Yesterday it was so dark, dank, rainy and gloomy it was difficult to speak. In fact no one was speaking at work, just lost in their own worlds. The humidity must have been at 100% : absolute saturation.

In the crowded hell that was Yokohama station, negotiating my bags and umbrella and self into the freezing air conditioned space of the main new department store, I went up quickly to the Kungyokudo incense shop to grab some sandalwood. The conversation on patchouli incense the other day got me craving some byakudan; drying and grounding when it seems that the damp and the fungal pall will last at least another week ( our house is a mould box right now; not visibly, but you can feel it); the supermarkets all promoting kyabikyilla – mould killing sprays as the rain continues, although sun is forecast tomorrow and from Friday so maybe it’s the end of the rainy season soon: the start of the hot searing sun.

Nice though it is, this incense – nothing but sandalwood , it would seem, is a tad perfunctory, and not really worth the ¥3000 that I paid for it. I will certainly use it, and I liked how it temporarily masked the smells I wanted to mask, but I think I would need to have a proper mooch around my local Buddhist shop in Fujisawa to get a more soulful and nuanced sandalwood blend at some other time.

Right now I am too busy. The summer seminar is coming soon, and I heard on Wednesday that my book is getting a second printing so am in the process of doing corrections of typos and repetitions (any glaring ones please let me know : I have until tonight). Our belated applications for the vaccine from Kamakura City Office arrived this morning:; I am glad that ours are already in the bag ( we are having our second ones together on July the 25th). Delighted, also, that the announcement has just been made that there will be no spectators at the Olympic Games.

Finally, some common sense.


Filed under Flowers

25 responses to “SANDALWOOD INCENSE

  1. Robin

    That empty car looks like paradise, Neil.

    Mould box. Eeeuuwww. I’d light the whole box at once!

    • The empty car I took as I got off last night.

      You should see the trains in the day time. Like fishtanks. No one is opening the windows. That same story. At least now the government is taking some responsibility and thinking about the people in the country. A silent Olympics will be weird as old hell but having thousands of spectators would have been unconscionable.

      • Robin

        Finally, huh? About time.

        Overall, when I think about friends outside of the ones here in BC, I feel happiest about your situation in Japan, Neil. It sucks in a lot of ways and you’ve felt the insanity of it (which I would have shared if having to endure it myself) but you’re safer than most of them. Those hot spots in the world do scare me: Indonesia, NSW in Australia — especially with their low rate of vaccination — Cuba: the list is lengthening. The fact you and Duncan are on your way to full vaccination is hugely reassuring to me.

      • It is HUUUUUUGGGGELY reassuring.

        The Japanese government has been utterly pathetic. We could easily be having the Olympic Games as usual if they had just SPED UP the vaccine approval process; dusty old assholes in medical establishments coughing and having torturously long meetings and prevaricating over what to do, when the vaccines were already in use elsewhere. HOW could they have taken so long? If I were a right wing prime minister who prioritized the Olympics over anything else, then the one thing I would definitely have done would have been to speed up that process, to get the jabs in arms by the spring, do proper lockdowns (not just this ‘stop serving alcohol by 8pm crap’ that doesn’t actually achieve anything); they should have had ACTUAL LOCKDOWNS. They should have taken actual action. I despise namby pamby passivity and overcaution; they should have just gone for it, armtwisted the pharmaceutical companies to hurry up FFS as the world is watching and the Olympics are about to happen, but no. Now it is just going to be this muted affair behind closed doors.

        But I am pleased. Because as I repeatedly say, ad nauseam, over and over again, people here just sit on trains with window closed like zombies. We could never have had full spectators etc in these conditions. It could have been disastrous.

    • But it’s not literally mould. When the dry sun comes back it will smell fine – from October to May even actually nice. But the moisture is so heavy – there was a fatal mudslide in Atami where we often go for summer breaks – the air is funereally wet and water logged. Yesterday as I said, it was so dark and sepulchral no one was talking for about two hours

      • Robin

        I saw the footage of the mudslide. Whoah. Another tragedy for Japan. My heart goes out to Atami.

        When the sun comes out again it will change everything.

      • Atami…….sigh. Me and Duncan adore it, even though it is severely old fashioned and dusty and run down (precisely why we like it). Part of my heart lives there. We will be back, but not when it is raining. It was a horrible thing to happen.

  2. Have you tried Baieido for sandalwood incense? Their Byakudan Kobunboku is a classic. No one does woods like Baieido!

    Hope you dry out soon.

