Monthly Archives: October 2021


I miss the days of the old flea markets. Sunday afternoons, when I would come home with plastic carrier bags clanking with vintage; upscale ‘recycle’ shops overflowing with ogling treasure I would spend too much on ; the ‘brand’ shops selling used Louis Vuitton bags and extortionate Birkin Hermès’ that would also have dedicated perfume sections; Diors, Givenchys, Unboxed Chanel Nº19 28ml extraits for £10 because nobody apparently wanted them ; those deliriously, fragrantly exciting times when I could scoop up enough often pristinely preserved classic to stock up my collection in one pop but also have enough left to dole out exquisitely boxed extraits heedlessly to friends or my mother. Those days are gone. The tides have turned; dried up. Things sometimes still make themselves known occasionally – and hopefully now that the virus has receded here, at least for the time being, some of those Tokyo high scale antique markets with overpriced half used old perfumes will rear their kokeshi doll heads once again; The Salvation Army; the Shinagawa flea-market, for example, long past its golden days but still fun to trawl around just in case (and you can always pick up other things you want even if there isn’t any perfume), but I doubt we will ever see the glorious heights of twenty years ago or so, when tossed-away vintage vaporisateurs, bought as respectable souvenirs from past trips to Paris in the sixties and seventies, but never used, just hidden away until flotsaming their way into view on some glass shelf or other – made living here in a Japan, for a vintage perfume lover, a panting wet dream.

With my beloved Strawberry Fields in Kamakura now closed – sorely missed, as it was a real source of pleasure – there are only a couple of places I can still pick up the odd old bottle of perfume these days: when flush, I might browse the niche fragrance place in Yokohama – Nose Shop – (I haven’t been to Tokyo in almost two years and am starting to miss it a bit), but you are talking about spending twenty to fifty times more, depending on how canny the antique seller, and I now have to really love and be sure about a niche scent before spending so much money on it. The place in Isezakichō I like – a packed-in Alibaba’s playroom we often buy strange items and knickknacks from, only (perversely) opens at around 6pm and goes on until the early hours, for nighttime strollers from the demi-monde of the vicinity passing by on a whim and picking up a painting or a fur (I find the idea that after work next Thursday, around 10pm, for example, I could make my way there and pick up a bottle of extrait and probably will (I have run out of Nº19, and this is no laughing matter now we are properly in Autumn).

Otherwise, our pilgrimage of choice is the divine Kurukuru (pictured), which is a huge sprawling place full of junk and sometimes very beautiful antiques; horror dolls, records, and a glass cabinet – which if you watch the film that follows – does sometimes contain whole armfuls of the preciousness; (if you remember my recent cache of Madame Rochas), this is where they all came from. More often than not we get other things; furniture, nice glasses and crockery; Javan masks – all kinds of things, and at always extremely reasonable prices. The people in there are lovely, really unpretentious and open, which is why D had the idea last week, after being asked to contribute at the last minute to a Halloween night with a Tokyo art collective, to go there after work one evening and ask if it would be ok to make a quick horror movie. They said yes, even though the shop would be open as usual and any customers walking the aisles might have a surprise….

When we arrived, serendipitously, bizarrely, the local man pictured above was outside the shop on the street playing a Japanese flute. Perfect timing. Quickly asking if he would be ok with us recording him, he played for quite a long time, unselfconsciously (this part of Kamakura/ Zushi has a large, very relaxed Bohemian contingent, which is why we love it so much); soon I found myself out back in a storage room, where there was a rocking chair and a Japanese doll in a cabinet, being dressed up by D in an old carpet he had brought for the occasion, and a rather scary cloth mask that he had stitched together that morning along with two old wigs, and next was creeping around the aisles of the shop not quite seeing where I was going and worrying I might knock something off incurring damages.

