FRIVOLITIES: : : : : VIOLET IDA + BLOUSY by MILLER HARRIS (2019)

 

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Miller Harris describes its new floral fruitstravaganza as ‘a delicious and wistful flirtation in a fabulously cinematic perfume of rose swirling with strawberry liqueur.’ I would describe it as more like drinking cassis liqueur neat through a silver straw while doing the rodeo on a gigantesque disco peach melba.

 

 

 

Whichever way you look at it, this is a busy perfume.

 

 

 

From Fragrantica:

 

Head Notes: Pink Pepper CO2, Coriander seed, Davana, Cinnamon, Green Mandarin

Heart Notes: Iris Concrete, Violet, Rose absolute Morocco, Rose oil Turkey, Carnation, Hawthorn, Strawberry Liqueur

Lasting Impressions: Tonka Bean, Sandalwood, Oakmoss, Vanilla

If I was taken a little aback by this perfume for its in-your-faceness, I also thought it was quite unobvious with its sweet frictions of unexpected ingredients (oil of davana segueing into hawthorn and strawberries etc ); fun and out there; a  bit different. I can imagine a dressed up young diva of various persuasions rocking it quite happily until the early hours.
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I often wear perfume in the dark watching cinema. And last night while we indulged in the grotesque decadence of Federico Fellini’s colourful Casanova (1976) I randomly reached out for the the bottle of Violet Ida I was given last year.
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(It was also strange, in the opening scene of the film, seeing Dr Whom and Burning Bush in the crowd at the Venice carnival  – I had no idea that we were so old)
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While the name of this scent might evoke a scene from the Bloomsbury set, rather Virginia Woolf writes a postcard to her second cousin on the coast of Hove, and the ‘iris beurre’ melts like suede into a vanilla ambered cushion on skin with a delicate carrot’s breath at the gentle opening, on me at least, this perfume, though pleasing (and very wearable: I will certainly get through the whole bottle ; the orris note has a pleasantly grey mauve temperate fullness, the end note very me in its ambered, hot simplicity) somehow it still doesn’t quite capture my image of what the Miller Harris brand used to embody: a subtle Englishness  – pared down, clear; nature-inspired; a tad severe – that has ceded to a more technicolour frivolity. Yes, there were Noix Tubereuse and Figue Amere in the original MH range, which embraced the nightlife and the occasional feather boa, but since the perfumer and founder Lyn Harris left the perfumery in different hands, the company seems to have veered in an entirely different direction – which can be enjoyable ( I know that brands under different artistic direction must evolve with the times ): but also a little jarring.
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Filed under cinema + perfume, Flowers, Fruity Floral, Iris

JEAN WALKS IN FRESH FIELDS: : : : : KERELEM by KERZON + COMME DES GARCONS CLASH RADISH VETIVER & CELLULOID GALBANUM (2019) + MIYA SHINMA FEUILLAGE VERTE

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Although I have never been one for gardening myself, I love the smell of it. The scent of soil on a cold day as Duncan digs in new flowers; the grass mown by someone else as I lie on it; my mother patiently spending whole days in her beloved green space weeding and planning and pontificating alone under the sky and the apple trees. Especially at a time like this, the New Year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smelling Comme Des Garcons new Clash Series yesterday, Vetiver Radish, earthy as sore white root vegetables wrenched up from the earth to the light of day – all ozone and pure vetiver  – the spade searing through cold humus – I was taken into such a space;  a refreshing cologne I would wear either in winter to accentuate the freshness in the air and the space I want around me or to aerate a dry vetiver note come summer. While the Chlorophyll Gardenia in the series struck me as a little too familiarly tropic tiare, Celluloid Galbanum is also a pleasing green floral I would be happy to become a new trend on the light-stepping Tokyoite; a snappily green opening, clean and new, enveloping a floral that reminds me a little of the kind of muguet magnolia perfumes you sometimes come across in gift stores in Sarasota; even a hint of Vivian Westwood’s Boudoir meets Libertine, the florals kept at bay from blooming too heavily by the green notes, while the almost powdered undertones hint at something deliberately trapped; unexpressed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have noticed that there seems to be a new tendency right now for perfumeries here to include some much more affordable ranges in their arsenals, or at least to have smaller sizes so as not to break the bank. Nose Shop Shinjuku and Ginza realises that not everyone will fork out for an Unum or an Orchestre De Parfum: to keep the flow of casual shoppers happy you also need to have realistic pricing, so there are several lines that fit into this category such as the Kerzon line which has quite an appealing set of fragrances in its range. Elemi, not usually a headnote featured prominently in many perfumes, is a green, terpentinic resinoid that is used in traditional Catholic incense. Bright, herbaceous, it is less heavy than myrrh and is a counterpoint to balsams such as benzoin. ‘It is impossible to do without this mineral freshness, as sharp as flint…’ says the company’s website, and both D and I enjoyed it on him yesterday; light, subdued, a halo of velvet green clarified frankincense.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Japanese perfumer Miya Shinma’s line of fragrances is stocked at Isetan and most of them are quite distinctive and original. Feuillage Verte startled yesterday in its niche-contoured context with a very old school, civet-like undertone that thrust me immediately into visions of going outside into a fresh green world of Henri Rousseau and thinking, what animal has done its business here, under what bush, and where? This is not as displeasing as it might sound, as I realized after a while that the perfume, green with bamboo, young leaves, citruses, cardamom, and rosewood, also has an old school jasmine I remember from vintage First and Joy and the like; a carnal heart palpitating, invisibly, from somewhere in the burgeoning undergrowth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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‘MINDSCENT’ : : THE GUERLAIN PARADE

