Once I had semi-extracted myself from my morass, one of the goals of this holiday was to go to Kurukuru. This antique/ ‘recycle’ shop is a (for us, but probably not for most people) beautiful, chaotic garbage heap next to a supposedly haunted tunnel / busy thoroughfare at the intersection of Kamakura and Zushi full of treasure that I am always more than delighted to cycle along the coast to, when in the mood – D’s bike is broken, so I walk and do figure eights and go down alleys and circle and come back- he has always been a brisk mover ; this time we walked in : : and I immediately saw, among the junk – the Jane Austen-esque familiarity – I have always loved the original presentation – of an entire unused Madame Rochas collection.

Look at this shit. Admittedly, I love Mystère more. But there is something, something sweaty and powdery and Mysore-ish and talcum rose about the Madame Rochas that really suits me. It is, in some ways, my ultimate sandalwood. And although the parfum, as I expected, was defunct and turned: mon dieu – seriously, the parfum de toilette is I think by far the best iteration of this perfume I have ever experienced. Firstly, the label on the box is to be fetishized. Like the most delicous, cold, creamy walnut cake from the 1960’s. Secondly, the perfume within – the flacon, as you can see, is full and in absolute, optimum, pristine condition. Oh mama, you better believe.

The eau de cologne will certainly be used. I am actually quite transfixed by it. More masculine. More Kamakura taxi driver. But it was so pleasurable, having bought all of this for less than ten dollars; along with various, aesthetically delightful household contraptions, to then cycle along the coastline and dreamily watch the sun go down with Mt Fuji at Kotsubo; carefully (well not really), taking out the treasure from the bag to try the varying Rochas configurations on my skin and enjoy its timeless confabulations. Who left this collection? Who was it that owned all the bottles in these different strengths, and incomparisons of beauty?


Filed under Flowers


  1. Tara C

    Oooohhhh, that is so gorgeous, what a wonderful find!! That parfum de toilette bottle is stunning. And the price!

    Plus your cycle home along the coastline watching the sunset. I love those moments, when you can put aside the anxieties and stresses of life and just drink in the beauty.

    • They are essential. Otherwise there is no point in anything. And yes – ridiculous bargains like this with gorgeous bottles and delicious smelling contents within are certainly a booster!

  2. I agree with Tara…that bottle is beautiful. Enjoy!

  3. Robin

    This is all such perfect escapism, Neil. Because we love you, there is no envy (okay, speaking for myself, maybe just a titch).

    A complete set, unused. How does that happen? Who owned this collection, didn’t have the curiosity to try it, and kept it all those years? I love not knowing and the freedom to speculate. Shame about the parfum but wow, the pdt (a vintage strength I love, that usually seems to be intact, and that is as powerful and long-lasting — no, more — than plenty of current releases in parfum). Thrilled for you. Especially at that price.

    Do you know, I have never smelled really vintage Madame Rochas? I bought a set at the thrift store ten years ago or so but it wasn’t vintage and was really harsh and bad. I love the way you describe this lovely old formulation in the pdt. I think I’d enjoy it. Kamakura cabbie for the edc had me smiling, although I’ll leave it for your manly skin.

    Best of all was your description of tooling around on your bike while Duncan did the A to B on foot. I could see it clearly. Something kid-like and carefree, unperturbed by grown-up things. We should all be like that right now, as much as possible, I think. I know people who think we ought to be perpetually outraged by everything that’s going on. Their mental health must be significantly more robust than mine. Although some seem to be habitually miserable. I think the ability to compartmentalize is a huge gift to ourselves and the people close to us. Ric is a genius that way, better than me.

    • It must take a certain wisdom and the fortitude of a particular nervous system..

      I understand people who think we should be perpetually outraged to a degree, as they is always quite a lot to be genuinely outraged about. And I was furious for an entire year and a half. But I am way more like you: there is a limit, and I think the ‘shut down’ mechanism improves with age – and it is a true blessing.

      Until my knees give out, I am going to continue cycling: D says this particular bike has ‘become part of my body’ – it gives me enormous pleasure on a daily basis, just gliding along with the mental simplicity of an animal or bird not thinking about anything in particular – we all need something like this, be it gardening or cooking or anything that allows us to switch off and exist at the happy amoeba level.

