I am flabbergasted to find niche perfume in Fujisawa. While vaunted as an ideal place for middle class families to bring up kids, convenient for transportation, and the location of the upcoming Olympic sailing down at Enoshima Island, the city i am work based in is not exactly Fashion Central.
But here on the ground floor of recently refurbished Odakyu department store, where I sometimes come for lunch, is a shop selling not only The Different Company, Garment and Olfactive Studio, but also Nobile Essenza 1942 and an interesting range of aromatherapy.
What’s good about this for me is that where usually, faced with shelves and shelves of all the latest grandiosity from conceptual independents to select from, when I usually get overwhelmed and don’t get to experience perfumes in full depth,, this limited, spacious new concession is an astonishing apparition ( but WHO is going to fork out the cash for a perfume at this price in this carefully economizing hub of frantic school mothers and their cardigan-shopping grandparents ? Or are these pricey fragrances aimed more at the demi-monde, the tight-trousered night people who emerge from the woodwork and limousines after dark…….?) At any rate, all this takes me back somehow to my teenage years, when my world was smaller, and things of importance loomed larger. After school I would ogle the merchandise in bookstores, record shops, perfumeries with much more of a wishful attention span; consider my future potential pocketmoney purchases very carefully, picturing and dreaming of them went I went to bed at night : saving up for an item of clothing, a 12” or LP, and then later, perfumes, was extraordinarily exciting; a sign of self-assertion, of pushing your own drawing pin into the map. I would linger persistently at Beatties in front of the YSL or Givenchy or Calvin Klein counter, feeling that I was deliriously about to enter a new world; collect samples like a gem dealer, spray the tester bottles liberally on a blotter or blotters and keep re-smelling, smelling, extracting them from my inner pocket, or the inside of a book.
Those days can never return. But I have retained a lot of that very same thirst and curiosity, and I know that I will, now that I can’t go to Tokyo, on rainy lunch breaks enjoy going meticulously through all of these perfumes at my leisure. The warm woody white violet Al Sahra, one of the first scents I have tried on two separate occasions, is, I would say, mid-level alluring, a rich, soft, sawdusty floral labnanum frankincense that is nicely composed with a slightly haunting central refrain of lily and cinnamon, but not something I will necessarily be handing over my hard-earned cash for. Then again, now I have more opportunities to learn these perfumes thoroughly…..,,,..who knows?
Hair is taken very seriously in Japan. The country has the most hair salons per capita in the world. Hair is thick, lustrous, well groomed. Pharmacies and supermarkets stock a vast range of hair products; toiletry megastores have mammoth gamuts of every shampoo, conditioner, hair oil, hair cream imaginable, with little microball filled pomanders for you to sample the fragrance to make sure you make the right choice : for boys there are ultra specific pomades, often scented slightly differently, for every possible style you could ever want just to get that like of hair in perfect position; spiked; curled; slicked back; wavy; straight; shining; matte: slightly bouncy; for me, in fact, I would say that the perfume of Japan is the waft of a carefully groomed young woman or man passing on the street with an alluring fruit musked floral aroma emanating from her carefully treated do. Hair, here, is everything.
Killing a few minutes the other day with nothing to do, I scanned the shelves of a particularly well-stocked product emporium, wondering whether I should try the very expensive apricot jasmine hair care being offered, though remembering the last time I tried The Botanist’s shampoo range – apple and rose I think it was – my hair clung slimily to my scalp like seaweed to a rock. I looked like some old pervert. Or, as my mum would say, a ‘Cedric’. D and I both tend to use a product aimed at men our age : one that’blocks the stinking scalp smells that women hate!’ though I am wary of the man-hating advertising that seeks to demonise the male of the species as being irrevocably smelly, this hair cleanser does do the job and smells quite fresh. Earl Grey Tea though?
