It is a cliche and a truism that Japan is a land of contradictions – but it really is. Every beautiful stereotype of the manners, the politeness, the elegance, the refinement is absolutely true – the ambiguity, the – I could go on. But there is a flip side to every coin, and thankfully, there is also a far rougher, crasser, meathead side to this place as well – hence the continuing popularity of hulk like Americans and European martial arts ‘actors’ in the form of Claude Van Damme, Dwayne Johnson, Senator Arnold Schwarzenegger et al (Terminator is phenomenally well known here); Bruce Wills (who is in a new TV commercial right now, with exactly the same winkin’ and smirkin’ expression on his face as of old); the hideous Tom Cruise, and many others (I was once totally gobsmacked when a teacher I was training told me that the reason she had become interested in learning English was her infatuation with Sylvester Stallone (“He is so cool”).

Granted, the younger generation has an entirely different blueplate when it comes to what is beautiful in a man; the ultra-femme, lipsticked K-pop style pale-skinned, sloping shouldered boys that the Chinese government has recently censured for being a pernicious influence on the youth (in my local Tower Records store in Fujisawa – yes, it is still in business here – hordes of schoolgirls flock in cliques to ogle the posters of all the beautiful Korean boys and their Japanese competition, in the form of manufactured processed groups like King And Prince — the giant, glistening, wisecracking orange brown bulk of the American Machos absolutely aeons away from their ideal

(D and I were marvelling, yesterday, at the desexed androgyny of the latest boy band here, Naniwa Danshi who were plastered all over the convenience store ; the latest creation from the poloney factory by top Tokyo talent producers Johnny’s Inc who all the school girls and school boys will be drooling over at their desks collecting stickers, energy drinks with their sweet faces on the bottles, multiple CD single releases in a variety of covers for collectors and all the rest).

Thus, it shall be seen that the 80’s and 90’s Musclehunk / machine-gun toting mountains-of-veined-steak mode of manliness is in many ways, extremely outdated, revolting, even for many people – except for a significant percentage of the population who can’t get enough of A, B, C and D grade action movies, which are sold at cut price cost on DVD at convenience stores (the familiar explosions in the background, the beretta in the fore) and which always do predictably well whenever released in national cinemas.

Taking back a failed projector to used recycle superstore ‘HARD OFF’ in Ofuna yesterday, while D picked up a brown velvet Paul Smith jacket and dealt with all the wires and cables, I couldn’t resist, myself having a quick snifter of the ‘economy fragrance’ section there, in which every scent for men is thematically linked to roaring and going to war (one is even linked to the Japan Pro Wrestling Association – another growling shrunken ballfest with hard flesh pounding hard flesh to the delight of the jeering audience) – the choices of atmosphere basically include fighting, battling, sword play, and biting

(a bushi is a samurai warrior)

while for women, it almost goes without saying, the choices are dreamy and lovely, such as Cupid Cute, Mystic Moon – and Vanity.

Funnily, despite the names, the perfumes themselves don’t smell especially aggressive or threatening, although when D tried on some Fighting Spirit he did, out of the blue, suddenly try some spinning taekwondo moves on me that I found quite surprising; a spritz of Bushi and Cobra and he was flying through the air whipping his sword about like an extra in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

No but seriously, there was, in fact, none of the nasty amber/faux fougere/ cheap oud substitutes you might expect from such bellicose concepts and militaristic packaging in these fragrances; in fact, almost all of the men’s scents were variations on the warm, skin scent come-thither musks of Jean Paul Gaultier’s Le Male, CK Be, and Soprani Blu – nothing unpleasant; very inexpensive, but also, in truth, perfectly wearable. The ladies’ perfumes were not offensive either (except for all their frilly collettes and lacy ribbons); if you were to smell any of these scents on a person, though, one who cannot plump for a perfume 200 or 300 times more expensive, I don’t think you would wrinkle your nose; in fact, if they had the chops to go with the attitude and the right look; you might even just relinquish the fight and give in.


Filed under Flowers


  1. The boy band photo – that’s some “pinkitude” right there!
    I wonder if anyone has explored scenting wrestling or boxing matches to increase the contestants’ aggressiveness or whatnot.

  2. We get similar cheapie lines geared to Japanese teenagers once in awhile here in Nepal: Shirley May, Jeanne Arthes, and Gatsby to name a few. Gatsby is reliably horrific with a synthetic musk drydown that reeks of rotting cabbage and rancid human armpit. Shirley May is hit or miss as is Jeanne Arthes often duping popular mainstream perfumes. Always interesting bottles as I am certain display on teen vanities is what they are mostly meant for.
    Nepal shares the taste for heavily musky American-style 70s machismo, Jovan Musk for Men, Hai Karate, and Brut with all its myriad modern flankers are typically on offer and can be detected on grandpas & teen Romeos alike. I bought a bottle of Brut Oceans eau de toilette for my 25 yr old nephew thinking it would be of the ubiquitous marine/aquatic/sports genre like Polo Blue or Acqua di Gio pour Homme. Wowzers, Brut Oceans is a nitromusk bomb (or whatever they are using in place of nitromusks these days) just like its progenitor! Just a hint of briny freshness and lavender peeps over that almost chauvinistic 70s base.