  3. OnWingsofSaffron

    It is quite humid and sticky here too, in Cologne, Germany. And as you described for Yokohama, there is no multitude of people milling around. It seems empty yet there is ownerless music blaring from somewhere.
    The atmosphere reminds me of Spain in Summer, albeit without that monstrous humidity. On the contrary, bone dry and hot as the Sahara on the other side there would be this burning heat outside, the air shimmering through the blinds, canary birds tweeting desperately, an occasional moped in the background, and a whole city of a million or more in silence and I think in solitude too. I loved that moment of complete standstill.

  4. Tara C

    All this talk of incense has spurred me to visit the local withchy shop where they sell tons of different incenses. Picked an assortment of sandalwood, patchouli, pine, cedar, palo santo, copal, frankincense and sage sticks. Lit one yesterday and my husband promptly complained. Normally I burn it with the door open, but this time I didn’t. The Indian stuff is a lott less subtle than the Japanese variety. When I get the chance I need to stop by Kinokuniya in San Francisco to get some better stuff.

  5. Australian sandalwood has that dry, arid quality you are looking for. I keep meaning to order some Aussie sandalwood oil but haven’t. Australian Desert Rosewood (Buddha wood) is another dry, earthy oil I would like to try.
    Interesting that though jasmine is the fragrance of romance for both sexes in India, sandalwood has become the preferred scent for men. Traditional fragrances were mostly genderless in India until we Westerners barged in. Although, the Holy Quran does make some specific recommendations as to what men and women should wear as perfume.
    I think the world is finally coming to the realization that this virus is so easily & unknowingly transmitted that it can’t be contained. Masking & social distancing will have to do until the long term vaccine goals are met.
    I bought some Magiclean floor wash in the scent “Hokkaido Spring.” Who knew Hokkaido smells like a cheap & loud version of Lanvin Arpege? Wowzers, the fake lilac and hyacinth are dialed up to oblivion!

    • Amazing. I want to smell it nonetheless.

      I know precisely the Australian sandalwood you are talking about and I think this is it: I want the old Mysore oil – I still remember what it smells like.

      As for fucking Covid……you are right. We have to live with it. But you know what, I am massively looking forward to living with it after I have the second vaccine, when presumably it is there in the background but not this hideous lethal invisible threat, which I may or may not have over built up in my mind. I have never worried in my life about the flu, for example, and have never had it either. If I get the flu, no problem, I will just have the flu and get over the flu. I want it to be like that, rather than organ failure or blood poisoning or whatever. Do you relate?

      • Yes, I know what you mean. After a 15 year career in healthcare and living in the 3rd world for the last 10 years, I think I have a higher risk tolerance. I survived Covid and Influenza A through Z. (I do wonder when my 9 lives are going to be up though!) As with any new highly contagious pathogen, I think we are still in for some more nasty surprises.

      • No, stop! I must believe stupidly in this positive moment.

        PS. How do you ultimately feel about your time in Nepal?

      • I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in Nepal. The Himalayas are truly magical, the many tribal cultures are fascinating, make a friend in Nepal and you will have a friend for life. There have been tough times – the People’s War, the 2012 floods, the 2015 double earthquakes – but it has all been worth it. It has been a life changing experience, much for the better! I would highly recommend Nepal to anyone for fantastic vacation. Nepal is no longer just about mountain climbing and trekking, there are gorgeous 5 star hotels now with all the mod cons, swimming pools, and excellent service too.
        Covid nasty surprise this week : Pfizer has already applied in the US for emergency approval of a new booster vaccine to address the Delta variant. This is based on recent studies showing breakthrough in Israel.

      • Bring it the F on for us all right now!

  6. Cody Childers

    So happy to hear you are getting your second shot. This summer almost feels like the first summer I moved to NYC in my early 20’s, the sense of absolute freedom and possibility. All because as a sane human being I am fully vaccinated, it is absolutely maddening to watch these trump zombies refuse to get vaccinated, thereby increasing the risk of some mutant covid strain that sets us all back to square one. I am flying to Vegas tomorrow for a weekend of maskless hedonism and will be DRENCHED in Stephane Humbert Lucas 777 Black Gemstone the entire time.

  7. It has been raining here pretty much every day for ages now, hello climate change, and our house (being quite old) has that uniquely old damp smell to it. Some sandalwood incense wood probably work miracles around here, I do have a Diptyque candle that might help a bit though.
    I am so please you and D will be fully vaccinated in a little over 10 days, that sets my mind at ease. Yes, Japan really did drop the ball on this whole vaccination thing, and they seem to still be doing it. Shame on them for being so wishy washy.
    Stay safe and dry.

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