Tea is a drink. It is tannic, and smoky, and caffeinated. Lovely. But can it work as something to wash your hair with? To be honest, I couldn’t resist. I felt like buying something. I LOVE Earl Grey, the bergamot infusion, the elegance of the savour and the scent, and have recently been in the mood for tea perfumes as well in warmer weather as I find them ideal. Having just had a long shower and washed myself all over with this shampoo this lovely sunny afternoon (less bergamotty than I was anticipating; more oolong-like; quite an intense tea scent, thick and brown like a medicated Vosene), I have now blowdried my beveraged locks and am now wearing some Bulgari Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert, as well as trying Robin’s suggestion of a touch of rose (the new Cartier Pure Rose; yes, delightful, it works perfectly, green tea and rose; quite elevating,) with some vetiver oil tinged clothing and the lingerings of Sisley’s divine, powdery Eau D’Ikar on a sweatshirt. I smell subtle and elegant. I like this overall olfactory assemblage. Perhaps before work on Tuesday I can even have a bath with bubbles provided by the shampoo, add some bergamot essential oil to the water, and then marinate in the result like a giant human Twinings tea bag.
On the subject of hair, we are currently being terrorized at night by a bald raccoon.
Inflicted with mange, as many tanuki are in Japan, rather than the hirsute fluffed out number you see above, a healthier exemplar of the species, ours looks more like
This is not the actual tanuki in question – ours, which Duncan has christened Mavis, even though he hasn’t laid eyes on it yet (but he has certainly heard its blood-chilling night screeching), has fur and hair on the lower section but a terrible affliction of eczema around its neck and upper body like a vulture; an albatross of red raw skin. Poor thing. I have seen it scuttling along when on bike rides, a few times, but it now seems to have taken a shine to the corner of the garden of the house next door, where early one morning I saw it catching some sleep in what looked like a nest.
The first time we heard it, squealing like a slaughtered piglet in the deep hours of the night, it was truly blood curdling. D assumed that an eagle had come down and was fighting to the death with our cat – we ran outside, imagining we would find her mangled or impaled having plunged from the roof opposite. It is a guttural, high pitched screaming, like a banshee, a strangled cat, and a dash of pterodactyl : last night we were woken up at 4am by it – an unholy sound that makes you start and reminds me of being a child and of feeling my veins run cold thinking one night that a murderous witch was killing babies outside my bedroom window in the moonlight; my heart pounding and adrenalised with terror, I eventually struck up the courage to run wailing into my parent’s room and pounced on their bed crying with fright: it turned out that these were the sounds that foxes make – we have a lot of them in our gardens in England – but petrifying though fox howls can be, I think that this raccoon’s vocals take the biscuit.
Feeling sorry for the animal, because it looks such a ragged, wretched, suffering solitary thing, D and I (foolishly) initially left it some food, imagining it must be starving. We then started reading about them in more detail, and discovered that they can actually sometimes be quite dangerous. Although some empathetic people here occasionally attempt to domesticate them and even try to administer medicine to help them clear up their scalp conditions, their behaviour varies considerably as they proliferate globally : they have multiplied in Scandinavia as they have made their way from East Asia through Russia and into Sweden, and even been found in England now terrifying and attacking children and livestock.
I have just been talking about our tanuki trouble with a neighbour and he told me that they are a nuisance with their reeking defecations and habit of biting, so kind though he is, D has decided not to feed the poor critter any more ; we will instead try to dissuade it from paying us nocturnal calls. Last night I saw it in the dark, but didn’t approach. In Japanese folklore, tanuki are traditionally known as tricksters and con artists, and judging from the frenetic howls it was making last night, I can imagine its teeth packing a nasty bite.
Earlier, it then suddenly struck me: is this perhaps a form of animal kingdom revenge, for my once irreverently taking a stuffed Japanese raccoon out with me as an accessory to an all night party in Tokyo? ; Burning Bush’s long flowing locks, and leopard, and tiger print coats complemented with a taxidermist’s rendition : of the very same animal that is now haunting our garden. …?