 

 

 

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Yesterday upstairs on the men’s floors at Isetan Shinjuku was a scramble of male fashionables rummaging through lithe haute mode, a fascinating sight to behold as futuristically garmented assistants clad in hot fashion (and cold attitude) looked on blankly as the equally well put-together, handsome and moneyed men of Tokyo took advantage of the January bargain sales; discounts on Balenciaga, Yohji Yamamoto, Saint Laurent et al, all piled up in quickly discarded decisions or else bagged up and contentedly paraded out in swinging retail bliss from the overheated black interiors through the automatic doors and out to the chilly city air.

 

 

 

 

Leaving Duncan to scout out a choice item  ( I myself was very quickly overcome with claustrophobia ) I instead made my way down to the Perfume Halls downstairs to have a quick look at what was what, immediately finding myself drawn towards the new Guerlain Concession, wherein virtually all of the house’s perfumes have been put in identical bottles and given numbers in bingo or assembly line fashion; a factory line up of identically packaged scents, but with complicatedly different prices I personally find a little discombobulating: a lesser Guerlain Aqua Allegoria such as Limon Verde, for example, will be placed next to a classic such as Vetiver, and you make your selection based on your instinctive reaction to the smell, helped by the new Mindscent system, as explained below from the LVMH website:

 

 

 

 

 

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Always seeking exciting innovations, Guerlain has developed Mindscent, a fragrance finder powered by emotion sensors. Thanks to cutting-edge technologies – neuronal headset and visual interfaces – customers in Guerlain boutiques are invited to discover a unique experience to find out which of the Maison’s 110 fragrances is their favorite, the perfume that brings them the most positive emotional reaction and best matches their personality. 

 

After inventing Olfaplay, a digital radio app and website for people who are passionate about perfume, Guerlain continues to tap into the latest digital technologies with Mindscent, a new perfume experience proposed at the Maison’s boutiques. Created by Guerlain’s Digital Innovation team and fragrance experts, this groundbreaking experience is based on an innovative concept developed by researchers from Nantes University called “Keurokiff” that is able to detect feelings directly from the brain.

 

 

 

 

Visitors to Guerlain boutiques simply ask a sales associate to fit them with a neuronal headset and are then invited to blind test four distinct fragrance families – fresh, floral, oriental and woody – before answering a few questions while looking at aspirational images. The neuronal sensor analyzes the customer’s feelings to guide them. After testing several recommendations from among the 110 Guerlain fragrances available in the boutiques, their perfect perfume match is displayed on the screen in just a few seconds.

The Mindscent app was officially unveiled at Guerlain’s emblematic 68 Champs-Elysées store on October 11. It will initially be available at the Guerlain Place Vendôme and rue des Francs-Bourgeois boutiques in Paris before being rolled out internationally, supported by the “My Emotion, My Fragrance” campaign.

