Monthly Archives: October 2022


Forget Krueger, Jason, Michael Myers. True horror lies in the smell of the durian. Also known as the ‘stink fruit’ or ‘vomit fruit’, this juiceless, horned, peel-fleshy nightmare has been variously described as smelling like rotting onions, and over-filled diaper, or, by the late gourmand Anthony Bourdain, as being like ‘French kissing your dead grandmother’. To me, it smells like industrialized, concentrated garlic dipped in acid and vats of overripe parsnips, with echoes of mango, papaya and other flagrant tropical fruit (I remember driving through Indonesian villages in Java and the pungent aroma of the much prized delicacies, stacked up on village corners, being so overpowering you had to immediately close the window; and yet, I think I got it : part of me can definitely understand the attraction to the fruit’s \ bouquet, riven with its very sensual, hard-hitting fecundity; but only from a distance. Up close, it makes me almost heave). Though I have eaten durian desserts at a Chinese restaurant in Ginza – when tempered, messed with and toned down by a good chef, the rather acrid, masculine belch of this fruit can be rendered much more pleasing – ; by itself, at least for one not used to it, this fruit is unutterably vile.

It should obviously go without saying that your reaction to the durian will completely depend on your cultural background. There are hundreds of millions of people who adore and deeply value this addictive and expensive fruit (imported durians go in Shinjuku for $50 to $100 dollars – I have sniffed them on several occasions at the station fruit stall, where I often buy cut pineapple on a stick, and not just once; there is something that makes you go back to the durian, to keep smelling it and reconfirm. The perfume is deep, it goes down to the pit of your stomach). All across China and South East Asia the fruits are in constant demand, so whether the smell makes your mouth water, or alternatively makes you want to puke, will depend on what country you were born in and just what you were used to eating and smelling as a young child.

Cultural accustomization accounts for a great deal of what we consider delicious or repulsive. Japanese people visiting Britain, for example (infamous here as being a country with terrible food), are often shocked by the profound revoltingness of baked beans, Marmite, and especially licorice (unfathomable – one boy I met was deeply traumatized by just one piece of black bitterness, whose taste never totally left the mental vestiges of his mouth); all foodstuffs I happen to enjoy. Black pudding (sausage-like entities made of fried pig’s blood) is understandably considered beyond repellent; Bovril, warm ‘beef extract’ served in a plastic cup at a football match is still one of the lowpoints of my childhood, – god knows how people from other places would respond to its misery – while the mass appeal of fish and chips is also largely baffling to the majority of Japanese people – tasteless, huge, swimming in grease, about 10,000- calories – (you might find the odd afficionado who takes to a pile of newspaper filled with deep fat fried chopped potatoes covered in salt and vinegar) , but on the whole, the ‘national dish’ is found to be a very deep, ‘I told-you-so’ disappointment when it is finally sampled (for me, conversely, chips are heaven – I was so happy being back in the summer and being able to indulge in such a cheap delectation), but then again I grew up on them —- what could be more natural to a Brit than a bag of chips? ‘Objectively’, though, if such a thing were possible, would this rather slovenly dish stand up to to international consensus?

While overall, I definitely worship the level of food culture in Japan (it would be impossible not to), there are still plenty of things on the menu here that I cannot stomach; offal stew, for instance; the majority of meat and fish (fatty and undercooked); the absolute, body deep repugnance I feel for most varieties of seaweed, in particular, tororokonbu, strips of rubbery, algaed sea hair that make me want to die even in almost undetectable proportions – I would gorge on the durian any day of the week rather than be forced to eat a kaisendon, for example – the absolute epitome of deliciousness for many epicureans in Japan:

Taste is greatly subjective, culturally pre-decided; a lot of Japanese schoolkids, like vegetable-loathing children worldwide – truly abhor avocado, tomato, celery and green peppers, for example – all things I consume eagerly on a regular basis, but are horrified to learn that I myself can’t touch raw squid

(ugh!! :: : H O W ?!! I would run from the restaurant screaming, particularly when it is served live, in a bowl of ‘dancing squid’ but that’s just me )

….. ……………. ….. But back to the durian.

What is unique about the durian is that even in the countries where the fruit is deeply appreciated, in the hospitality industry no one pretends that it doesn’t, in fact, stink to high heaven and can be smelled a mile off, floating through walls and under doors, precisely the reason why it is banned in hotels and business spaces across Asia, on trains in Singapore; It makes little kids cry ; it is very love/hate divisive

and is cross-culturally found challenging by a very large number of people.