Like the cherry blossom, the lily-of-the-valley this year opened early. In fact, it was out just before Easter Sunday: appropriate given that the flowers were said to have sprung from the tears of the Virgin Mary at the Crucifixion.
I have written extensively about these flowers before – particularly in my section on Muguet in my book, which was one of my favourite chapters. The replenished, almost cruel beauty of Diorissimo; the tranquil, transparent ease of Coty’s lovely Muguet Des Bois. . . I have a used up edt of Caron’s crucial addition to the canon, Muguet Du Bonheur, but have never had a chance to smell the vintage extrait until recently when Tora sent me a precious vial, enough to be used at this time of year for several years more to come.
The extrait is gorgeous. Warm, clean, with notes of lilac and neroli as prominent as the calm, private, lily-of-the-valley at the helm ; heliotrope, rose, musk and sandalwood, round out the base like a heavy porcelain basin of quiet, illuminated by afternoon sunlight. The perfume is, as the name suggests, most definitely a happy one. If Diorissimo is nervous;, the more diaphanous and cool Muguet des Bois disappeared into the treetops with the wood nymphs, Bonheur is on a more human plane of spiritual contentment – perfect for mellow Sundays ; just enjoying life.
It is now the beginning of my ultra-busy spring term. I am recovering gradually from the inner ear vertigo disorder, I think, and have fortunately been moved to a different building. I can’t tell you how different it is to have windows. While I have probably bored readers to death on here with my panicked rantings on the subject, in a pandemic situation you need proper ventilation, and in the previous place there were emergency windows only which had to be opened with a crank, sometimes getting stuck, or broken, leaving only a sliver of fresh air in a space with hundreds of students.
Now, I have control over how air is circulating: I can distance the students more and am very relieved by this. It was horrible before. I realized this more clearly on Sunday when going for a walk with a good friend of mine down by the lake. Sometimes you have to talk about these things face to face with a rational, intelligent, empathetic person: to have a person confirm what you know is true, confirm that behaviour that borders on insanity is precisely that, but to try and move on from it. A Buddhist, she chanted for me and for other people (the world) at the top of the ravine in direct sun overlooking the sparkling river beneath – the birdsong surrounding us becoming louder as my focus sharpened (we both became aware of this); the first time I have experienced such a thing in my life. I am open to beliefs, even if they are not necessarily my own, and this was rejuvenating, fascinating. Whatever it was, being together was both stimulating and peaceful, and when we came back, she, D and I had wine, talking for hours in the front garden; some plucked muguet from the forest on the wooden table.
Do you / did you make a distinction between work and play in terms of perfume?
While at weekends I am always scented, either randomly grabbing and dabbing or spraying and indulging at home , or choosing instinctively – sometimes very carefully, for going out, D often doesn’t bother, but often will have a few spritzes for work, particularly if it’s a day of preparation and not actual teaching (nice to be subtly fragrant while hovering around the photocopier). I no longer wear perfume to work. Occasionally I can’t resist a little on a wrist here or there, but I have been truly burned by previous experiences when students or teachers clearly hated my scent choices: – once when wearing Givenchy Pi the students were literally covering their faces and screaming for me to open the windows. I was mortified.The only time I got positive reactions, bizarrely, was when wearing Happy (women’s) by Clinique – which had girls swooning and following me down the corridor like the Pied Piper.
That chemical citrus flower perfume did give me super intense, very specific migraine-like headaches at the back of my neck though (and one of my male students too); I had the same reaction from Floret by Antonia’s Flowers: it must be a particular ingredient – so that went out the window. Now I just have essential oils in my pocket and my citrus hand balms. To be honest, I like the Return To Stench at night – the contraband luxuriance. All the perfumes waiting for me. It’s a nice way to unwind, like putting oil paint on plain canvas.
For work, D likes something unadorned and gentlemanly – Mizu by Di Ser is perfect in this regard – woody but crisp and citrus. I love him in Aramis Tuscany – balmily aromatic if we meet at Ofuna station; Fougere Intense by Sven Pritzoleit is low-key and skindrowsy; I have even miraculously persuaded him into a full citrus with a verbena fragrance by Jeanne En Provence: personally I think he carries lemon better than he realises.