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(Me again):
I was too hot and consumer-bothered on this occasion to try out this new system in such hectic surroundings  – as I have written before, Isetan must have the highest ratio of staff to consumer in the world; the makeup counters are insane in particular; there is no space to move; it is a milling of gently pushing luxe that nevertheless has a certain pull as it is the centre of all such things in Tokyo………….yet to truly test out my brain waves as a newbie I would need more elegant silence and space. It might be interesting to see my emotions displayed in gigabytes instantaneously on a touch screen, though, and to know what images I may aspire to (and D and I have a thing about ‘aspirational living’ but I won’t go in to that right now).
The truth is I know virtually all of the perfumes already, of course, so yesterday it was just a question of sniffing from one to the other in order to check out the quality, refamiliarizing myself with them all (so strange though to have an extrait of Mon Precieux Nectar, say, which I rather fancied with his almondy crisp warmth, placed in a pea in the pod bottle next to it of something like Mandarine Basilic and then Tonka Imperiale, all the ranges declassified and reclassified into One. There is an unsettling clone/robot/factorized utilitarianism to it all, a, homogenisation of the line that while useful for the person unaccustomed to the glory of Guerlain, deprives them of the sheer beauty of each perfume’s original presentation and incarnation. Where they stand alone. Though I love the bee bottle itself and have several, such as Parure and Chant D’Aromes in that format (the chunkiness in the hand, the lovely apian glass insects giving you a heft of pleasure in its tactility before you get to the spray within), to have all of the line reduced to this presentation feels almost like the end of an era. I want Chamade to be in its heart shaped bottle, Jardins De Bagatelle to be in its own, awkwardly 80’s angular flacon, Insolence to be in its own violetty little twisty; all of them individualistic, distinct.
What are your own thoughts on the matter?

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Filed under Flowers

THE OTHER

 

 

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I find myself this morning, after over two weeks of ‘hibernation’ doused in rich perfume, waking up. It is a bright, cold, sunny morning, and we might head into the big city this afternoon to get some needed things now that the work term approaches and we need to slough off this sleepy languor (it is strange up here without neon; our neighbourhood is quite dark at night, which I love; in many ways cut off…..if you stay here long enough being back in the unstoppable electric vein of the metropolis comes as a jarring shock). Perhaps I will peruse some of the new fragrances in Isetan or Nose Shop.

 

 

 

As I briefly wrote the other night as the decade ended (although I thought the pictures told the story better), we went to Engakuji Shrine, a few minutes down the hill by bike for hatsumode, the traditional ceremony of good luck that a large percentage of Japanese people participate in every year. The monks made no differentiation between the few foreigners present and the others; all were welcome. It felt sanctified, serene. Genuine. You felt the ancient tradition and precinct surroundings in your cells. Part of something.

 

 

An hour before this we had been expecting to go to what we thought was the only place open near the station, Wabisuke, an atmospheric dive bar where well to do locals sip whisky and smoke, and they play jazz but also unexpected music too, and where the somewhat sullen proprietor has somewhat gotten used to the presence of non-Japanese over the years with our infrequent drop-ins; there is always a ripple of cognisance whenever a non-Japanese person enters a place –  as there is anywhere here – but it is muted.

 

 

It was closed. But it was too cold for us to stand outside at the temple waiting for midnight, no matter how beautiful and diamond cut the constellations above in the indigo black sky. We wanted a drink. So in vain, we thought, we cycled along a bit aimlessly thinking we would just kill some time before returning to Engakuji but then came across a place that was open – you could tell it was one of those really ‘local’ local places where the mama-san hosts regulars who practically live there; no airs and graces; no attempts at beautification; almost like someone’s living room, a place for salarymen to crash after work to avoid their grateful wives; or for the single to work up a bar tally in order to escape from their daily loneliness; or else just a gathering of people come together to watch the Kohaku yearly music show which is a staple of O-Shogatsu, unchanging New Year celebrations.

 

 

This tale has no dramatic denouement in case you were expecting one from my build up. But the fifty minutes or so we spent in there – gingerly opening the door, as I rolled my eyes in anticipation of the kerfuffle and psychological mayhem our entrance as Europeans would cause; so predictable, so tedious, if somewhat amusing – are quite emblematic of many of the fundaments of the heart and soul of this country we live in, the profound lack of internationalism despite the fact that Tokyo is to be hosting the Olympic Games in 2020: an absolute segregation, at the marrow level, of the Us, and The Other.