You might be wondering why I have seemingly decided at random to discuss, even pillorize, durians – which, in truth, don’t play a large role in my life – at Halloween, fearing I have finally, actually lost my marbles.

The reason is this:

Yesterday afternoon, after airing the house intently, and then having lit various new kinds of beautiful Japanese incense in different rooms, I cycled out to the shops in the flittering Autumn sunlight expecting to come back home and sigh an ahhh of olfactory delight.

Instead, as I re-entered the house thirty or so minutes later, I was totally bewildered by the thick miasma that was all round me and felt dismayed.

‘Is this what our house smells like when people come round even after lighting expensive high quality incense?” was one thought

that occurred to me as my mind tried to grapple with the sulphurous, asafoetida-like haze that hung in the air, like putrid mangoes that have rotted to grey dust and shatter like skeletons in a bad mummy movie.

The mystery was eventually resolved when D came down from upstairs ,where he had been hanging washing on the line, unaware of my confused, quasi-retching in the kitchen.


When we were coming back to Tokyo in August from Kuala Lumpur, we had (very foolishly) spent all of our money on souvenirs in the airport gift shops, unaware that our Japanese credit cards were no longer working and that we in fact had zero money; instead, we had bags of colourful edible keepsakes (very nice passion fruit and mandarin Earl Grey tea, and I quite liked the mango chocolates, though the filling was rather intense). The durian pralines though – mon dieu! D had taken a box of them to work, where colleagues, both Japanese and foreign, had politely tried them and then rushed urgently to the toilet to spit them out; I had then insisted he bring that box home as I just had to know. And indeed, although at first the fleshed pungency of the durian innard was mitigated slightly by the chocolate shell, once you got into the serious, hardcore fruit filling, the effect was mind-bendingly horrible, shocking; I would go so far as to say upsetting. Because once you had tried one (obviously you would never try two), the deep cavernous garlic of the durio zibethinus paste was so searing, so shuddering, for me and D at least, that it penetrated to the very centre of your being.

The instant white durian dried coffee was apparently even worse. No one had got past half a sip at his workplace, before spontaneous ejection from the lips. Knowing that we would never in a million years ever drink this (we had tried to keep an open mind in trying it at least…though I never got to), he had ripped up the packets yesterday in order to be environmentally friendly, disposing of the the durian dust first and throwing the containers away in the appropriate plastic garbage , unconscious of the effect it would have on my smell brain when I walked back into the house. Later in the evening, if the cupboard door where the olfactory biohazard was being stored was opened even an iota at any point I would start with a smell-traumatized spasm; shouting out (a physical reaction); the smell so strong that even when it was closed, it permeated and pervaded the entire house.

I am definitely not a fan.


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As I always say, Japanese incense is unparalleled. And I sometimes like to venture beyond my daily, inexpensive incenses into pricier zones – particularly in Autumn and Winter when the smoke has more meaning.

In the mood for a more intense, severe smelling jinko (second grade agarwood), I went to my favourite incenserie in Fujisawa the other day and ended up choosing Yomei – described on the brand’s website as a ‘straightforward agarwood’. While appreciating its quality and concentration ( though I do like the afterlinger), in fact I am finding its almost sour austerity a little too stark.However, in tandem with the lovely, rose violet powdered oudh dreaminess that is Seicyo Kojurin (recommended), i feel quite contented.

The staff in the Buddhist altar shop are always welcoming, keeping a dignified distance – but very happy to ply me with samples (I think they are delighted to see a foreigner taking such an avid interest in one of the more arcane aspects of Japanese culture)- and some of thr free sample boxes that they casually popped in the bag are of quite a decent size : this Jinko Kojurin – a sandalwood/agarwood spiced delight that comes across almost like coffee and butterscotch – is another expertly blended incense I have bought in the past, and it is very pleasing to be using it again – this one is warming and soothing; full, and, bizarrely, according to the Gyokushodu website (worth taking a look at), is good for ‘those who like the occasional drink’.