I find Blenheim Bouquet – a coniferous lime / amalfi lemon /pine lavender, piquant, dry and very elegant perfume, for instance, delightful in its restraint – but he unfortunately very rarely reaches for it (it is quite faint, very skin close, a tad ‘tight’). Conservative. Almost standoffish.
Blenheim Bouquet, was, also, incidentally – I wrote this yesterday, but heard the news of his death this morning – interestingly the favoured scent of Prince Philip – RIP; (…..I feel very sorry for The Queen losing her partner and having to navigate the pressures of her position at such an advanced age); I hardly know anything about him; I know he made some blunders and said some things that were offensive, over the years, but I do like what my wise friend Joan said about the hard working, eccentric royal consort this morning; (“In the last couple of years I have met someone who worked very closely with him, on issues related to environmental protection, and particularly in bringing people of different faiths together to promote greater awareness of the importance of biodiversity and the ‘web of life’ (his phrase!). This really changed my view of him, and I salute his contributions and his life”).
He certainly had good taste in scent.
For D, although he occasionally wears Blenheim at my insistence, especially in early summer, Opus 1870 – a well regarded scent by many – and one he finds pleasing in its rounded whole, is favoured for its warmer heart. A woody aromatic, for me this is well crafted, but ultimately just a so-so scent. Not one of his all time best. Nice. Agreeable. Kind of dapper. No ungentlemanly. But somehow, a little ‘meh’ and mediocre ( probably, in truth, why he doesn’t wear it For Best.). To me, Opus 1870 smells like a fresh tea sandalwood similar to Annick Goutal’s Duel, a scent I could never get along with, but the notes are apparently actually yuzu and pepper with coriander – a herb D also likes more than I do (for me there is something almost foetidly fresh about it, off-putting), along with rose, cinnamon, cedar and sandalwoods, and a solid, durational base of incense. The perfume certainly does leave a nice morning sillage in the air ( – amazing when someone has already left, but their scent still trails the house; sad that Queen Elizabeth will no longer get to experience this phenomenon….) – but not, in this particular case, one that I am passionate for.
In a strange and very unexpected case of unknown until now three degrees of separation, I have just this moment found out that my paternal grandfather once CARRIED the young Prince Philip aboard a ship.
One thing I forgot to mention was that your grandad Bert actually carried The Duke when he was a Prince of Greece as a young child.
A formal visit to HMS Montrose (scrapped in 1946), a Royal Navy Destroyer, took place off Greece as part of the Mediterranean fleet when Britain assisted Greece before WWII. It was normal practice for visits to RN ships by royalty and presidents, and so the young Prince Philip was then taken on board by his dad. I don’t know why grandad was selected to carry him down the gangplank off the ship, but he must have been highly respected.
Blackcurrant is not a note I usually go for in perfumery. I once had the extrait of Cassisier by L’Occitane and liked my brother’s Roger & Gallet Cassis Frenesie – he is obsessed with the note- but I don’t usually wear it myself. I like, but don’t love it in fruit jams, and avoid cocktails with creme de cassis, so I am probably not the ideal candidate for Byredo’s new Mixed Emotions even if paradoxically I think it is possibly my favourite of their entire collection.
You do have to like blackcurrant if you are to enjoy this scent. The beginning, especially, is a highly unusual mentholated cassis note that can’t help but make you think of cough sweets ( or throat lozenges); I remember at school at the bus stop, hands in pockets on frosty winter mornings, any kid who had a stuffed up nose or a cold would pass around their packet of Tunes to share and while away a few minutes, waiting, decongesting the sinuses with head-clearing menthol vapors flavoured with synthetic raspberry or blackcurrant. The whole upper deck would smell of it.
