I am always quite glad when Halloween is over. Unlike a lot of people I know, aside moments from childhood – it took quite a while for the full American scary, costumed festival to seep into British culture, as it has done so also in Japan very virulently in the last few years – when I was a kid, it was very different. I remember ‘apple bobbing’ – trying to retrieve an apple from a bucket of water with your mouth; the odd ghost costume; candles, perhaps some sweets and chocolates – neither D nor I can remember any pumpkins.
This might seem strange coming from a person whose last post on here featured me dressed as a doll-ghoul in a Zushi antique shop , but in actual fact neither of us has ever really been that much into celebrating Halloween itself. I certainly don’t need permission to dress up as somebody else on one particular day of the year (sometimes I feel people are so excited about being able to wear some kind of costume that enables them to momentarily slip into another identity for a few hours, when in actual fact they could do it whenever they felt like it): of course it is fun – and a bit naughty and scary, dipping into the dark side; young children feel the frisson of the night air; there is a mania about; something wicked this way comes; but at the same time something tiresomely predictable and often extraordinarily ugly: the plastic orange and purple Jack O Lanterns and candy dispensers – there is something about all that crass and cheap colour combination that offends mine eye and brain quite severely for some reason: all the witches on broomsticks and leering critters; all the stuff that will just get thrown in the trash. There is something quite horrifying about it, and in recent years we have been getting all of that more and more here : the second the summer is over, come the beginning of September and out it all comes and is draining on the spirit.
This morning I read about the horrific knife attack on a Tokyo subway on Halloween (this Sunday), with a 24 year old man dressed as The Joker randomly stabbing seventeen people – fortunately there are no deaths, as of yet, but the video footage was quite petrifying to behold, with commuters bound for Shinjuku – where we had been invited to a party in the park – running for their lives as a fire started to sweep through the carriage and the perpetrator sat smiling, smoking a cigarette in his green and purple digs – waiting to be arrested by the police.
So I am happy that all the cheap dispensable detritus will disappear – I don’t know, into a landfill, or in the back of someone’s closet. I am glad that it is the first of November; not the 31st of October. Bizarrely, the Japanese ginger lily I mentioned (when? I wonder how many weeks it was) sprouted another full head of flowers a few days ago, perfuming the air with a definite smell of freshly cut ginger (up close, like the other flowerhead, the white petals are quite gardenia-like, though I feel that this second bloom is less pungent and all-encompassing than the last one); still, arriving home after work the other night my first reaction, as I tore off my mask approaching our house, was ‘ginger’: what is that ginger? (only momentarily of course – my smell synapses soon put two and two together and I was amazed by the contrasts of the air, the incense from our house; and the invigorating yet dreamy fumes emanating consistently from the flower.
I am looking forward to the end of this year; to finishing the term, and having some headspace to just breathe a bit after this tumultuous year – no wonder many of my friends were going nuts in their anime costumes at the crossroads in Shibuya; people need release; they need to celebrate. I kind of do want to myself, also, and am looking forward to Christmas and the silent space of the New Year period here in Kamakura – the most peaceful time of the entire year, when everyone takes stock of what has happened, and micro-hibernates. I just want to relax, and do some writing; get some more secondhand perfumes (this delicious bottle of Rochas Mystere is currently in favour, and waiting for me as a night perfume; I adore the design of the bottle, and the dark, mulched, floral liqueur amber, and never fail to buy a bottle if I find one as it is one of my absolute all time favourites; it just lets me float).
Quite perfect, also, for this time of year.
17 responses to “JAPANESE GINGER LILY 2”
I think Halloween is more like an American festival. I just purchased an oversized black T shirt with the big head of Jack Skellington on the front for running errands. It then replaced my old ragged T shirt pajama. Thank you for writing about the ginger lily. I’m so jealous that you can smell it as it’s fresh, not in a jar.
I hope the timeless beauty of Kamakura goes a long way to wiping the horrible gaudy colour combinations of black, purple, orange and green off your retina. I feel the same way you do, it’s visually a most jarring time; and spindly, spiky plastic things, fake cobwebs, and eyeballs are never beautiful to me. When my kids were younger we celebrated Halloween (my husband is American), but only the real pumpkins were in any way lovely (but the look on the kids’ faces when the dress-up box came out…). I think that “freeze” incident with the Japanese exchange student in the US really put me off it for good (20 years ago or something?). But of course, last night we got a bowl of sweeties ready for the kiddies in our neighbourhood and carved a couple of pumpkins and put tea lights in them, and spent the evening answering the door. How could we deny the kids from our area that excitement…The most touching thing was when one little boy offered my adult daughter a roll of Love Hearts from his own bucket, when he remembered her babysitting him. We melted. Later, it was so sad to see the news from Chofu. I doubt that will be the nail in the coffin (no pun intended) for this festival of tackiness. Anyway, I’ll be enjoying the real autumn colours and smells, now that October 31 is over.
I’m glad it’s out the way too. The story of your kids’ excitement reminds me of how I was a bit as a child. That simplicity. The adult version has got out of hand now.