Also among the exquisite freebies handed out by the incense people was an indescribable, almost pistachio like aromatic (in the light yellow box) that I can’t quite work out my reactions to, as well as a GORGEOUS floral balsamic musk – in the light blue box – just three sticks, that is described as being ‘elegant and fresh’, which I most certainly can- I will be definitely going back for this one as it is enigmatically erotic, as well as ( the owner went out to the back of the shop to look for this one) : a delightful sampler of incense by another kohmaker Kunjudo, whose strange Karin I use on a regular basis: with its beautiful presentation – a collection that reminds me of a brand new collection of coloured pencils, from childhood, when you went back to your school nervously after the summer holidays, there are two examples of each type, so that you can note to yourself which ones are your preferences and come back for more later.

While certainly luxurious, these purchases don’t break the bank, and just lighting a stick of esoterically uplifting incense and ‘listening’ to its unravelling story in the stillness of the afternoon is most definitely good for the soul – to just slow. With the obvious craftsmanship, artisanal excellence and centuries of tradition that are bound up in the aesthetic reactions intrinsic to each one of these products, the beauty of Japanese incense really speaks for itself.

What pleasure.


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The fact that a friend of mine once bought a giant 500ml bottle of vintage Jicky along with a boxed, display case edition of Caron’s extrait of N’Aimez Que Moi for under fifty dollars (the Caron now goes for approximately $1,500) at a Tokyo discounters

shows just how much the times have changed.

We went there again recently, after a hiatus of two or three pandemic years, to check out whether there was still bounty. But not only had one of the two shops at that station closed down. all that was left in the locked, glass cabinet of the remaining store (whereas before there had been rummageable, overflowing boxes of cast away fragrances positioned outside the front of the shop in the indoor arcade) were a handful of old perfumes – admittedly including a vintage Chanel No 19 extrait – but a quite startling, Mother Hubbard’s contrast to what there once had been.

The Jicky in question – perhaps three quarters full – had lost all of its top notes, but the swill of the ambrous, quietly herbaceous, base was still sensuous and intact. Having used up my original parfum a long time before, I begged for a refill, and was obliged. I added a lot of bergamot essential oil – two-four years ago? I can’t quite remember – to freshen it all up, but yesterday, on an impulse after buying a small bottle of very nice smelling French lavender essential oil, I suddenly decided to make my own personal Jicky flanker.

The judgement ? Simply holding the two next to each other, and knowing. The lavender smelled perfect next to the already adulterated Guerlain – after all, this is the fundament of Jicky’s essence – so I just spontaneously poured the lot in (about 5ml of essential oil in a 30ml perfume).The result ? It probably wouldn’t hold up in court. But I am rather liking this alternative take in any case: once the lavender field brightness of the new essential oil fades, you are left with the same, familiar sandalwood Franco-animalia : sensual- discreet; placatory. Rather than letting the fatigued juice just sit abandoned and never worn in its gold decorated green felt box, as I definitely would have done, my new, Lavender Jicky can now be actually worn : a placed-on-the-dresser-next-to-the-futon, private night scent.


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– a message from A


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night lily

Just got home.

The smell is beautiful.


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Tuesday was raining and cold. I contentedly went through the motions. Today was a bright blue sky, blissful sun – but that didn’t stop someone from jumping onto the rail tracks at Ofuna station.

Fortunately I was at the other end of the platform, so didn’t see the moment of impact – as you can see from the photograph above, though, they hit the front of the train pretty hard – but the sound of the emergency alarm was unbearably loud and I decided to go into the station to wait for the inevitably delayed train in an area I could sit down.

I feel guilty taking the photo. But it was impulsive. However, having witnessed this before (a colleague was stuck on a train yesterday for two hours following yet another terrible ‘accident’ – most of the time it is suicide, even if the drunken do sometimes also fall onto the tracks); last Thursday night I was also unable to get home for a long time because of yet another jinshinjiko on the same line – what the hell is happening, it feels like a contagion), I did not want to see the unfortunate individual in any shape or form, and yet I contradict myself immediately by having taken a quick of the smashed bumper; a prurient, morbid curiosity taking over, a gaijin, salaryman disgusting paparazzo.

I sat in an area above the tracks, facing away from the window, the area in question ( my heart is beating very fast writing this). But it was obvious, a stretcher being laid out and paramedics, police, the Kamakura fire service department rushing anxiously down the stairs on both sides (and I glimpsed behind me I could see various rail staff peering in horror under a specific part of the train – ironically a ‘holiday train’ full of happy vacationers on the way to the coast in Izu, frozen in place for a dreadful hour); I knew it was where I would be forced to take a look ( did I actually want to?) – but I couldn’t move.