 

 

I have to clench myself in these situations. I become defensive inwardly, which probably exacerbates the tensions in advance: a vicious circle. D is always more sweet and personable and likeable: he always says I put up barriers. But what I would like, ideally, is just to be able to walk into a place and be welcomed just like any other customer – I would expect some curiosity perhaps, but not the fucked up Muppet Show that was the result instead on New Year’s Eve (loose translations coming up….)’ What?!’ ‘WOW!’ (said in English); enforced high fives (YEAHHHH!) – some customers openly panicking about not being able to speak English to us; what were they going to do?!) I felt like Ringo Starr coming to Japan for the first time and being surrounded by Beatlemaniac fans screaming and reaching out….all we wanted was to sit down, and yes, it was all super ‘friendly’ in a hysterical sort of way (about 10 middle aged people sat around the bar acting as though they had a mental age of about 6), reduced to gestures and a bastardised mix of Japanese and English (though one more laconic person on the end said ‘they speak Japanese, you don’t need to keep talking to them like that…)

 

 

As I say, at least it is ‘welcoming’, and not overtly aggressive  – you are not being thrown out or attacked, as you might be in other countries as the whole world gets steadily more xenophobic- no; this is an entirely different and more complicated kettle of fish that I don’t have the time to go into right now in detail; to do with wanting to be kind and welcoming but panicking about not speaking the language (even though we are in Japan), but not being able to at all because the entire English education system is structured in order to make students understand labyrinthine reading passages that a large percentage of British or American high school students would not be able to answer (honestly), and yet not be able to string a sentence together or answer a question like ‘Where do you live?’ because they don’t have any speaking practice but don’t let me go there because there is a whole book in this and I am already writing it : I know that I am right about this point though as I am bang in the middle of the education system here but THIS; this childish stupidity, is the direct result of it.

 

 

Essentially, what it boils down to, even though they calmed down after a bit and we drank some beers and I gave my opinions about some of the pop stars on the TV screen (“What?! You know Sheena Ringo? You recognise Seiko Matusda and Arashi?!!!!!!!” Can your green Caucasian eyes distinguish between Japanese differing faces?!!!!! (They didn’t say that last part but that was the inference………of course they knew all the UK pop bands and the drunken man sitting closest to us, very sweet actually and well meaning, was a drummer in a rock band that covered the Beatles and other songs, but they also presumed that we would know nothing about the artists in this country, even though we  live here…)

 

 

 

But anyway. I can feel myself getting roiled up just thinking about it: thank god, as the minutes passed by on the clock on the wall, we knew we had a good excuse to get out of there and amusing though it was in a way – the energy was ultimately positive and interested and the woman who ran the place was quite friendly – the sense of being ‘Othered’ to the point of cartoon dehumanisation was so strong that it was a great relief indeed to be away from such laughably low levels of sophistication and be plunged into the profound austerity of the temple grounds and the chanting monks who were seemingly – but who knows – beyond such risible nonsense.

 

 

 

 

 

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The next day we saw in the newspaper that Carlos Ghosn, the disgraced former executive of Nissan who had been arrested on charges of embezzlement and been detained for long periods of time and was currently under house arrest before his trial, had escaped in a musical instrument case after a Christmas concert at his residence and somehow been smuggled to Istanbul and then to Beirut, where he triumphantly told the world that he would not be held hostage by the intrinsically unfair Japanese justice system with its notorious 99% conviction rate that has been condemned by human rights groups worldwide, and though from the very first time I saw his face I instinctively knew I didn’t like him and suspect that he probably might be guilty as charged, I also don’t think for a moment that he is the only person high up in the Japanese establishment guilty of corruption; in fact such scandals appear with yawn worthy frequency (I find ‘scandals’ like that extraordinarily dull; I can’t even follow the Trump Ukraine details; ultimately I just don’t give a shit); for me it is a given that power corrupts and that people abuse it: call me cynical, but that is just how it is.

 

 

 

What is different though is that I felt sure that Ghosn was being made a scapegoat. A real whipping boy. The levels of vitriol and intense fascination with his case – misusing his funds – reek of racism to me; of nationalistic outrage focused on one person. I don’t believe for one second that if this had been a Japanese man he would have received the bilious fury that Ghosn has. And I don’t believe that he would have had a fair trial, and so I, like many other people, were secretly – no openly – delighted that he had the audacity to plan an escape that would seem farfetched in a film script and get away with it and I will tell you why.