Immediately with Mixed Emotions, beside the blackcurrant , you are also met with warm, emotively aromatic support from both South American mate and Ceylon tea, made smokier still ( but not to the usual Byredo levels of intensity ) by deft touches of birch leaf, violet, and and papyrus. The scent tugs at you in a nostalgic way and I find it quite an original composition; definitely melancholic and very ‘moody’ with no schmaltz or sweetness (the art film made to promote the perfume, atmospheric and quite self-serious, will possibly be seen as pretentious and indulgent by some; a series of young Londoners variously discussing their own identity issues and life philosophies while dancing around a stately home set in the misty English countryside: D and I found it rather dreamy and restful one afternoon); an ‘epicene’, or ungendered, scent according to Byredo that is a match for these difficult, emotionally testing times. In its holistic whole, I like it ; D, another blackcurrant lover, does not, attesting to the aptness of its perfect, if slightly self-consciously awkward name.
The cherry blossom trees in 2021 have reached peak bloom at the earliest time in 1,200 years according to historical records, already on the wane. This hasn’t stopped crowds in Tokyo – albeit masked – gathering to do ‘hanami’, or cherry blossom viewing, although reportedly (sensibly) in far fewer numbers than usual. Maybe next year. Nothing stops you from enjoying the trees from a distance, or in person, because they are everywhere with their faint gossamer pink scent and petals falling like snow.
Sakura is not usually successfully rendered in perfume. Neither in incense. But I couldn’t resist a small box of Kungyokudo’s Daigo Cherry Blossom incense the other day from the lovely boutique in a Yokohama department store. This is a highly esteemed Kyoto incense manufacturer that has been around for hundreds of years. D and I once visited the original shop in the ancient city and it is worth going there just for the exquisite austerity ; the incredible aromas that linger.
It is also interesting, though, seeing how artisanal houses adapt to modernity. The small concession we went to the other day is full of delightful incense trays and holders, hair oils, room fragrance, and design-wise is a perfect fusion of the classical and the contemporary. I was fascinated to be able to experience incense ingredients such as nard, camphor, and roasted seashells from the jar
-ingredients I recognized from classical incense compositions but which were interesting to isolate. There were many in the range I would like to buy and use – prices are very reasonable – on this occasion, though, the sakura seemed appealing. While in the box it has some more traditional Japanese sandalwood resonances, when lit there is an afterglow like Bulgari Rose Essentielie meets vintage Chamade – powdery and animalic. Incense was traditionally used as a perfume here to scent clothes, and with Daigo Cherry I can also imagine something similar, in a young woman’s urban boudoir.
There are not so many ‘dark’ tuberoses. But Odor 93 is a perfect example of one : it is gorgeous. While some of the perfumes in this mystical Italian brand’s arsenal are too intense or freakishly experimental for my personal taste – the rum-drenched rotting pineapple of Notturno ( so bizarre ! ), or the strange cloying aromaticized balsamic musks of Oblivion (L’Obblio)- which D has unexpectedly taken a shining to; the curious jagged potency of Narcotico; Odor 93 speaks to me directly and will become a part of my personal armory.
Like a tuberosed Vol De Nuit, this shadowy, fungal amber has notes of narcissus, sage, cumin, birch leaves, clove, tobacco, patchouli and vetiver over a powdery vanilla from which protrudes, undaunted, a continuous, fresh living tuberose. While at first I was slightly put off by the jarringly dark, earth-bound elements, these have gradually become addictive (“L’Odore e L’anima che disegna la nostra anima”) and an essential part of this unusual perfume’s appeal.
Plus: unlike too, too many niche perfumes which are weird for weirdness’s sake, Odor 93 is very harmonious on skin, gradually losing some of the tenebrous savour of the beginning and gaining a tuberose clarity within a light vanilla backdrop that leaves you in no doubt who is the main player here. For tuberose lovers and those who like Vol De Nuit and Mystere (two of my personal touchstones), Odor 93 is very highly recommended.
