We had to get out of the house.









So yesterday we plunged down the hills on our bicycles (all the new green; early summer, just bloomed young acer leaves, ferns, azaleas, wild irises, Japanese bluebells, dandelions)  –  and rode forcefully to our ‘junk shop at the end of the world’ (just like our bar at the end of the world, Der Rote Rose, The Red Rose, in Berlin), which we predicted would be open (and was); unlike, thank god, the majority of everything else  – rinky dink tourist shops;  bars, restaurants, services, even temples, actually  – to my disbelief and great pleasure- – FINALLY!!!!!!!!!! – physically closed. 









After the last post on here, which for some reason was born out of terrible dreams (I have been plagued with the most terrifying and dreadful nightmares since the weekend, waking up in a sweat and panting – D is a comfort, as is the cat, who always comes by my side and wants to be stroked at just the right moments and helps me gradually get back to sleep again), it was a great relief to be riding on much noticeably emptier roads. The government has asked for  a 80% reduction in foot traffic and people, and it seems that the message is finally getting through. I would say yesterday was 90-95% emptier; the message has sunk in, and in Golden Week – the busiest time of the year-   to boot  – this knowledge put a real charge in my pedal. Some semblance of sanity; people moving like the birds of a flock, together, irrationally or otherwise – at least they are acting – STAYING INSIDE, despite the glorious weather – and not gathering. 







My parents told me in their last phone call that they went out of the house recently – my mother for the first time in four weeks – and gingerly went for a walk around the common (my dad also wanted to show her a great patch of bluebells he had found in the nearby woods) – but my mum said that she actually hated it; the lack of people; ‘not even in windows!’ she told me – a zombie apocalypse absence which she found ‘quite eerie’  and which made her quite happy to be back home, door locked, in the safety of her house and garden again.








I sensed some of that yesterday, also; it felt odd – but also extraordinarily right. With police cars and neighbourhood patrol cars also out on the streets extending the message I felt slightly out of place and vagabondish  in my foreigner’s unwashed body and hair and my beanie hat and facemask, but it was great to be able to just ride, unhindered, to our local oddity by the ocean and pick up a few fusty and eccentric little perfume bargains.







The second I walked into Kurukuru I immediately espied an ancient Shiseido boxset, which came into existence seven years before I was even born – but was there in its full, unused glory; a gorgeous conglomeration of the eau de cologne, parfum, and puff puff atomiser – the first time I have ever seen one of these as part of an actual perfume gift set and not as an outside fancy toilette piece; I was thrilled. IRare, unheard of – I got home excitedly to look for a review of the perfume and was amused to see that the only one written was one by myself   – just a line – I had smelled this before in a precious box set of Shiseido miniatures parfums a few years ago, but smelling the perfume like this is somehow very different. This is Sylvia in profusion, in immaculate olfactory condition (and how strange, don’t you think?  – given that I was writing about Sylvia Plath in the context of Miss Balmain and Germaine Cellier so very recently…..)






For two thousand yen (about twenty dollars) we filled out rucksacks with this slightly ropey and rough around the edges, but divine flight of fancy (my first ‘non-essential’ non-grocery purchase in so long! : a bottle of vintage Chanel no 19 eau de cologne (lovely, when it gets to the base not) ; Molyneux Vivre parfum (an article shall follow) ; a Madame Rochas soap; East of Eden cinema booklet; a beautiful old thermoter/barometer which D has hammered to the wall of the deck outside to further ensure my constant awareness of temperature ; a high quality auburn mustard coloured emo wig (hilarious taking photos of each other on the beach afterwards in masks, looking like horrendous virus-filled perverts); a scarab beetle buried for eternity in perspex, which has gone straight way into our Egyptian Museum like entrance;  a beautiful black and red glass; and a bottle of Houbigant Musc (no, I had never heard of it either) – I wore this simple but very pure, white musk from the seventies in my old hospital pyjamas to bed last night.






Riding through Kamakura, along the beach beside the waves, nodding sagely (good; good), that the situation, though more empty and bleak than usual,  was at least nothing like that crazy last time when I wrote about the throngs and the magnificent blue thrust above the waves of the snow-capped Mt Fuji. This time, the bars were empty (masked proprietors staring out imploring for you to come in…..sorry, not this time!) ; we decided instead to grab a couple of convenience store beers and have a small sit down by the sea  with Swiss roll and potato sticks (a hawk swooped right down suddenly, making me scream and brushing Duncan’s head with its wing trying to pinch some of our meagre picnic – a friend of ours has had her hand scratched by their talons before; they are quite dangerous and notorious –  ‘eagle-eyed’, said D, acerbically.