As terrifying as this creature might be (The Texas Chainsaw Masscare meets The Elephant Man meets Mulholland Drive meets The Shining) – a pitiful, but probably harmless, spectre made doll flesh who I think is probably ‘lost’ in the toy shop on another dimension ; there is also an intriguing conjuring aspect with the flute player, who I feel is luring me like a snake charmer while I lurk and sit still in the shop; listening. A customer coming in to buy something (back in the real world) barely batted an eyelid when she saw us, only stopping her conversation with the owners for a brief second; amusingly, I found I was also actively shopping while ‘performing’: spotting items I wanted to buy as I passed by the shelves (“how much are these glass cups?” I inquired, taking them to the counter in full costume, where the owners were cracking up laughing at the absurdity of the situation; a monster purchasing glassware and tchotchkes. The little orange iron tea pot, which you will see near the conclusion of the six minute film (if you dare), and which I think perhaps provides a portal out of the limbo the entity finds itself trapped in, came home with us, along with a motorbike helmet (?), a gorgeous Thai orchid/jasmine perfume which you can see on the shelf if you look closely, as well as an old Armani Pour Homme which is slightly passed its best but which they threw in, typically and generously as usual – for free.


Filed under Flowers

ZEN by SHISEIDO (1964)

Despite the attractiveness of the name (I live in the zen temple of Japan, many of the structures and their precincts just down the hill: some with such an extreme beauty just sitting in their gardens is mind and body-altering ) I have always thought of Shiseido’s first internationally launched perfume as being the prototypical – and I don’t usually use this denigratory word – ‘granny perfume’. Though obviously a vintage lover – I have long extolled the virtues of the floral woody aldehydic and wear them regularly – just last weekend I wore the extrait of Nina Ricci’s Farouche and fell in love with it properly for the first time, visiting an old park in the rain next to a lake with a bridge dating back to the thirteenth century over arching; the scent adding melancholy and internal atmosphere; I adore Calèche, Calandre, and so many others – but there was always something about the musty, fusty musk/oakmoss finish at the bottom of this scent that made it more than slightly outdated – a flower print hot summer nylon dress and tights at the back of the bus. My feelings of this gerontological edge to the scent (we all get there in the end, but may not necessarily wish to hasten the process), may also be just because I literally gave a bottle of the Zen cologne – lighter, more masculine, a bit Hai Karate and not nearly as good as the parfum that I have only just discovered at a cheap Yokosuka thrift shop – many years ago, when back home from Japan, not long before the end of her life – to my own grandmother. I can see the bottle, in my mind’s eye, gathering dust, in the chintzy, fiftiesy bathroom up the creaking carpeted stairs, with its old lacey Spanish flamenco dolls from their beloved trips to the Costa Del Sol; ceramic bambis with their overlashed eyes; the plastic flowers; the fake feather birds. Zen nested amongst all this, next to my grandad’s unused bottles of Tabac; my nan, when I kissed her hello and goodbye, when she remembered to put some on, would sometimes give off a heartwarming, soft aromatic cushion of Zen from her slightly bristly skin, a scent from a powdered cheek that was pleasant and homey (smelling the bottle of cologne, which cost next to nothing, the other day, I had a real jolt of remembrance and association).

The parfum, however, which came wrapped in some cellophane tossed together with the cologne in an old bargain bin, is another question altogether. I don’t think I have ever encountered the vintage formula before in my time here, and it is a very pleasant surprise indeed. In this concentration, Perfumer Josephine Catapano (Cinnabar; Youth Dew, Fidji – you get the drift) blends the expect flowers, musks and balsams that you get in every fragrance of this light-floral-chypre type, but in the extrait, which I came home to last night after a long, tiring – if quite enjoyable – week of work and applied and sighed to for a while, there is an extraordinarily sentient jasmine note in the vivid top accord, shaded by greenery and a clutch of hyacinath, violet, rose, mimosa and narcissus in the background scintillating quietly, before the more dated, muskier notes make their appearance a little bit later that is delicately beautiful. The scent, overall, is something of a delight in fact – not dissimilar to Van Cleef & Arpel’s First, or the original Nina by Nina Ricci – and a revelation to me. Though only a small bottle, I think I will now keep this little gem in the kitchen next to the lamp stand where I found it the other day as a perfume of ‘momentary pleasure’, one for a moment’s respite when I need to detach. Nan (wherever you are now, RIP) : Nice though it was, I am sorry I short changed you with the cologne. I should have definitely have bought you the perfume.