An integral aside : ( related to Odor 93 ):
January and February was one of, if not the, most stressful experiences of my life; essentially, I short circuited from anger and the stress from all the idiocy and oblivion around me, which led to my current problems with vertigo, although the larger fury and despair have largely dissipated in the last few weeks when I have ‘found myself ‘ again. I need not to let myself restart fizzing at the gills because I must avoid electrical burnout (but going back to work tomorrow…..,windows will open wherever I turn, no matter the consequences…. )
Control yourself. Retain equilibrium.
( But Japanese government: third largest economy in the world :
…… …………. …..but back to Odor 93.
This perfume played a curious role on one of the worst days during that ultra tumultuous period when COVID-19 was in one of my schools and the two affected teachers when they came back still refused to open windows out of some fucked up notion of ‘stamina’ or ‘selflessness’ (just writing about it now is making my heart beat very rapidly with rage- I think I have had too much coffee, I need to watch it); anyway, just when I had contended with witnessing three paramedics coming into the schooling evening in full emergency suits and an afflicted student sat in a tiny windowless interview room with dozens of students milling by (USELESS lack of proper action; it turned out he had a collapsed lung that was non corona related but the school should so obviously have been evacuated as a sensible precaution);seeing this scene and standing a metre away from the motionless boy sent me into an anxiety attack ( ‘the world around me is insane ‘ type thing); this is just one of many instances that pushed me over the brink and tumbling rapidly down the rabbit hole of labyrinthitis.
The icing on the cake was our landlord’s decision – arigato! – despite my pleas, to send in workmen – something I hate at the best of times – at precisely the time I was in desperate need of complete quiet and calm.
You will have read the plum and plumbing story about the kitchen flooding fiasco; the bath was also blocked – so I was relieved to get that sorted even though it involved a set of lumbering uncouthed geriatric odd job people plundering through our house: at least we were finally able to properly bathe and shower again.
What truly could have waited, though, and he could SEE what a stressed out state I was in, was the floorboards upstairs, which had worn thin : there were even a couple of holes – but covered with carpet – that we had been living with for years. THERE WAS NO NEED. NOT THEN.
But no. My attitude was considered ‘selfish’- so we had to spend an entire weekend, just at the time we needed to be recuperating from the corona horror, moving everything upstairs, leading to violent arguments ( D completely lost it, hitting the furniture.)
The next day, knowing these oafs would be invading the house for part one, I fled, if you recall, to the Atami Plum Blossom Park, which was very beautiful. In the upstairs computer room, bare, I had sprayed a scent strip heavily with Odor 93, just because I wanted something beautiful among the chaos, to come home to ; and left the window open.
When I got home, the creamy spectral ghost of Fracas was floating in the room, which was the first time I realized how charming the scent was in its final soliflore stages. I decided to leave it there as a provisional room-scenter – I love coming into a space, a particular room, and being met by a distinctive smell that fuses with time and space – not that this was a time I particularly care to reminisce over ( I am getting a headache writing this).
I had been told that if there was rain the next day, ‘they’ would not be coming. I looked at the weather forecast – heavy rain – with deep gratitude. Tuesday is the beginning of my week, and in the morning and early afternoon before teaching I need quiet ; to just chill out reading the newspaper, do some exercise, take a bath, be alone. Teaching – especially with you and them all in face masks – requires a great deal of energy; I am the kind of teacher who engages with each student on an emotional, even psychic, level – and it takes a lot out of me. The second the rain stopped and I heard the truck pull up outside I was sweating no, no, no in desperation. Please tell me they haven’t just arrived outside. NO!!!
But the spades and hammers and electrics and planers and screwdrivers were already knocking on my door; I had just woken up properly, still had morning breath, greasy bedhair, in my thermals, yet before I knew it they were traipsing up the stairs without even proper greetings, using the toilet without asking, trampling through my bedroom and onto the balcony to set up the cables. Grabbing my work stuff I hastily showered – one of them at one point opened the bathroom door and I yelped at them to get out – I was hot/cold clammy and outraged – I had been TOLD specifically they wouldn’t come on a rain day ; much worse was next :
I had closed the door of the room with the hole because I didn’t want the cat to get trapped in the roof and had explicitly instructed them as such. One of these unblinking fuckers, carrying a big electric drill on his shoulder then promptly opened the door upon which Mori of course then immediately plunged straight down into the void.
