. “Shoot to kill” curfews were not unusual here during the Peoples’ War that ended in 2008.
I loathe Louis Vuitton. I was a teen in the 80s when every girl just had to have an LV bag – real or fake. Like you, I think LV’s aesthetic is fugly and I can’t believe they’ve come back into fashion. Thank you for trying LV’s fragrance line, I’ll be sure to pass it by on my next venture through duty-free.
This is great. Thanks for writing it. It definitely hasn’t come back into fashion – I think the LV look is quite outdated now , actually, but the brand is probably as strong as ever, and some of the perfumes are probably quite good. Go head. Feel free.
As for Houbigant’s ORangers en Fleurs – Tora sent me that one when I was in hospital three years ago and I found it ver pleasing and uplifting. Surely PERFECT for these times!
I have been using up my vintages that I doubt I can ever replace (Tabac Blonde, Sheherazade, my beloved Vu). I might as well spray/dab with abandon while on this sinking ship (Brazil). Actually, I refuse to be tied to the mast of this ship of fools. I’m preparing a life raft, a buoyant one… My husband and I actually talked about retuning to Japan (not now, obviously). He can get a visa through his heritage. We ruled it out, however. They don’t recognise gay marriage. And I need to live in a place where marijuana is available (arthritis runs in my family. I saw my grandmother suffer… I am not partaking now, though. I want to experience all this with clarity, not in a gauzy haze).
I also find myself going through a huge amount of Jo Malone samples (they give them out like candy at department stores in NYC). They are my “well-coiffed” perfumes. I pretend I am well-put together–Barb from the HR department, the one person who holds the office together because she alone knows how to replace the toner of the Xerox machine– with all those poppy, barley, red rose, blue bell, oak, meadowsweet, and wood sage concoctions (no matter that they all end up smelling like shampoo on me; no matter that my husband just rolls his eyes and says “Who do you think you are fooling?”)
In my last year in Japan, I tried to go to work in the middle of a typhoon. I kept checking my phone for messages, hoping for a cancellation. I made my way to Ikebukuro, getting drenched and blowing out an umbrella in the process. Of course, when I arrived, they decided to cancel. I had to wait in Ikebukuro Station for hours to get back to my apartment… Before I left Japan, I asked for a letter of reference from my company. I made sure they highlighted my dedication to work, specifically mentioning the typhoon incident as an illustration. Moot point because reference letters are not used in Brazil, and, besides, I work for myself….Having gamman–as we used to say waaay back in the day: that and a token will get you on the New York subway.
I hope everything in Japan returns to normal. They must be doing something right over there….right?
I honestly don’t know (but I think you should turn all of this into a book….). I notice you never refer to the creature at the helm of the country you are living in and am presuming this is in self-protection. I should definitely be more vigilant in that sense myself, I know. I love the Jo Malone stories (we all know you were ultimately made for skanky vintage leather). And coming back to Japan after everything you have written recently? I don’t know. Part of me says yes. I can’t remember what year you left this country but attitudes to the gayz are definitely way developed compared to before (and they were already better than most other countries). No one cares as long as you behave like a citizen. The vice president of my company asks after Duncan. Maybe you can live in a different area or something: I look forward to meeting you both in Nichome (now under lockdown, bleeding money), sometime in the real or imaginary future.
Yes, Japan is developed regarding the gayz. I just wouldn’t be able to attach myself to my husband’s visa as a dependent. So it’s most likely out of the question. Regarding the creature, I just don’t like to type his name. I usually call the American President “45”….damn, I’m screwed on both ends.
It’s sad to hear about Nichome. I heard that the bars/nightclubs/restaurants in SP will reopen next week…. I will still be in quarantine. I feel like RUpunzel, but I’m taking no chances.
I don’t want to take any chances either, but I will have no income if I don’t go in, so I have no choice. On the other hand, being a very strong-willed person who has worked there a long time, came back after the earthquake, had a terrifying operation on both knees at the same time so as to get back to work more quickly rather than do two in succession, I hope they see don’t me as someone without qualities (only I can do what I do, for example, as a native speaker with the higher level students), so they will allow some leeway if refuse, for health reasons, to go in. It is a fact I have had pneumonia badly twice already and they know it.
I truly hope somehow you can get a reprieve from work, it is so irresponsible to send people out to work on crowded trains when the worst is undoubtedly about to hit.
As for Louis Vuitton, I agree the logo items are unattractive and passé. The perfumes are rather derivative and average. My one LV item is their épi leather zippy wallet, because it is extremely functional and indestructible. And it has a very discreet embossed LV in the corner but if you weren’t familiar with the products you wouldn’t know it was LV. My handbags are Bottega Veneta, no logo anywhere. But the soft leather is totally unsuitable for a wallet which gets tossed around inside the bag.
Indestructible sounds pretty cost effective!