Filed under Flowers


Fleur de Rocaille is the 90’s, powerhouse honeyed uberfloral often erroneously assumed to be the perfume in the movie Scent of A woman identified by Al Pacino – who (over)plays a blind, cranky retired military colonel with a marvellous sense of smell and the ability to recognize fragrances fluttering from the skin of the fair sex. When this old grump then meets his protegé’s mother (Frances Conroy) for the first time on a cold Autumnal day in New York state – leaning in a little he catches her scent and says, knowingly, ‘Fleurs De Rocaille.’

‘Yes’, she says, taken aback.

That extra ‘s’, here, is crucial.

The original Fleurs de Rocaille, created by Ernest Daltroff in 1934, is a very different entity to its much more strident, unrelenting and at times, even slightly tacky, almost fifty yearl-later follow up. A tremblingly vulnerable, very poetic, musky floral aldehydic scent based on lilac and a posy of other flowers that is at once almost too pallidly emotive to bear, emitting the sense that it truly does intimately know the deep horrors of this world and just wants to be forever protected from them; Fleurs is painfully feminine, exquisitely constructed, otherworldly (if rather old-fashioned, or at the very least; truly not of these times), and yet, because or despite of all this, somehow rather irritating. Sometimes, with Fleurs De Rocaille, you just want to slap it back into reality.

The 1992 release of the ‘new version’, in contrast (minus the ‘s’, still with the lilac, but with a whole bunch of strongly perfumed flowers besides,; gardenia, jasmine; a ton of honey all drowning in amber and sandalwood, very starlet barfly), actually coincided with the film – which I must admit, I thought was utterly dreadful at the time, but which I now, in my young dotage, almost feel a nostalgia for and wouldn’t mind watching again : at the very least it would be fun to see which perfumes Lieutenant Frank Slade gets right and how The Ladies react when the preternaturally gifted nose and army man comes in closer and tells them what they are wearing.

For sure, Fleurs De Rocaille would have been rather special for 1992, no longer fashionable, very much a personally selected gem of a perfume, and would also, you can be certain of this, have smelled quite lovely on Christine Downes ,as she stands looking rather seduced by his attentions in the beautiful light. As he says, ‘auburn hair, beautiful deep brown eyes…’ – a Pre-Raphaelite, glowing delicacy that is ideal for this scent.

If, in contrast, the Woman had been wearing the just released Fleur, we would have an entirely different aura indeed and our Frank might have been quite overwhelmed; repelled, or quite likely, just more blatantly horny. Part of what I consider to be a trilogy beginning with Grès’ Cabotine in 1990, Fleur De Rocaille in 1992, and then Dior’s Tendre Poison in 1994, these three Power Flower bouquets form a very datable, immediately early nineties vibe, at least to me (smelling Fleur De Rocaille in a Chinese restaurant yesterday evening – I had been compelled to go out to Isezakicho in Yokohama and buy a vintage bottle of this Caron as I had seen it sitting in a window in an old junk shop one day and even though I knew that I didn’t entirely like it, I felt like I had to have it. Just to add to my collection, for completism; to be able to smell it again – – – but as I was saying, D, listening to me blah blah blahing about the chronology of fragrance trends and how it was quintessentially nineties, said that on smelling it, surely, it was more eighties, and in many ways he would absolutely right: but during ‘the period of adjustment’ following the end of the loud 80’s florals, there was actually an (ever) diminishing continuation of those brash, intoxicating themes in a lot of mainstream perfumery (think Christian Lacroix C’est La Vie! Ungaro Senso, Ricci Deci Dela etc) even as the gaunt skelettas of the ozonic lotuses were simultaneously gaining in popularity and rendering these out of date florals out of date.