I would like to say that I didn’t push or slap the man in question slightly in anger but this would not be true. He was looking through me as if I didn’t exist, like something from Invasion Of The Body Snatchers. But I had to get to work, and now the cat’s meow was echoing around the house like the little lost girl in Poltergeist, and these fools were just making it worse with their insensate stompings that were making her disappear further and further into the ceiling.
She would meow, then come to the surface, and then when I would coax her in a ‘here, kitty kitty’ type plea (a voice I never use: they say cats don’t have owners, but slaves : that has never been me, she gets one chance to come in when she meows at the door and then it closes again: I am the boss), which is of course why she wasn’t falling for it. And why she kept going and going back in.
Exasperating isn’t the word for it : I wanted to wring her neck. Why now ? The workers tried stamping strategically to drive her out, and eventually, after an eternity, she rushed out fearfully and twinkle footed her way sheepishly onto the balcony., jumping across to the neighbour’s roof, and softly disappearing.
I left immediately after that, where I went to a park, to try to calm down : but broke out into full body hives.
I still haven’t put up Screaming Cassandras, which details this horrendous period and the overwhelming frustration of Japan’s attitude towards the coronavirus. Yes, I know that it has done well compared to Europe and the USA, but it has had more deaths – around 9,500, than South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Laos, Vietnam, Mongolia, Cambodia, Thailand, New Zealand, Singapore, and Australia COMBINED. It will not enforce vaccination of athletes and staff coming for the Olympics, nor enforce quarantines. We are not likely to get a vaccine before July/August when the Olympics start, so with all the people congregating and fraternizing there could very easily be a disastrous superspreader event with new variants and we will all be unprotected: – the ‘restrictions’ here, such as closing bars and restaurants early ( PATHETIC!) are totally useless. Like Taiwan and Australia, Japan is surrounded by water. It could EASILY have a far better situation if it were more decisive and proactive. But it will not. So despite what seems like histrionics on my part here ( I don’t think it is : I have had severe pneumonia twice before; have had knee disintegration due to arthritic deterioration of the cartilage which could be auto-immune related : I am basically healthy and vibrant but don’t like my chances with long Covid, which I can’t even read about it terrifies me so much, and I am in a situation without sufficient ventilation every working day – you see why it has all crescendoed up to this, don’t you ?). Yes, I am highly aware that there are millions the world over with their own personal tales of woe far, far worse than my own neurasthenic drama, but I still don’t think it negates my own situation. And I am not afraid to speak out.
I found one piece of paper from ‘that period’ yesterday in the tidy up; I am ( mercifully ) not sure where the rest of it is : I might save it for my Japan book in expunged and edited form if I am still alive to write it. One interesting thing, though, wearing and thinking again about Odor 93 this afternoon (sorry, I went somewhat ‘off track’ – actually I didn’t at all ) – is one curious coincidence.
In the strange fable that accompanies the perfume, written by Meo Fusciuni, in which The Flower waits for The Animal for ninety three nights in a ‘dark forest in the north of the world’, at the end of the tale, which reminds me of the hole in the floor and the cat disappearing down it and both nights, calm restored, coming back to the scent strip left undisturbed on the wooden side of the window radiating tuberose :
“ Listening inside me, the emptiness, the immense space that comes from below. ..
Get the flower. Close your eyes to smell it…. nothing more now.
..In the black room in silence, there lives a cat ….”
We have been having a tidy up : a spring cleaning kind of Easter. I didn’t even know it was Easter until someone told me (how strange that it is so unfixed and can be celebrated on any Sunday between the end of March and April, something about a Pasqual full moon).
