I have to go in to work today. For just one day. I cannot get out of this situation. I need my visa. I need employment. Otherwise I would be turfed out of Japan. And I want to help my colleagues and the company, at this economically very difficult juncture. It has been a tense time, trying to negotiate a way to continue working without having to come into contact with so many people on buses and trains.  But I refuse to do so. A survival instinct. We had to find a way around it. So later this morning, I am to be picked up, taken to school – and, taking as many precautions as possible, with the window open, in my own room – will prepare a couple of classes to be recorded by staff and sent to students ; will then be taken back home with a borrowed video camera and portable whiteboard to do lessons thereafter, until things become more settled and under control.





























From right to left:





  1. ‘ATTACK’ WASHING POWDER . This is a very anodyne washing powder that doesn’t leave too much smell on clothes. I have grown weary of strong smelling fabric conditioners recently that bug me all day long. This one isn’t perfect (and our washing machine is cold water only so never gives the results I would ideally like to have), but I washed all my work clothes and bag yesterday to flush out the perfumed, incense lingering effect that might be a residue from hanging in this pungent palace; clothes washed, and dried in air and sunlight.




2. COW BEAUTY SOAP.  A classic. ‘Ooh, my dear, you smell exactly like a cow’. ‘Why, thank you’. 

No, actually, this is a very clean, white, old fashioned soap – the only one I could find at the convenience store yesterday – as cold as marble, as squeaky as thou. Containing milk, it has a very cool, conservative scent that I quite like. A salaryman crafted by Rodin.



3. MERIT SHAMPOO ‘WITH RINSE IN’. As usual, I have been using different shampoos at home, depending on what perfume I have been wearing; most recently Shiseido’s Rosarium, a slightly expensive but very rich scented rose number containing real centifolia oil  that went well with all the Givenchy Gentleman patchoulis and whatever else I have been marinating in these last, heavily perfumed weeks at home. But for work, I think this ‘shampoo for the people’, the commendable Merit will most probably do. Japanese people like the shampoo and conditioner in 1 type affairs, especially men, for speed, and this product works better than using two separate products. The smell is very gentle; almost like a grapefruited, slightly Brut-ish sudsy Calandre (grapefruit anything is the go to smell in Japan); a little perfumey, and sometimes I think it is too strong if too much sunshine hits your head and you are hectic and busy, but it does present a classic example of what Japanese shampoos smell like. It is popular. In one school, I once worked for years with a very pretty woman of a certain age who had the petitest figure you can imagine, perfectly applied make-up and hair slightly too big for her body, like a bobbing pageant Cindy Doll  : a fabulous coiffed pouff-    though also rotting teeth, which somewhat ruined the overall effect. Whenever she wisped by me to get to the photocopier, though, so skinny you worried she would snap in two if you breathed out in her direction – her waist was about the width of my wrist –  she always gave off a very pleasant after-scent that I often thought might have been down to MERIT.



4. GATSBY 8X4 UNSCENTED DEODORANT. D’s and my most usual choice of deodorant stick, readily available. It smells of nothing. And usually effective. Lasts all day (most Japanese people don’t even wear or need deodorant – we foreigners do). Once though, we had an inexplicably defective batch that must have been missing the key ingredients and it was at the height of the sweltering summer. The results in our respective classrooms were not good.


5. VASELINE. Essential for me at the best of times but particularly when handling chalk, the texture of which is repugnant to the depths of my very soul (see my deep phobia of powder). But to make it a far more enjoyable experience than mere grease, this pot o’ vaseline has been scented right through with grapefruit essential oil and it really does smell FANTASTIC! I tend to use lemon oil  in my vaseline hand rubs, but there wasn’t any there when I last went to MUJI – people are buying essential oils in protection; Instead for the first time I used a 30ml bottle of grapefruit  oil and each time I open this tub it’s an immediate mood booster – my brain smiles involuntarily, and so do my lips. It’s just like peeling a grapefruit for breakfast. Glorious. This will of course be used as a barrier to the motherfucker, as it is antibacterial and hopefully viral, but is more just a defensive olfactory mechanism and a way for me to wear scent with immediacy on the spot, whenever I feel like it. You thought I was going to go into work completely unscented? Think again.







6. SANITIZER. Managed to get some yesterday from the local shops – it has been hard to come by but I have bought four bottles. This one is a very viscous alcohol gel that feels like the kind of thing you get before an ultrasound, a bit sticky at first, but then it disappears completely.  I will be availing myself of it A LOT today I can tell you.



















To summarise:









Today’s Scent Of The Day is going to hopefully be clean; soapy, nothingy, with the occasional invisible zest of pamplemousse to take people by surprise and give me olfactory power. I have to get through this day. I need to do a good job. I want to make as little contact as possible. And then, when I am making my videos at home





















Filed under Flowers

13 responses to “SCENT OF THE DAY

  1. Robin

    That’s the spirit!

  2. Tara C

    Attack washing powder and Cow soap, you can’t make this up. 🙂 Bon courage! I’m glad you were able to make acceptable arrangements for this one day. How fun to imagine you reeking havoc during your online lessons. Take that!!

    • It will be a new challenge, that’s for sure.

      The one thing that worries me today is how to approach the teachers’ room. There will be about twenty people in there, probably, and no one as yet is practicing social distancing in Japan. If I don’t go in and say hello I will look distant as though I am ‘above it all’, but the whole POINT of all this is not be going in like lambs, or cows, to the slaughter, isn’t it? Perhaps I should set an example by just saying hello from outside; through the plexiglas.

      • Tara C

        Can you just nod and smile in acknowledgement when you pass by? Say good morning? That way you are at least acknowledging them without being totally impolite?

  3. I would never imagine you even considering going into work unscented. Glad you got sanitizer as well. You can always play the paranoid foreigner and get away with it. Gambatte!

  4. bibimaizoon

    We get Attack washing powder and Gatsby men’s toiletries in our local ‘departmental’ stores here in Nepal. I have never bought Attack as I feared what it might do to my clothes given the name. Gatsby products range from horrible to mediocre in quality judging by the few I’ve purchased. I thought Cow Beauty soap was another of those ubiquitous Asian skin whitening products?
    Funny how we westerners must control our stenches. I read about a Japanese product derived from persimmons that is expressly designed to hide body odors – especially “old people” smell that the ad suggested came from behind the ears?

    • I have seen the persimmon soap and used it but had no idea it was designed to conceal my geriatric reek.

      The cow is just a classic soap smell :in truth, after writing this and actually had a shower with it, I realized that I have come to like other soaps better – there was something slightly rancid in the milky mix that reminded me of cheap aldehydic knock-offs.

      Still, at least it made me laugh while I was getting ready for work this morning. It went ok, but was not easy on the nerves I can tell you.

      Plus, I cheated at the last minute and sprayed on some Different Company Tokyo Bloom (which I will definitely do again: so unobtrusive but very pleasant at the same time!)

  5. David

    Cow soap: here’s another story. A few years ago an American website with a Kinfolk magazine-like aesthetic got in some trouble for selling Cow soap for something like 12 dollars a bar, claiming it was some kind of artisanal Japanese soap. It was soon discovered it can be bought at Daiso for 100 yen a pop. (I remember even seeing a 3-bar pack for 100 yen). Suckers.

    Speaking of Miss Bette Davis, her famous line in “All About Eve”— “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night”—fits 2020 quite well, doncha think?

    • It most certainly does.

      How GOOD is that film?

      And you can smell that Cow isn’t artisanal : the packaging is quite cool I think but yesterday its odour unravelled in the wash.

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