Yet, you know, to me, there is also something rather timeless – or should I say memorable, relevant – about Fleur De Rocaille, just in a different way to its much more rarified relative, Fleurs, who will always be off in a world of her own. And wearing a little – trust me, you need only a very little – on the back of my hand, last night, as the nuclear orange blossom/ lilac slowly morphed into a musky, ambered cedar, I could actually detect the DNA of its antecedent somewhere in the heart of its base (Caron has always claimed that Fleur was a ‘reworking’ of Fleurs). Where Cabotine and Tendre Poison are tighter, cattier, and much greener, Rocaille is quite loose (in many senses); more unapologetically erotic. Possibly stumbling a bit after having too much to drink. A bit ridiculous, like this vintage ad from when it first came out: (“a flower that is not easily picked:’)

Indeed, you could almost even possibly go so far as to say that that is something really rather ‘shameless’ about this perfume, which also gives me another reason to rather like it. When we talk about ‘innocence’ in relation to human history, I doubt that there ever has been such a time in reality, but in retrospect, the period when this perfume came out, for me at least: the tail end of the Economic Bubble in Japan – where Cabotine was a smash hit, Tendre Poison also, and probably Fleur De Rocaille too – was in many ways dumber, ignorant, carefree; silly. There was no internet; the world felt more contained, and a woman could go out on the town on a Friday night wearing a perfume like this and feel sexy, magnetic, and believable. Applied in the right dosage, I am sure that she would, to many, have proven to be irresistible.

Looking at the Caron website, I see that many of the classic Carons have been repackaged and redesigned (yet again ), though I think these look rather intriguing.

I have no idea, however, if the current Fleur de Rocaille smells similar to the original, but the notes are almost the same, and the in house description of ‘an assertive personality…excessively generous‘ certainly sounds familiar and about right. Probably, in some ways, a slightly polished, more up to date version of this perfume might be a good idea, as the bottle I have – slightly tired; some top notes not at their best – the perfume inside stronger than ever as though it has been macerating itself into a frenzy for three decades, awaiting my inevitable arrival – is, as I said, definitely from A Particular Time. Like the much more troubled and troubling Fleurs, however, it also has its own, inimitable place in the perfumery canon. And in truth, the title of the film we have been referencing, The Scent Of A Woman, suits it just as perfectly.


Filed under Flowers


Discovering that writing existed on the subject of perfume was one of the most significant events in my life. Obsessed with scent since late childhood, perfume was something that lived in the format of experience; physically and psychologically felt, internalized, but not expressed. Magazines such as Vogue, with their brief PR intros alongside the mesmerizing new adverts for the latest perfume releases were always eagerly sucked up into my brain and consciousness, but it wasn’t until the 2000’s, with the gradual rise of the internet, and the birth of the first perfume blogs such as Bois De Jasmin, Now Smell This, Perfume: Smellin’ thing, and the like, that the lightning bolt struck and I would sit before the screen imbibing and digesting every word and humming bristingly with excitement.

Prior to this, I had got my greedsome hands, in the late nineties, on two books – somehow even more thrilling to me at the time – The Book Of Perfumes, which I had picked up at Waterstones one day – a very small gift book stacked by the till that was full of some of the many classic perfumes I was intimately familiar with,but described in passionate, sometimes rather camp detail (‘wear only with green taffeta and opal earrings etc). Nevertheless, I lapped up every word, and would sometimes take the book out of my desk from the top drawer and sit there absorbing and re-reading it until I knew practically every word. Another, much larger hardback that was sent me by a friend when I first came here was Perfume by Susan Irving – a history of the Egyptians and the Romans and the Spice Road and Ernst Beaux – the whole shebang from how the roses and jasmine were collected, to heart-stirringly mesmeric vintage bottles of Caron that ignited a shameless lust in me – —- it was a house I had never even heard of until this moment as they never appeared in any department stores of my childhood nor anywhere else; again, when drying my hair in the morning, I would go over passages again and again, a drug to my addiction. Somehow, what had been almost abstract, in my imagination, even as it swirled about my person and clung to my skin like living memories, became even more loomingly important once it was consecrated in text. Once I then, rather late in the day but better late than never, first came across somewhere descriptions of the original guide by Luca Turin: Le Guide, written in French, my friend Helen sent me a photocopied, downloaded manuscript of that epoch-making book, with its witty, literary, and often deeply poetic, completely subjective renderings of perfumes that I thought I would never encounter, and I was on fire, not long afterwards embarked on writing my first perfume review myself ; sat at my desk one bored, autumnal afternoon with nothing to do, I tried my best to conjure up the mythological perfection of Guerlain’s Mitsouko.