In any case, I just happened to not have yet listened to a record of Benedictine monk echoeing chants from my birthday stash, which was perfectly suited to the day, beautiful and peaceful; and after coffee I then spontaneously set about putting my record collection back together – I am terrible with cases and sleeves – while D went about general rearranging and cleaning away months ( years ) of accumulated mess.
We have been finding and picking up perfume samples that have fallen into ransacked spaces never to be found again until now : I have no filing system, although the records today were systemized thematically and aesthetically for my leafing pleasure. We have also ordered a new antique Japanese wooden cabinet, though, to make the perfume collection more manageable and appealing, which will be coming soon :right now it’s very bohemian but a little too chaotic.
D says I am a hoarder. I am not – I just can’t be bothered to throw things away. Part of me rather enjoys it when big bags of rubbish are ready to be thrown out – I prefer to wait for a moment like this ; I suppose I like the grand gesture. There are two high school girls, for example,,who I have only taught three times in total for a ‘special course’ and will see once more on Wednesday as I dizzily make my way to Atsugi for the last time, but as they ( for once ! I usually keep it a secret ) were obvious fragrance enthusiasts, something transpired during the course of the lesson as one girl revealed “ last night I slept in my mother’s Diorissimo”, I have decided that am going to make them scream with delight by bestowing a couple of Hermes bags stuffed with samples and unwanted bottles on them even though it is flagrantly against the rules just because. One of the two (Diorissimo), is a rather interesting girl who loves Chanel makeup and having footbaths in home grown buckets of lemonbalm and also is soon to be taking her black belt in karate, a kick-ass assassin in magenta enameled nails : I love this combination.
While they can gladly have my samples of Viva La Juicy Noir – I am giving them a lot of duty free type scents as well as odd smoky niche and a bit of oud for shock value and education purposes – I am keeping my sample of L’Eau De Mezhin by Anatole Lebreton. This one had somehow slipped through my fingers and today was the first time I have smelled it. Others in the range I have smelled have been quite sour iris-dusty-waxville – strange and off putting, and I suppose that in some ways this is no different: a kind of sporty Apres L’Ondee Pour Homme if you can imagine such a thing, but I took to its greenness and structure today – it felt right.
I often have a hard time with iris. I only really love No 19, to wear as a full day out perfume, even if many of the plush Guerlains I venerate like L’Heure Bleue are iridescent with the stuff (these I just analyze and enjoy by myself late at night). But with irises, the bases are often either too sweet and vanilla musky or else niche furniture store polyurethane horror (or fake sandalwood) or harsh witchy patchouli as in Le Labo : half of the time I just can’t be bothered.
L’Eau Mezhin is a curious iris scent that is very familiar, but also not. I don’t know if it entirely works as a melodic whole, with the decisive green tang of galbanum, prominent violet leaf – which I consider quite a virile note – flouve, or French sweet vernal grass, pictured above and a sweet note of hay over cassie and a hawthorn laced Apres L’Ondee-ish rich and powdery iris. There is something perturbing, cold, about the trail this leaves, but I enjoyed it cycling in the rain to and back from the shops – oddly, my balance is perfect on my bike, but I was swaying and had to steady myself when I got to the front door – and all the while I kept going back to smell my hand…
The silvery base of this scent is a masculine trope – fougereish implications of oakmoss and tonka with a herbaceous pinch of angelica, but it stays gentlemanly, cool, and cordial throughout; very French – a little like the ending of Caron Pour Un Homme Sport. The perfumer, Anatole Lebreton, talks of ‘the scent of childhood; running about in meadows, a nostalgic stride on the other side of the mirror’, and I did feel that this was a pleasant accompaniment to a very relaxing and constructive Sunday of music, and making the most of the house, that brought back a lot of memories, home cooked food and soulful contentment, listening avidly to my records (and admittedly dancing quite a lot even if it probably isn’t very good for me at this particular moment in time); even, I hear you groan, rather vigorously to the 12” of You Spin Me Round ( Like A Record ). I couldn’t resist the irony.