TOKYO by SABON (2021)

Japan knows how to put on a festival. By rights, we would usually be hearing the familiar patterns of the taiko drumming local children practicing hard for the O-Bon local festival usually held on the first weekend of August. With the arid drone of grasshoppers, crickets and flittering cicadas, this sound forms a natural part of summer. Like last year, and like many unique and often spectacular ancient festivals celebrated across the country, this year’s has been cancelled.

I think I would have really enjoyed the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. It was exciting to be back in the UK during the summer nine years ago for London 2012 – there was a special, celebratory, upbeat and positive atmosphere that was palpable. I was home for Rio 2016 and enjoyed that too. Although not a sport person, there is still something about watching athletes at the top of their game and the meticulous obsession with the medal tables that is undeniably rousing. I know that Japan would have gone all out: Fujisawa, where the sailing starts this weekend, Yokohama, Tokyo, everywhere would have be in full everyone out-at-the -food stalls, drinking beer and fanning themselves in the sunshine mode: visitors would have explored and hugely enjoyed all that traditional and contemporary Japanese culture has to offer (Tokyo and Yokohama are fantastic cites ); the economy would have been given a boost; like 1964 it would surely have been a very memorable, even exultant and jubilant, event.

Instead, the coronavirus happened. And is happening. We can’t change that. But the conservative Japanese government could, I am sure, have expedited the vaccine approval process. That the inoculations came about six months after other countries, simply due to overcaution and what I consider to be a xenophobic exceptionalism regarding the Japanese population and ‘foreign vaccines’, has left the games spectatorless and with embarrassingly flimsy safety protocols ( I am not usually much of a fan of the fascistic, but here we could have done with rules that are far more draconian : : : no vaccine, no participation on any level); a huge money loss except for the corporations with broadcasting rights : a skeleton in the place of full flesh and blood exhilaration.

I have no doubt that, lax disease control aside, the Olympics will be a general organizational success. The televised events will bring excitement and pleasure to their intended audience. Winners will rejoice; losers be unconsoled. And realistically, given the pandemic situation globally, overseas spectators could never have attended : it would simply have been too dangerous. Locals, however, could have thronged the stadiums, and would have, with infectious enthusiasm. Japanese people are famously good hosts: it could have been amazing.

But because of ossified, bureaucratic incompetence, entrenched bias, and logistical failures, right now the Olympics are a behemoth – a nuisance – that hardly anyone here actually wants. To some they even seem like an existential threat.

At least, I suppose, we have Tokyo, a new ( delayed?) release by popular domestic brand Sabon to remind us what might have been- a grassy, pear and lemon raspberry-jasmine clean musk shampoo confection that encapsulates exactly how young people here want to smell; fresh, fruity, dynamic; fashionable. Not great perfumery, but certainly attractive; likeable. This would have been the scent of the air-conditioned trains in the metropolis, fans gathering in groups to make a day and night of it; visitors from other countries – participants and their entourages, handlers, journalists, not restricted to their cabins but venturing out into the neon-lit labyrinths, who might have strayed into a Sabon shop by chance and bought bottles of this perfume as a special memento : a souvenir.

12 Comments

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12 responses to “TOKYO by SABON (2021)

  1. Robin

    Opportunity squandered.

    I was enthralled reading this, about how amazing it all could have been.

    • Sigh.

      I just wrote this on the train on the way to work – just moving to a different school so can’t write now – I want to say even more. I have focused a lot on the darker side of this country recently at the expense o the positive. Japanese festivals are fantastic. And the Olympics would have been a giant one

      • Robin

        I remember how incredible it was in 2010 with the Olympics in Vancouver. Such a protracted party atmosphere, and we rolled out the granola and the red carpet. Even better, potentially, in Japan, where there are so many vivid traditional visuals et al: costumes, decorations, music. Sigh is right.

      • Yes because all cynicism re corruption etc aside, it really is THE international event . There is something joyous about it.

  2. What a shame. I thought the London Games in 2012 were a smashing success, and it would have been wonderful if Tokyo could have enjoyed a similar emergence from the cocoon of pandemic lockdown. I agree, an influx of international travelers wasn’t in the cards, but it could have been a great boon to residents. I’ve never visited Japan but I still hope to someday!

    • You must.

      I honestly do feel a real sadness about the whole thing. If those musty old chumps in power had summoned up some balls and endeavored to speed up the vaccines, they could have gone ahead as a special domestic spectacular.

      SO frustrating !

  3. Japan really wasted this opportunity and handled the whole situation so poorly, such a shame. Such a squandered situation, where so much profit could have been made.
    As it is, our own planned trip to Japan is not going to be for at least a couple of more years. Hubby just does not feel comfortoble enough with how they are handling the situation there. So sad.

    • But you are living in America !

      • And all the idiots here are passing around the Delta variant here like it’s a party favour. This country is guilty of stupidity and ignorance on a grand scale, there is no doubt about that. Japan just tied things up in so much red tape, they made it horrifically difficult for willing people to receive the vaccine.

  4. I had never heard of Sabon, interesting.
    Strange how I thought Japan would be a bit more organized & progressive in their handling of the Pandemic.
    Nepal is plugging along with no government & no nationwide Pandemic plan still. Our mayor was flown to Kathmandu with blood clots in the brain & severe “pneumonia.” Fist fights broke out at vaccination centers when the J&J vaccine arrived here from the US. It seems no one believes the Chinese or Indian vaccines to be effective. Yesterday, when the FDA announced a warning for Guillain-Barre syndrome linked with the J&J vaccine the entire vaccine program was put on hold. Will this craziness ever end?

  5. AmyD

    A bottle of this is EXACTLY what I’d pick up as a souvenir while strolling around Yokohama, taking in the sights. Japan in the summer! I’ve only been in the spring (sakura season, lovely but never again – Tokyo and Kyoto both so crowded) and in the fall (now that was great), and I’d love to go in summer one day to check out the o-bon festivals. Kakigori…anyway yes, something like this, fresh-fruity, something to spritz on to imprint the memories – right up my alley.

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