If I was stoked by those first entries into perfume writing – The John Oakes book contained only feminine big hits but delved into their construction with fascinating detail and a lot of military metaphors – ‘now come the big guns, an artillery of jasmine’ etc, I would have been ecstatic and foaming at the gills receiving a copy of ‘The Perfume Companion’, the new book by perfumer Sarah McCartney and perfume writer Samantha Scriven, author of I Scent You A Day. Described on the cover as ‘The Definitive Guide To Choosing Your Next Scent’, it really is. Jam packed with information, on point and quite often hilarious reviews, this book gives perfume writing a new lease of life and zest (McCartney is quite the cheeky rascal throughout the book – which is how she also comes across in person (we met once at my Perfume Lovers London Vanilla event, where she kindly handed over to me two of her creations, one of which, Shazam! was a fantastically dense spice concoction that D wore to perfection); ‘cocky’, rebellious, eccentric and clearly a very good writer, many of the laughs that I had out loud through the book come from Ms McCartney’s almost bizarre choice of words (on the subject of 4711 Original Eau De Cologne, by Maurer & Wirtz she writes: ‘4711 is a real bargain and a delightul fragrance: you are commanded to get some‘. Samantha is perhaps more the dreamy romantic, with yearnings for the French Lieutenant’s Woman and stormy shores, more emotionally open than the Naughty Northerner and occasionally rather wistful (“Arpège has the potency to transport me to the Paris of 1927, even when I’m folding laundry in Wales”), though both are equally truly passionate about perfume. In fact, the book positively fizzes throughout with the glee of smelling and creating and wearing scent – Sarah often amusingly flogging quite a few of her own works (” How do I know so much about this? Because I made it“) etc, the overall effect being one of extreme positivity and joy. I started devouring the book on a Friday evening on the bus and felt like a kid in a toy shop – it is quite a hefty tome that is bigger than it looks in this picture, meaning that the authors can truly get in a lot of proper detail and comprehensive reviews for each scent and that it is definitely too much for one sitting – which is exactly what you want. Perfume mad people can’t get enough of this kind of thing . You want to believe that there are still always going to be parts of the guide unread for when you pick it up again for a random perusal, even though in my case I was reading it furtively in the teachers’ room, deliciously post-work with a can on the train, and then had two very late nights on Friday and Saturday as well as a lie in still glue to it this Sunday morning – and I still haven’t read every review.

The structure of the book ensures that all bases in the olfactory spectrum are covered.

Within each of these categories, there are always sub-categories, so that, for instance, within the Herbal section, we find Herbal Classic, Herbal Green, Lavender, Mint, Juniper, and Herb Garden (on Coty’s Aspen, Samantha writes ‘..galbanum and citrus form a vernal dance that could bring a frozen Narnia back to life’, a line I thought was rather lovely, while on every other page there are also little sections of boxed anecdotes or informative briefs such as ‘Smell like a gin palace ‘ – which add extra intrigue, humour (no perfume book has been so full of comedy before) and help to give a sense that you are, along the way, accruing a great deal of knowledge about the history of perfumery and its techniques: this book would blow the mind of the neophyte approaching the entrance to the rabbit hole with trepidation; covering as much as it does – with equal love for every genre of perfume, from marine, to oud, to caramel, to light florals (Samantha is the doyenne of the light floral); you get the full panoramic view of what is available out there in the perfume world, very often masterfully described.