  4. rosestrang

    Astonishing. €10!! My mum used to wear this, then it was Rochas Femme. I’m currently seeking a vintage Miss Balmain for my mum, it’s her favourite from all those older perfumes, I’ve been buying the little miniatures once a year but can’t seem to find larger bottles very often. When I do they’re usually about £200. If you ever spot one let me know and I’ll immediately transfer funds to your Paypal or whatever!

    • OnWingsofSaffron

      If you go onto ebay Germany or Austria you‘ll find plenty of vintage Miss Balmains for around 100 Euros. Right noe, there‘s one 100 ml bottle on ebay Austria for 95 Euros. And on the continent no one gives a fig about shipping perfumes; strangely, Anglo-Saxon countries have stated forbidding it for reasons beyond me!

    • Gotcha. Although it would be impossible for me to ship out of Japan now – draconian doesn’t even begin to cover how strict they have got about mailing perfumes. I will keep an eye out though, and then next time I am in the UK I will be able to get one your way. Does your mother wear Miss Balmain on a regular basis? I really love the idea of someone having a precise need for a precise perfume from long ago that must smell so bewitchingly elegant in relation to all the candy dross surrounding her. I was feeling yearnful yesterday, actually, thinking how much I would like to try out some perfumes on my mum: she has skin that makes jasmine, for example, smell completely unbelievable. It is always a tradition for me to go back home with a suitcase full of fumes and start presenting them to her from the second we get in the door. I have no idea when I will be able to do that again.

      • rosestrang

        Interesting that both Japan and the UK have that cultural similarity! Yes I owe a lot of my perfume fascination to growing up with a mum who really took her perfumes seriously. She enjoys more hard-hitting perfumes than me – Opium for example. My favourites that she wore were Femme and Ma Griffe. Funnily enough, she never wore Miss Balmain. I introduced it to her around the same time I started getting her vintage Femme for Chrsitmas etc. Someone swapped me a little Miss Balmain and I thought ‘that’s got mum’s name on it’. Turned out I was right! When perfumes began to be reformulated she almost completely went off perfume. For a while she wore Dior’s Farenheit as it had more ooomph.
        I bought a few I thought she might like – Cuir de Lancome and Normal by Laboritorio Olfactivo. She liked those but was, as it turns out, really craving the vintage ones.

        It has been a journey! A lot of fun too 🙂

  5. rosestrang

    ‘Nirmal’ I mean! What would a perfume called ‘Normal’ smell like I wonder!

  6. Swoon! How does it get any better than this? The parfum should be enshrined as well as its box (despite its rancid contents).
    I have never tried Mdm Rochas. I wonder if I’d like it as I prefer simple floral-woods-musk compositions?
    Currently yoga-sizing and Vipassana meditating through the never ending outrage. Limiting my viewing to sewing videos on YouTube to avert crashing. not sure it is working, this may take years of therapy!

    • Seriously, I hear what you are saying.

      Madame Rochas is a very middle ground, unobtrusive part of the whole floral woody aldehyde contingent – and can be found so cheaply that you can’t really go wrong even if it isn’t your holy grail. I find it very simple, grounding, elegant but down to earth. Perfect for certain moods of necessary escapism.x

      • OnWingsofSaffron

        Sorry, a silly question on my part & perhaps it was explained above but: is this „Madame“ by Rochas you’re writing about the same as „Femme“ by Rochas? If so I haven an ancient extrait as well as the cologne. Btw, I find Femme layers rather nicely with Timbuktu (L‘Atelier Cologne) due to, I believe, that prune in aged Armagnac scent.

      • The delicious prune you are referring to is most definitely Femme by Rochas, which I personally think is more appealing and rounded than Mitouko (I find them similar). Madame Rochas came later, and is more of a Chanel No 5 type but more laid back, less scintillating but quite calming to wear.

  7. Perfection!! That pretty much sums it up. Madame Rochas is the hight of elegance and understatement, yet thoroughly sophisticated and polished.
    You are a most lucky man to have acquired such treasures. They went to the best posssible home.

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