It happened. And it was horrifying. Impressive in the extreme in the professional efficiency – at least twelve professionals surrounding what was left on the stretcher with portable blue curtains to prevent anyone seeing anything up close – several passengers were actually filming – but still, with the beautiful, blinding sunlight pouring in through the glass windier of that part of the station, I was deeply struck by the terrible contrast between the sheer beauty of the autumnal day and the fact that a depressed, desperate individual had just decided that now was the time to actually jump.

The proximity to a just killed soul as the makeshift memorial shifted past me was knife like in its utter sadness ; I then realized over the tannoy – I don’t know how many minutes it was – that a train in the direction I was going – I was already an hour late for a meeting – was leaving from another platform.

Getting to work, and failing to respond to the light laughter; seeing the medical truck outside of the main building, employees going in and out to have chest x-rays for the compulsory health check (my god writing this as I walk on my phone I have just realized that I am walking past almost the exact place that it happened), I realized once again that the sadomasochistic work culture of Japan is precisely what leads to this carnage in the first place.

If I were to follow the regulations, which I will not – I will have checks privately if and when I need to – I would not be allowed to consume anything tonight, nor tomorrow morning or afternoon until 2:45pm, even though I have three morning classes. This, to my logical mind, is quite cruel; nonsensical. One colleague tonight was starving himself today and tomorrow to ‘lose weight’ – I will be eating my oatmeal, nuts and bananas as scheduled – – what: am I supposed to just strive through the day, starving, lightheaded ( it always used to be first thing in the morning), to gambaru – do my best, exert samurai self control over my body and mind only to be weighed, injected , examined, tested, syringed, and then grab something to eat before proceeding towards my evening classes ?

The problem is that I have too much self respect. To me, scheduling a mandatory medical check up like this is actually irresponsible. And it brings out the absolute worst, self sacrificing instincts of the population as a whole – always keen to demonstrate to others a spirit of perseverance and self denial; fortitude; selflessness.

Which are laudable traits; there is much to admire (such as the discretion, tact, professionalism and dignified demeanour with which all the government services worked quickly together to get things moving again – it seems so callous: but they have to – while remaining respectful to the very recently deceased person who was still alive as I was eating my lunch on the platform just forty five minutes before.

I couldn’t stop myself, this evening, from talking about all of this with some students who I knew to be sensitive and inquisitive enough to be able to handle it. Because I want them to think about all of this; maybe as young people they can do something about it in the future. Because it is already a known fact that in Japan, after a gruelling and punishing summer ‘break’ in which they in truth don’t really have a single day off, unlike the new pencil nervousness of a British September when you go back to school alienated but refreshed, here they are often so tired they just can’t face anymore, and so hurl themselves tragically in front of a high speed, passing train.

Or it could instead be an exhausted company employee, drained and depleted from years without a proper holiday, doing their best, but one sunny day in October, too tired and confused and deeply sad to even think straight , just deciding that – now is the moment


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I can’t think of a more perfect Autumn perfume. At least when it is worn by D.

On me, the slightly pungent extract of pu’er leaves, a fermented Chinese tea from Yunnan province, blended with notable cedar, cypress, incense, patchouli and vetiver), comes across a little odd; clammy even, in the perfume’s opening section. On D, though, it smells suitable right away, morphing quickly into a deliciously warm, sandalwood- like skin scent with presence : two small sprays and you are circumscribed with a lovely, natural aura.

He came to rescue me after work one evening a couple of weeks ago when I had stupidly mislocated my wallet and couldn’t get home; as we walked alongside each other down the pink- night lanterned streets of Hiratsuka, I recognized the scent ;the sillage surrounding his person sensual; fine; quietly captivating.

Yesterday I suggested this perfume again (we have a 10 ml sample bottle but it is going down quick) for an event of a friend celebrating the tenth anniversary of the founding of her business at a restaurant down on the Zushi seafront; D was wearing a vintage silk kimono for a piece in which he would be spinning and unravelling (in the dressing room he was wrapped up in bunting and o-mikuji paper) to the Beatles’ Tomorrow Never Knows.

Long after the party had progressed to the beach and we all sat and watched the sunset, talking for a long while before walking back to Zushi station, the scent, now more founded and quietly saturated, had fused beautifully with his body – more a natural exudation than outer embellishment.