While the lay out of the book allows the authors to stratify scents more rigorously within one umbrella – so under Leather we have separate chapters on Classic Leather, Floral Leather, Tobacco Leather, Patchouli Leather, and Woody Leather (these girls do like their leather), I can imagine that the book might be at times be a little bewildering for some initially. The first time I opened it I was looking at two Vanilla pages and thought I was hallucinating; I then quickly realized that I just happened to be looking at Soft Amber (Vanilla) and Gourmand (Vanilla) simultaneously. Once you get used to the layout, however, it makes total sense and allows the writers to gather and separate their fragrant choices accordingly (on the subject of Soft Amber: there has been a late in the day change in the perfume industry recently, and the term Oriental – the former term commonly used in fragrant anthologies (along with fougère and mossy , still in use – here they use the word ‘mossy’ instead) is now considered offensive and out of date. I completely agree, which is why in my reprinting of my own book, I recently scrubbed all references to ‘Oriental’ myself as well ). ‘Soft Amber’, its obvious substitute, certainly doesn’t have quite as much of a ring to it – tough tits though – and I will admit that I was occasionally bemused and secretly horrified by some of the juxtapositions in certain chapters (Lancôme Magie Noire perched next to the (execrable) Jimmy Choo in the ‘Soft Amber Woody’ section ? (!!!!) but then again, I like the the verve and boldness of both writers, and their logical and rational justifications for their choices (I can relate to a great deal of what they write, incidentally; from quite similar background to me – Samantha was a gothy Cure fan at precisely the same time that I was, and was presumably as hypnotized by all the Big Perfumes just the same way as me; both writers are deliciously anti-snob (there are quite a few sarcastic asides on the preposterously overly expensive fragrances out there, and deodorant sprays such as Impulse and Lynx/ Axe are included right next to perfumes 50 times more expensive than them, an approach I applaud entirely; it is very refreshing).

With each entry in The Fragrance Companion beginning with the name of the scent, a subtitle (under Philosokos, ‘The scent that launched a thousand figs‘), the perfumer who created the potion, and then a £/£££ mark to denote how much you will be forking out (a very Sarah-like expression; for US readers not familiar with a lot of the UK vernacular, this book will be like a grammar refresher on British slang), the reviews are engaging, knowledgeable, and frequently very beautiful. Sarah’s leaflets for her 4160 Tuesdays range are extraordinarily readable (she was the head writer at Lush for a long time); I Scent You A Day is a blog I have long enjoyed for its complete lack of prejudice; its wry humour, and linguistic prowess (I once almost cried at the beauty of a review on there of a perfume from Ariana Grande); all of this present in the Companion. Sarah and Samantha, with their contrasting but complementary styles, pull it all off rather marvellously – my own book feels to me at times tragically solipsistic and melancholically indulgent in comparison – but I am happy, nevertheless, that we will undoubtedly be placed next to each other on international book shelves. The pink will look great alongside the black and gold.

In short, The Perfume Companion is a triumph: and essential reading for the perfume lover, or anyone who is starting to find an interest in the subject.



Filed under Flowers


This has been getting a lot of kitchen dancing traction recently on vinyl. The Narcissus legend set to a laconic neo 70’s stringbeat.

Thank goodness for music and all the private pleasures these last few harrowing eighteen months.


Filed under Flowers


Well, it has been a strange time. ( But when hasn’t it been a strange time recently? )

So up and down. I am not even sure if I can write. But I just thought I would check in anyway, now that I have found a way to circumvent all the obstacles thrust in my path by my computer and by this blog system ( I have not been ‘allowed’ in for ‘privacy concerns’ ); our internet has also been super patchy since a gardener snipped the cable last year; so slow that the lightning speed K-netizens of Seoul would tear our their hair in frustration were they to be confronted with such torpor for even a few seconds; usually I just switch off. Patience has never been one of my virtues.

Where to start?

I don’t know. Until I heard the extraordinarily alarming news that my parents had caught breakthrough infections of the coronavirus over the last two weeks I was on a real ‘life is good’ high (I still am). Possibly, I ‘overreacted’, – moi? ! – this being a very common story in the UK, though not in Japan – but hearing my mother tell me that she has completely lost her sense of smell, I pray only temporarily (” I tried spraying on the strongest perfume I own, Aromatics Elixir, and couldn’t smell a thing”! ); hearing her deep, chesty cough over the phone as she played it all down — prior to this ‘spanner in the works’ I had been in some kind of ecstatic, autumnal floral renaissance.