I’ve never been much into Halloween, although I would wear orange and black sometimes. The extended family likes to dress up as characters but they are cute and not scary or gross.
What a horrific incident on the train. I would have expected more chaos but the people seemed relatively able to stay calm after running to another train and let others climb out of the windows first.
Japan is very well known for its calm in a crisis mentality! I thought they handled it well too.
Halloween is my favorite American holiday. I love all things autumn and the crass & cheap rubbish just adds to the faux horror & glorious camp of it all. I’d wear costumes daily to suit my mood if possible 😉
Unfortunately, I have grown to despise Christmas & Thanksgiving. Too many years working in retail and the dreaded family get togethers have spoiled both for me. They started bringing out the Christmas crap in September in the US so by the time the orgiastic frenzy of shopping crescendos in December, I am SOOO over it. BAH HUMBUG!
I have written reams about Christmas on here over the years, and much as I have exquisitely tender memories of childhood Christmases, I am the same as you in despising all the crass commercialism, which I find poisonous to the very soul. At the same time, at the moment, because of corona, there is a new fragility to Christmas somehow that will make me far more emotionally susceptible.
My mother worked in retail too, and was driven to distraction by all the music being played over the speakers from the beginning of November. Enough accumulation of all of that, and anybody could become a bah humbug.
Halloween itself is a lot of fun in our neighborhood, because it’s all about the kids. We have old houses set close together, with sidewalks, and the children just run from house to house. In fact, other families from other neighborhoods come here to trick-or-treat, because it is so safe and well-supplied. I dislike the tacky stuff in the stores, but I minimize my exposure to both these days. I do like the piles of real pumpkins, especially the oddly shaped and colored ones, and the ubiquitous chrysanthemums. Overall, though, it’s not very high on my list of holidays, especially since our own children outgrew it.
I’m intrigued that the ginger lily rebloomed, I may have to go check out the large stand of them in one of our neighborhood parks to see if any of them did! It’s such a beautiful scent.
It really is.
I love your description of Halloween here: I can feel that tingle in the air from when there is something more genuine afoot.
I’m just a softie when it comes to little children; we had one teensy little boy, probably 18 months old, who arrived dressed as a tiny Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, puffy and green. His young mother shyly told me that ours was the first door he was visiting, on his first Halloween out! Well, silly me, instead of waiting for kids to ring the doorbell, I was trying to put everyone at ease in a pandemic by stepping out on the porch to greet them first, so they could keep a safe distance. So this tiny little guy looked at me, looked up at the doorbell way above his head, and kept pointing to it, saying “Trih-treah! Trih-treah!” And I realized I had done it all wrong, from his point of view. He was probably coached in how this is supposed to go. Doorbell first.
So I got down on his eye-level and said, “You know, you’re right! I did it wrong, didn’t I? You’d like to ring the doorbell?” And he nodded. So I looked up at his mom to get her okay, and I told him, “Well, now I’m going to get it right. I’ll go back in and shut the door, and you ring the doorbell, then I’ll open the door, okay?” He nodded again. So that’s what we did. His mom lifted him up so he could reach the doorbell, he pushed it with a very chubby finger, and I opened the door and acted surprised when he said (again), “Trih-treah!”. I held the bowl of treats for him, he carefully selected one wrapped candy, and you should have seen the smile on this toddler’s face. That’s why I still enjoy Halloween!
How lovely. x
I absolutely love the idea of Halloween, witches, ghosts, goblins, demons and such, but hate with a passion, and never understood, getting dressed up to go begging for candy at people’s houses. As my Mama always said “We have far better chocolate at our house than anyone would ever give away for free, so what is the purpose?” and I agreed with her wholeheartedly. I think I went out once with my father for the trick or treat experience and hated it with such gutteral feeling, it still haunts me.
I prefer to watch scary movies, and just eat Leonidas chocolate in the house, thank you.
That train attack in Tokyo was horrifying! I just don’t understand why? Did the criminal suffer from mental health issues? Was he just a violent menace? So terrifying.
So pleased the ginger lily rebloomed again, how absolutely lovely. This bodes well for a wonderful Christmas and NewYear’s Season.
I think so too.
I LOVE your baby Brielle instinctive reaction to Halloween, by the way !
Baby Brielle was very much her Mama’s daughter. I still am. Much of my thought, wisdom, and of course love of fragrance comes from her. My Mama was not one to suffer fools gladly.
My thoughts on Halloween just seemed so logical from an early age. I mean seriously, going to stranger’s houses and begging for candy, when we had imported Swiss milk chocolate tablets in the cupboard. I would have had to have been nuts.
Yes we are definitely too old and too English to get excited about Halloween. It most certainly was not a ‘thing” in 80s Britain. Let us not even go anywhere near the travesty of a beverage that must be a pumpkin spice latte. That aside, I also feel some relief that we are now in November, and there is seven weeks of work until the end of term. (On the other hand, I do not want to wish my life away). A beautiful post. Keep smelling the lilies and hang in there x
You are right about the eighties thing – it really wasn’t much of a deal at all in England, was it? Truly an imported tradition. And congratulations for not succumbing to a pumpkin spiced latte. x