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


  1. georgemarrows

    Thank you Whom & Bush, I enjoyed that bit of weirdness. Kurukuru are doing a great job here, representing the scruffy side of Japan that isn’t seen much abroad. They sound like lovely people too – all power to them.

    • I was hoping you might catch this – the same Messiaen Garden Of The Sleep Of Love I used to play in my Pembroke room in the first year with the lights off.

      We both love the scruffier side of Japan by a mile: understatedly learned and aesthetically aware. You have been privy yourself to the stiffer alternative, which be very oppressive – thank god there is an escape! There is definitely a more relaxed, aware contingent out there in these old junk shops – I wonder why I find it so freeing? If you try to take D to a modern shopping centre, like Landmark Tower in Yokohama, his eyes start to glazen and harden and he seems to be almost physically suffering from the banality and ugliness. However, we come alive in places like this…….a couple of freaks x

  2. Editor Devil魔鬼小編

    “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre meets The Elephant Man meets Mulholland Drive meets The Shining”
    May I say I watched all of them? I like the original version of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). I like the idea of the short film and the background music. Happy Halloween!

    • Glad you knew all the references! The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is something I saw as a teenager and was completely petrified by: I wouldn’t watch a remake as they always ruin them. The others mentioned here are all masterpieces. Glad you liked it.

  3. Nancysg

    The last picture of Burning Bush sitting in the chair is perfect! With the crowded dim aisles, coming upon the scene would give me quite the startle.

    • I know: I am surprised they let us do it to be honest. We had a far more ‘normal’ weekend these last two days, and the whole thing feels rather fantastical and dream-like even though it was only a week ago.

  4. Rather startling and eerie how well your Frankensteined together costumes completely camouflaged into that storage room.I actually jumped in my chair when you moved in that first shot!
    I never really thought about Japan having flea markets or junk shops, such a contrast to the sleek and pristinely stoic lack of clutter associated with my impression of the Japanese esthetic. I suppose they have adopted this western tradition to economically dispose of or redistribute all the debris & detritus of the Industrial age we are all plagued with. Do the Japanese have the same taboo about second hand items carrying bad luck or negative energy from previous owners as the rest of Asia?

    • A bit, actually – but at the same time there are so many used clothing and recycle shops now that I think the taboo has waned a bit.

      The sleek Japanese aesthetic of which you speak is very alive and well; I like the fact that there is a contrast.

  5. Robin

    Fantastic short film. I actually found it almost soothing somehow. The music and sound put me in a trance almost immediately. I felt immobilized as those images flickered across my field of vision, those dead/alive doll eyes boring into mine. Creepy, all of it (YOU!) in the best, satisfying and engaging ASMRish fashion.

    Plus, I wanted to explore that tantalizing junk shop SO badly.

    But wait.

    “I’ve run out of N°19” ???????

    • I know! I only have some crappy turned edt. I need to sort this out immediately. But as I said here, those treasure mines are running low now. I need to source some as soon as possible.

      Your reaction to the video delights me, by the way. I also think it is dreamily magical, despite the eerie undertow. Quite static. It’s a FANTASTIC junk shop, don’t you think?

  6. This was an amazing post!! I loved the film so much; the way the images of all these dolls and brick a brack contrasted with burning bush, just made it so extra.
    Eventually when we make our way to Japan I must visit all these places!! Oh, and hopefully be able to catch a live Burning Bush performance.

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