Unusually for me, going back to work at the beginning of September, for the first time in my life, I decided I was going to wear a neroli. Usually, in my extensive fragrance palette ready for my delectation at any moment I feel the need, the section of orange blossom scents is reserved for a ‘private dab’ here or there on bright sunny days; not perfumes I wear out the house. Firstly, I don’t know if they actually suit me (I suspect that they do not). Secondly, D hates them. Thirdly, who knows if such perfumes are appropriate for the classroom? There are indoles tucked down in those stamens; all might go horribly awry.

Neroli is such a brashly and buoyantly uplifting flower note though – so joyous it bursts through grim and gravity with such a vivid alacrity that I sometimes find it irresistible; particularly in what I have decided is my UR neroli/orange blossom now, Matiere Premiere’s Oranger Neroli, a perfume I have briefly reviewed before, but which I fell totally in love with from the moment I started wearing it every day to the office from the start of the term until now ( I am going to have to get another bottle).

I think of this fragrance as a ‘mathematical’ scent; there is nothing poetic or evocative about it necessarily, aside the memories you are making while you are wearing it – probably in the future it will evoke quite a lot for me, I would imagine – but in and of itself this is not a ‘story’ or a clotted, conceptual maze like so many a perfume these days. Instead, Neroli Oranger is an equilibration of notes: a very alert and spritely neroli and bergamot pas de deux at first generous spritz, fused expertly to a gentle, warm orange blossom from Tunisia; a touch of ylang ylang extra, sometimes perceptible, sometimes not, and finally, for modern anchoring, very subtly rendered, some ‘floral musks’ to keep everything together without feeling too intrusive. The whole is very natural, and I have been loving it so much I could drink it. I love it. Sometimes I think it is good to just go back to the niche scents you have tried briefly and quite enjoyed in the past and give them their proper due; to actually wear them and not get caught up in the ‘what’s brand new’ news cycle.

The same is certainly true of Meo Fusciuni’s heavenly Odor 93, which I wrote about back at the beginning of February when things were heavily chaotic and mind-bending, and the scent of this gloriously woozy tuberose amber felt like some kind of life saver. Like a light in a dark forest. It suddenly ‘appeared’ to me again in my smell conscious one day, and I immediately started craving it again on weekends – strictly neroli for work, tuberose for the days off, alternating in rotation (………..with the palpable positivity in the air here in Japan; vaccination popular – and thus trendy among the kids; all of them getting it done in my classes ; there are of course the allergic and the skeptics and the worried, but very few of the western style ‘anti-vaxxers’ – virtually all of my students have been or are getting vaccinated, the feeling so liberating; everyone masked; case numbers dropping precipitously, even if the lifting of the state of emergency has made everyone go a little bit too crazy in terms of bars and restaurants filling up too quickly – – but let me have my moment of positivity, I beg you; let me bask in this relative feeling of freedom and space; and grace, actually, even if it is just interior and mental; let me immerse myself in my neroli and orange blossom and bergamot oil in my pocket if it gives me that sense of optimism and possibility; that feeling of uplift and light-footed semi-carefree; a vernal sensation that in this topsy turvy world right now feels optimal, instead, for these sunny months of the current Japanese autumn); tuberose, intoxicatingly, innately perfect for a more nocturnal and sensual counterpoint to the orange flower, particularly the Meo Fusciuni, which with its powdered, almost fungally dark ambered narcissus with cumin, birch leaf and clove, but with a pure and beautiful and slightly heartbreaking tuberose flower towering above, is just like a vintage Vol De Nuit Guerlain nixed by the love of a mesmerizing white flower. It is completely addictive and narcotic. The beginning is odd; medicinal, overpowering, but it still sends me into a weird kind of frenzy; I adore how it stays on my clothes, and so I don’t wash them if Odor 93 is still lingering (something animalic; soft…….musky); again, I want to imbibe this one. And I have perhaps been wearing it to excess (“Oh, (chuckling slightly), are you wearing that tuberose again?”). Yes I am. And I know that you like it as well.

