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.