The birds  – and there were many of them, as usual  – you hear the word eagles, ospreys, kites, kestrels, but I think they are actually some kind of indigenous hawk – were definitely more interested in our paltry and unhealthy unprocessed snacks than my perfume (which I couldn’t resist getting out and spraying and using the little plastic pipette to convert from the cologne bottle to the fine, Parisian spray, just because I was there and I could. I realized immediately that although I had been a little dismissive of the Sylvia in my previous review, it is actually really very beautiful; extraordinarily delicate, elegant – old fashioned, yes, but with a great deal of soul and temperate comportment.  In my previous mention of the perfume I alluded to this smelling like Givenchy L’interdit – which I definitely also thought of again yesterday; a woody, powdery, aldehyde, musky, orris, jasmine rose; but smelling more of the perfume  – sometimes a real miniature doesn’t give you the full reach and perspective and diorama of a fragrance in full, I also felt the definite influence in Sylvia of Coty L’Origan ; a rich, carnationed, anisic; spiced and effortlessly burnished seriality. And though ragged around the box’s edges, tossed unknowingly in some rusting junkyard along with a thousand other useless artefacts in Zushi;inside, in terms of perfume…………unravaged.


Filed under Flowers, SOFT ALDEHYDES

25 responses to “SYLVIA by SHISEIDO (1963)

  1. Robin

    Breathed a sigh of relief to hear you and Duncan out and about and enjoying yourselves while the world there seems to have gotten the message to some degree. Sylvia sounds really good. I love those kinds of finds and I know it lifted your spirits. Great timing!

    (Again, and maybe it’s just me and the niggling mistrust in the back of my mind, but if Japan’s strangely, implausibly low — and lowering — numbers are genuine, why the increased measures? Counterintuitive. It’s wonderful that you can see and feel the greater sense of safety, and certainly it will have a positive effect, so we’ll hang onto that. FANTASTIC news, actually. When I see the numbers of tests rise to meaningful levels, I will feel better. This from The Hill recently (the 27th, I think):

    “The Japanese government is continuing to report fewer coronavirus cases despite relatively relaxed social distancing measures compared to other countries.

    In Tokyo, a city with more than 9 million people, officials reported 39 new coronavirus cases on Monday, marking the lowest number of new daily cases in the city in three weeks. In total, Japan has reported 13,806 infections and 407 deaths as of Tuesday morning, far less than a number of other nations battling the disease.

    Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and local officials have not mandated social distancing measures or shutdowns like the U.S. and a number of European countries, but have instead asked citizens to reduce their interactions by 80 percent and asked restaurants to reduce hours.

    The Japanese government has also forgone the goal of widespread testing, focusing instead on targeted testing on the known infection areas.

    Japan is still behind in its stated goals on the number of tests they would like to conduct on a daily basis and on Sunday approved dentists to collect samples for coronavirus tests, according to The Japan Times.

    Some experts believe the lack of testing in the nation could be resulting in skewed numbers.

    “The number of confirmed infections is the tip of the iceberg. It’s probably about 10 times as large,” Hiroshi Nishiura, a member of a panel of medical experts advising the government, said at a press conference on Friday, according to The Wall Street Journal.”

    I can’t help but continue to be fascinated by the whole thing, all over the world. When the dust settles, it’ll be interesting to see what’s really what.

    I know what your mum means. The safety of home and garden. It is a very personal, much-needed refuge right now and I’m glad she and your dad have that. Whew. So good to read this, N.

    • And thanks for this data. I always like to compare different news sources. It’s interesting: there may be fewer cases, but the reports are of the hospitals being overloaded. Again, this is a contradiction. I don’t know. At the very least, it was good to see, physically with my own eyes, that some kind of behavioural change was at least occurring.

  2. Tara C

    Glad to hear you are feeling more comfortable with what’s happening in your neighbourhood. It’s definitely weird to go out in empty public spaces. Things are loosening up a bit here in Montréal, we went on our first bike ride of the season today and lots of people were out riding and walking. Shops will open May 11th, primary schools go back May 19th. It will still take a long time to get back to any real semblance of normal, but it’s a start.

    • Robin

      That’s wonderful to hear, Tara. It feels like such a relief to finally have some freedom coming our way again. I have been longing for it! I will never take those things for granted again.

      • Me neither. These last couple of days I have actually been getting a bit too restless. I have mounting work duties, and am starting to miss my social life a bit. Me and D have been here together for eight weeks, and it has been wonderful on the whole, but now I think both of us also want to see our friends and engage with the world again. Like so many people worldwide right now I feel truncated.

    • And we still don’t know whether these returns to normal are actually wise or not….

      I think we will all feel quite strange for a while.