Unable, in this current stage of surging, to sate myself only with one, I have been in full Dionysian mode tuberose-wise, these last few weeks, also wearing touches or full sprays of Flos Mortis, Roja Dove Tubereuse, Le Jardin Retrouvé Tubéreuse Trianon: I also finally unstoppered my extract of Tuberosa D’Autunno, a perfume whose moment had surely been waiting until now, and which almost seems to ‘sanction’ my thirst for this flower usually considered more suited to the hot nights of spring and summer rather than the transitional, melancholic bridge leading into winter. A very clear, ‘pink and beige’ classical tuberose soliflore with touches of violet, ylang ylang, tolu balsam, benzoin and coconut, when my vapour of my Odor 93 begins to wooze itself into the nether regions of subconsciousnesses, Tuberosa, in contrast sings clear and bright as a soprano up in the air above when I wear them together (right at this moment, I am still in my not-quite-clean tuberosian pyjamas and hoodie writing this before I hit the shower and switch back to the neroli before I head out to work, although today it is suddenly much colder, and I am wondering if I can get away with a touch of this Profumi di Firenze number instead……….. (?) I remember standing at the Palazzo Vecchio around this time two years ago, a bright morning after a deluge of rain, marble sculptures at the Uffizi standing cleansed in the matinal sunshine, and approaching the boutique, where the passionate Ida Meister was herself perusing the many profumi available in that delightfully well stocked shop, proclaiming her own love, as I approached, for this scent. ‘Such a delightful little tuberose’.


Filed under Flowers


The osmanthus has bloomed twice. A darker orange. Softly perfumed; lovely. But this also gives me an eerie feeling, as though I am in some form of alternative reality: that even if the scent is mellowly resplendent, the rules have changed. All over the neighbourhood the flowers are in peak form, following the semi-typhoon we had last Friday that segued into the most beautiful Indian summer ; all of the finest specimens are now doing their finest apricot duty. This photo was taken a couple of minutes ago, just outside my house.

I have many posts in mind; have been in excellent spirits, and thoroughly enjoying life. Totally alive. Everything would be fine right now except for the disturbing fact that I heard on Sunday that my dad has come down with Covid-19 (double Pfizered, but back in January or February); a breakthrough infection caught at a family gathering that has become the expected flu-like symptoms. He is doing ok, but was already under the weather beforehand and not very well – so it has all come as a bit of a shock. I am worried, and will get back to writing on here about fragrance etc when all is well again.

It is clear, obviously, that the vaccines do work in keeping most people from having severe symptoms: a wondrous success on the part of the scientists. Covid is hardly rare: everyone by now knows someone, a few people, or possibly a large number of people who have been infected with the coronavirus, with varying severities of symptom ; I know that many of my cousins back home have come down with it and come through it; my parents’ friend who lives nearby has gone through the dreaded heavy fatigue and loss of taste and smell but is gradually getting it back.

Still, with all the Halloween festivities soon to be upon us, this knowledge has strongly reinforced my feeling that although things are much better generally, it is not safe enough to go crazy (Japan has been in a real cultural Halloween fever these last few years : it has caught on like wildfire; I experienced it once, in Roppongi, and couldn’t believe my eyes when I arrived at the station and saw oceans of zombies and witches and every other conceivable costume partying all night with the police and loudspeakers telling people to go home (almost riot-like behaviour in Shibuya, also, with cars being turned over etc, to the point that it was banned for a couple of years or at least suppressed with a strong law enforcement presence: last year, with the pandemic, it was off limits); but it was fun; wild, and after all the self restraint and lack of freedom over these last eighteen months it is easy to imagine people really going for it again and throwing caution to the wind, now that the state of emergency has officially been lifted here nationwide (we have been invited up to a costume party in the park at Yoyogi but I have told Duncan no; we are not going to Tokyo for the foreseeable future, and are still going to keep being careful). This latest news, bringing it all shockingly home, is a warning to me that we are not out of the woods, and that caution is key.

As they say in Japan, dad – get well soon –




Filed under Flowers