Simple (some will say simplistic), Pu’Er tea is a smooth, linear, woody, tea-accented aromatic with few extraneous elements. It has a glow : subtle, but enwrapping; deep.


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in front of the kitchen window

We have been blessed with the ginger lily this year. Planted a decade ago, it first came to life in 2021 with one flower; this year it has sprung back, tree like, with three thick stems, and heads of flowers that wilt and bloom, wilt and bloom endlessly, depending on sun and rain conditions, throughout the summer.

the wilted mother lode we did not get to experience, because we were in England

With a second spell of warm, fecund weather (Autumn in Japan is really so gorgeous, you should come), the third head has opened, and smells so very lovely. Though I nearly just put my face into a spider, smelling it close, I am thrilled that it is still going.


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Well that was quick.

The 45 day prime minister, Liz Truss, has resigned.

While I don’t doubt that a great deal of burn-the-witch sexism lies at the base of the gleeful levels of derision, vitriol and scorn being levelled left right and centre at this very clearly incompetent politician floundering in an extraordinarily difficult job position ; and I do genuinely, at the human level, feel a bit sorry for someone who has spent a life clawing their way up to the top through sheer cut throat ambition, just like Boris; yet is now no more than an embarrassing footnote in British history, a humiliating butt of the joke that she will probably have to spend the rest of her life living down ( it really has been totally shambolic) : despite this small modicum of sympathy I have for her mortifying series of failures and rapid exit at the personal level, she is a stupid cow.

At the heart of people like this – if she even has one – is a complete lack of empathy for the ordinary person. She couldn’t really give a shit if old people are dying in their homes of hyperthermia because they can’t afford the heating, or if kids in the north, are malnourished and heading for a cruelly deprived life of crime and real poverty ; the main priority being- of course !- to give more money to the rich in tax cuts that would eventually, hypothetically, bloat their bank accounts sufficiently to trickle down to the needy and impoverished, like dribbles of slow, dark urine through the urethra, from a benign prostatic hyperplasia suffer’s malfunctioning bladder.

Piss Off Liz !

I am no economist. But the ill-thought out, disastrously impetuous ‘budget’ that escalated Truss and Kwarteng’s dizzying helter skelter into the latrines of yesterday, was so obviously wrong – not just morally, but fiscally: zombie Reaganomics to stimulate ‘growth’, cutting off revenue when it was vital to pay for a mass spending spree to sustain a nation, that you had to wonder if, despite her dreary snapdragon demeanour, this prime minister was actually off her rocker —- totally out of touch with immediate reality.

God knows which spitting image puppet will next be in charge. But I do hope it will be someone with not only experience and common sense (dream on, Neil!). but also a wide-scope vision of society at large, not just for the lords, whips, magnates and CEOs supping on Glenmorangie in their hunting galleries, but for hardworking ordinary people trying to make a living, not just eking out a miserable existence in a world of endless exploitation with no forseeable hope for the future. A politician who is in it for the people, not just themselves. A leader. Someone decent. Who thinks of the country as a whole.

For while detailed knowledge of policy, media savvy, sharp geopolitical awareness, and control of the coffers are obviously vital attributes for a prime minister to survive (it really is an unenviable job);; an eye on the polls (9%!) and the vultures in parliament constantly bloodthirsting after your position and power essential; the state as a plaything of sixty million souls with which to play and recklessly try out ‘new ideas’, no matter the cruel havoc you may wreak; the most important attribute a leader of a country should have, ultimately surely — is just a conscience.


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I went to my treasure den today and repaired to a convenience store to drink rooibos and calm the heart.

Planning to buy something else, I then saw an as yet unnoticed 15ml, boxed parfum of the extravagantly understated beauty that is Farouche by Nina Ricci.

The sticker on the outer cellophane states that it had never been opened ; carefully opening the top envelope of gilded paper, within there seemed to be a heartstopping red velvet box.

This is a scent I only have very low reserves of as I wore a lot last year; it suited the pre ‘post-pandemic’s solitude, or days walking around local temples and shrines.

I gave a similarly paper-embalmed vintage Ricci – in pale lemon yellow : L’Air Du Temps – to my aunt, 85, who has worn that perfume for years ( alternating with Diorissimo). She is frailer now – still elegant – perhaps why she was so thrilled to receive something this delicate. Like me, though I wanted to know how it smelled at this summer’s party at my parents’ house, she wanted to keep it as it was. Too pristine to tear open.


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