    • Yes! But personally I can handle this kind of scent no problem. The old proper nitromusks I have always found slightly repulsive, personally – even in the beloved Guerlains etc, and strangely, there are a lot of fabric conditioners here now that just REEK of it: to me, the effect is not clean and fresh, but rather intimate.

  3. Z

    The complete and utter repulsion I felt as a child anytime I witnessed this particular brand of masculinity says a lot about my identity and lifestyle now, putting it mildly.

    I’m weirdly partial to an absolutely sickening bottle I picked up at a 99 cent store, titled BLUEBERRY LAND. A clever take on Burberry London?? It does not even try to replicate the Burberry notes, which I was never partial to in the first place(can only recall sneezing from the samples while reading Vogue); instead it’s a weird, *weird*, juicy, bursting, vanillac, watery… cough syrup? But I kind of love it. I use it as a room spray. I mostly enjoy the aesthetics of the bottle, which is glass, huge and clear, with screenprinted lines of black plaid, encasing a gnarly pastel purple juice.

    Two things, unrelated –
    One, did y’all follow the hype and watch Squid Game?
    Two – I collaborated with my partner on a little video collage for a Halloween party we helped host(9 people, negative tests were required!). it’s a bit late but I just realized you and D might enjoy it, project it while listening to a record, probably recognize scenes from it – I linked it to this post.

    • Can’t see the video, but would very much like to – and I think it will be hard for me to avoid watching Squid Game as everyone keeps talking about it. Were you taken?

      • Z

        Oh, click my name in the first for the video link. Or, here:

        I did like it! I’m a fan of the death game genre since Battle Royale though. Movies and TV from South Korea really know how to expertly twist the emotional knife, so this was a poignant entry.

      • Very cool video. Let’s be colleagues!

      • Z

        I’m glad you enjoyed!! Couldn’t agree more, do tell about the Casket of Horrors…

      • It’s a done deal, if you can bear to be part of cheap shit underground Tokyo drag scene bananas horror/ performance : just check out Casket Of Horrors Tokyo and let’s do the January/Spring whatever it is together. D and I will be ready for another video by then (our last one was the thing in the tunnel (‘A light at the end of the tunnel’ I think it was called), but WordPress won’t let me check anything right now if you remember on here (nobody ever says anything about that side of me, and pretends it doesn’t exist)

  4. rosestrang

    A most welcome and amusing post on this overcast November day in Edinburgh! My mind boggles at those pink-clad beings, they look as rhough they’re made of marshmallow. I’ve seen enough of the extreme muscled ones not to take a second look but they’re equally weird. Humans sre just weird. Makes me think of those baboons with bright red bums, to attract each other I suppose, I mean actual evolution made that. At least these human extremes of style are temporary.
    So strange though, that the perfumes aren’t the equivalent of the image!

    • Thank God.

      As for the pink beings…. – yes, you describe them perfectly. I personally can’t really relate to these pop stars, any more than I can to Arnold Schwarzenegger. They are ‘produced’ and homogenized way more than anything I remember from my time in the UK – I mean if you think of Take That, for example – I am truly not a fan, but just for instance – they wrote most of their songs, were five or four individuals coming together. These K-pop and J-pop kids are groomed in factory like circumstances: weighed everyday on scales, forbidden to have sexual partners or boyfriends/girlfriends; every last moment managed for the image – which to me looks more like girls’ mothers when they were young than any sex symbol I can personally imagine finding attractive. Which is not the point, I realize, and the gender dynamics of it all is interesting, up to a point – a lot of the young men used in advertising now are INCREDIBLY feminine; with white faces, red lipstick, thin features – I find it peculiar, but am curious about how it all works.

  5. Oh how I adore K-Pop and J-Pop groups so much!! I love that wonderful androgynous slighly sensual look way better than the over-muscled look of toxic masculinity, which has been so overdone and should be on its way out.
    I wonder what the fixation is with all those muscleheaded 80s “heros” ? I never bought into it. I preferred the lanky pretty boy “new romantic” look of the 80s by far.
    I find it humourous that the fragrances are not powerhouse scents, but rather common ones that don’t offend. False advertising I guess.

  6. Robin

    Wait a sec. The old proper nitromusks you have always found slightly repulsive? But you’d just written about Je Reviens, that icon of the old proper nitromusk-packed?!

    • Yes, but they are so overlayered with a million other things that I don’t have to mind them until the very last moment! (I don’t like the final notes of Mitsouko, par exemple).

      Glad you are back!

  7. Z

    Let’s do it!! I love it! This comment got buried but luckily I had an ancient tab open on my phone, lying in wait for my reply. I haven’t been reading or involved with much of anything at all, Omicron fears sparking a deep malaise… but I just followed hausvonschwarz on instagram. Email me! …and personally I love the fussy fragrance ponderings and the reports of avant freaky nights out and cult film reviews equally.

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