      For me personally, the main concern is knowing that if I WERE to catch corona, would I actually be able to get into a hospital or not. If you are German, this is not an issue – you will be treated and probably get the best care possible. Here, there is a genuine possibility of being turned away if you are in a critical condition and dying. It is not like Ecuador, where I was reading that corpses are piled up in the bathrooms of hospitals or even slumped in armchairs they are so overwhelmed – it really does sound like a total horror story – but if you can’t breathe or get into an ICU ward even here you are fucked. That’s why I worry, in Japan in any case, about things being eased too quickly.

      • YES. This is what has had me screaming internally all along. The reluctance towards testing. The government was asking, out loud, when the Diamond Princess was quarantined in Yokohama Bay, ‘if’ they should test everybody on board or not. It is things like that that turn me into a total screaming madman. I feel like Cassandra wailing into the wind. I can’t stand it. They literally let people off the ship, and onto public transport. It is so maddening your mind and body almost shut down in fury. Mine do, anyway.

      • Robin

        That article confirms my gut feeling and basic simple logic! And it is disturbing. Not to scare you, N., BUT.

        Keep on doing what you’re doing, stay off the trains, all of that sensible stuff. Auntie Robin does not want to worry about you and your beloved D.

      • Thanks for confirming my own conclusions. We have to stick to what feels rational and logical.

      • Tara C

        Things have been quite stable here for the past two weeks, the hospitals are not overwhelmed, in fact some are only operating at 30% capacity. We are having a bit of a flare-up this week in the poor immigrant neighbourhood of Montréal North, but the rest of the metro area is doing well. Given this situation I have no worries about the ability to be treated if I were to fall ill, which I think is the key. As long as things don’t rise above the ability of the hospitals to cope effectively, we are on the right path. The only way out of this is through it.

  3. bibimaizoon

    I worked at the Shiseido makeup counter at Nordstrom as a uni student in California. We never carried any of their fragrances though. That’s when I developed a taste for Japanese makeup & skincare. I have heard Shiseido’s perfumes are all as beautifully crafted as their cosmetics. Another good reason to visit Japan!
    I am surprised at how the Japanese are dealing with C19. I thought their approach would be like the Germans’. A bit more orderly and organized with a determined, science-based plan. I went ahead and bought a supplemental health insurance policy to have myself airlifted to Singapore if I need ICU care. Glad to hear you & D are doing well!

    • Glad to hear about the extra insurance, although Singapore isn’t doing too well itself right now.

      It’s interesting, isn’t it? The image of Japan is so orderly and hi tech, and yet they still rely on faxes and ivory stamps to seal documents, which is why people can’t tele-work. The image and the reality of Japan are VERY different. It is actually a lot more low-tech than people realise, quite parochial – VERY parochial, to tell the truth , and much more labyrinthed and complicated in terms of bureaucracy. The comparison to Germany is actually way more off than you can possibly imagine. Like you said about Asian cultures, it’s all about intuition, unspoken rules, sensing things, groupthink……not fast action. IT has taken SO LONG for plastic sheets to suddenly be put up in the shops. No one could do this for themselves; it had to be OSMOSED into the general thinking.

      • Robin

        There is that long-standing caricature of the Japanese businessman, who bows and exchanges business cards with every single member of a visiting American sales delegation, who requires endless meetings and days and days of dinners with the delegation and his own business team, who then send the Americans back home for more weeks of deliberations and more return visits, bows and exchanges of business cards, all the negotiations painfully polite and confusingly indirect, before FINALLY sealing the deal, with two hundred notarized documents signed by everyone including the Japanese building janitor, which is much less than the Americans wanted, after all that.

        Versus crass Americans (crass being the Japanese assessment) doing deals with each other: I want X, you want Y, howzabout we agree on Z, handshake and slap on the back, done in 90 seconds.

        Maybe you’ve hit on its Neil. Behind all this inaction in Japan is simply its traditional, slow and highly inefficient way of getting things done?!

  4. Sylvia sounds delightful. I have always loved Shiseido fragrances, ever since I worked for them in the early 90’s. I have had Inoui, Zen (the original black bottle), Feminite du Bois, still love it, and Murasaki, which I still have a bottle of. I wish their fragrances were more readily available in the US, well the really nice ones, I should say.
    I am of the belief that Japan is under-reporting its Covid 19 death tolls. I feel they are trying to somehow save face in this whole crisis, bizarre as it sounds, and not reporting accurately at all. They are probably listing causes of death in people as anything other than Covid related and that just worries me.
    Please remember to stay safe and social distance as much as possible. I haven’t been out of the house in over two months and probably will not be going out until a vaccine is developed, which means I could be housebound for another year. Safety is a priority for me.

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