As for a ‘reprieve’, I have already had a shameful five and a half weeks off – two when the government initially closed down schools, and then just my regular spring break. So I suppose in everyone’s eyes, enough is enough. I should be back in the office. But it does seem absolutely the worst time to have to be doing it. Nobody knows what is really happening : cases are definitely rising rapidly in Tokyo, and as I say, everyone is commuting between there and everywhere else, going directly through Yokohama and Ofuna to Fujisawa, all the places I have to be. I will be travelling all over the place, on trains full of people.
Sounds like I am fucked.
Insanity at all levels. In Taiwan, there are people who got fined for violating their quarantine and went right back out, as though it were a way to flaunt their money. In the US, there are people baking their mail in the oven to make sure it’s sanitized.
I was thinking about sending a card to my cousin and her husband who have it but wasn’t sure about things send through the post either. Nothing is what it was before!
As usual, another terrific post from you…just what I needed. We are in lock-down in Baltimore, Maryland but I am considered an essential worker and have been going to work every week day. However, the weekends are long and dragged out with no place to go and no get-togethers with my friends who don’t live near me. Usually, on Saturdays I meet up with friends in an area in Baltimore called Fells Point, where there is live (and free) music in many bars and on the large outside square. All that came to an end three weeks ago when our Governor closed all restaurants, bars, and businesses except for “essentials”. Instead, now I have been taking walks and listening to my own CD’s, eating all meals at home, and social distancing. But it is very lonely when you don’t have a partner. I have been splashing lavishly when I am home and will try the Erbolario Iris layered with Chanel Misia as I have both scents although I almost forgot I had the Erbolario.
It’s cheap and cheerful and blanketing I think; the products are good to smooth on for violetty sweetness.
I am sorry you are experiencing these desolate weekends. Let’s hope the situation improves soon and you can go back to those places you love. I know you need music (great that you have been rediscovering old CDs: we have as well. It’s amazing how you can just let these things become forgotten on a shelf, but then put them on from start to finish and experience so much pleasure. Especially with wine!)
We have to get through this time!
Have you taken to any of the Vuittons by the way? I have a friend who adores Rose des Vents.
I haven’t tried any of the recent Vuittons .
I’ve been reading your blog for a while now (almost a year? maybe longer?) but have been too shy to comment until now because I just KNEW you’d post something along the lines of, we should just be wearing whatever we want all the time now! 🙂 I’ve been thinking the same thing, but I really haven’t been in the mood to wear my usuals – bit too much while I’m a bit too sad and worried. I had a sample of a Marc Jacobs splash in the back of my stash…Basil. That hit the spot, actually. I have a couple more of these splash things on the way – and I picked up White Zagora online, as well, after your post about it. Perfect for right now – thank you so much for writing about it. Please stay safe and healthy!
You too and thanks for commenting. The White Zagara really is inherently cheerful isn’t it? I have a bottle next to where I watch Netflix and I often just pick it up and have a quick sniff or spray some on. Its cheerfulness is infectious.
(and please don’t hesitate to comment in future; the more the merrier. The worst thing is writing a post and then just a blank of silence).
I know precisely how you are feeling, because B.C. has been there. But no, it’s worse for you, unfathomably worse, because you’ll have to go out there and be exposed. It is much worse for you just — just? it’s a huge factor — psychologically. If Japan was smart it would SHUT IT ALL DOWN ASAP. I hope to Christ they do.
My blood is boiling now, ruminating further about Japanese authorities having people go to work at a time like this, given crowded trains, et al. God DAMN. Are they insane?????
YES. THEY. ARE.
I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO.
Why can’t they just follow other countries’ leads and declare a lockdown? Would it really kill the country? No it wouldn’t.
I am worried I am going to have another run-in with my company and get fired for losing control again, but I cannot afford – literally – for this to happen. I have too many benefits and free time, and you would never hear from me again on this blog if I had to work at the low-level conversation schools instead as I would permanently just be too exhausted.
I can’t afford to go nuts, but I don’t think I can psychologically tolerate going into work in this situation either.
Just read Abe is about to declare a state of emergency. Sanity prevails! I hope the safety net includes where you and Duncan live and travel and not just Tokyo, Osaka and other major cities. Fingers crossed.
I am going crazy and need to talk to you about all of this. I can seriously imagine the fuckwits saying that it is in ‘Tokyo’ and therefore not a problem, even though the trains come down here directly from there. I am in danger of of a heart attack from the anger I am feeling, as is D.
Emailed you. Call me!
The number shall be dialled.x
I, as I always am, am just in awe of Abe’s stupidity, as I’m sure you are.
He just doesn’t “get it”. Well,the tally of dead bodies will be his legacy.
The Vuitton fragrances are not terrible, they are just uninspiring. It is such a cheesy sense of luxury, so pedestrian in its obnoxious sense of poshness and the fragrances reflect this.
I am still not familiar with the Erbolario product range, I think I must remedy that soon.
As always, stay safe.