 

 

 

 

What I am about to tell you is a true story. I will corroborate with the friend in question when I come to write about it in more detail as I want every fact to be precise before I do so, but three years ago, when we were filming Girl Goned, one day our German cameraman didn’t turn up to the location for the shoot; unfathomable, as he is an extremely reliable and trustworthy person who would never do that. Working for Reuters, he is a great photographer who has travelled the world in all kinds of dangerous places for reportage with a rebellious spirit and sense of humour now living and working in Beijing, and he had done some really good work with certain scenes that we were very pleased with. But on the day in question he wasn’t there. We couldn’t contact him, and we didn’t hear from him for a couple of weeks. We were very worried.

 

 

 

About thirteen days later, while on the train back from Tokyo, D suddenly got an email. ‘Sorry guys, but I have been in jail’. Astounded,we soon met up with him a few days later once he had begun to recover and listened incredulously as he told us the tale of being thrown in prison for two weeks in heinous conditions with unrelenting fluorescent light together with yakuza gangsters, unable to take a shower (which in itself, when he finally was put in front of some kind of legal panel, was so debasing to his sense of self that he could hardly speak – it was in summer time here which is extremely hot); fighting to get his ‘case heard’ and hiring a lawyer used up all of his savings, and shortly after this he decided to leave the country – unsurprisingly.

 

 

 

So what had he done? NOTHING. Coming home after work one night, ladened down with camera equipment as all such people are, dressed in black, coming down the street where he lived and having a cigarette on the street, he had been approached by a drunk old man who, when seeing his bulky back pack and all his equipment, assumed – ridiculously – that he was a ‘terrorist’ and accused him as such. T is a very world-savvy person with a great sense of humour so didn’t pay this idiot much attention but he kept being harangued by him, trying to get away until they had some kind of altercation during which the bigot called the police and my friend was subjugated to a claustrophobic hell hole that any lesser person would find traumatic and which could affect their whole life terribly.

 

 

 

T was able to laugh it off: it will make great anecdotes, and a good chapter in my book, as an example of how little most foreigners here trust the justice system. In his case, because there was literally no foundation for the charges, although the police here routinely confine people for up to 26 days I think it is (without allowing you to call anyone – you just disappear) and under lightbulb interrogation force a confession out of you – there are many famous cases like this here, even those on death row – T was released, but he was one of  the very lucky 1%. I was enraged to hear his story, though, so you will see why, even if Ghosn was involved in some financial wrongdoing, I would be quite delighted for him escaping in a cello case and sticking his middle finger up to a red-faced country that accuses him of being ‘cowardly’ (what? you are joking! this is a Steve Mcqueen like escape that is quite brilliant, I am sorry – he would not have been entitled to a fair trial and would have been convicted no matter what so of course he had to jump bail and be received like a hero by the people of Lebanon): in many ways he is the ultimate symbol of Othering right now and I am glad that he has had a way to highlight that to the world.

 

 

 

The purpose of this post, which I just had to get out of my system, is not to vilify Japan. Whichever country you are living in reading this, look at your own institutionalised racism, your own prison populations and unfairnesses. This is a problem at the basic human level: we are terrified of people different from ourselves. At the same time, though, while Japan may be famous for and touting its beloved omotenashi, or selfless kindness and impeccable service, I just hope that, when the hordes of foreign visitors that will be invading the shores this coming July and August are hosted in restaurants, hotels, eateries, inns, that they are not treated as though they were aliens from outer space – unfathomable, bizarre – as we were the other night at the bar near the station: but just like regular, normal, human beings.

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Japan, MUSINGS

2 0 2 0

 

 

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A very happy, fulfilling, healthy, stimulating and beautiful new year to everyone. Last night we went to our local temple, Engakuji, to a precinct we had never been to before, and where we rang the sacred bell. It felt purifying.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A wonderful 2020 to all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Antidotes to the banality of modern times, JAPAN PHOTOGRAPHY

the junkiest junk shop

 

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(vintage Guerlain Mitsouko cologne for ¥300-  about two pounds – to which I have added three drops of highest quality bergamot oil ( perfect )  – temporarily placed on a bookshelf )

 

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We cycled along the coast yesterday afternoon to one of D’s favourite junk/ recycle/ jumbledens in Zushi called Kurukuru, which translates both as round and round or over and over or bat crazy: and in fact this place is in such a state of shambolic disarray it is almost disgusting; hilarious; despite all the furniture, dolls, records, bric a brac, curious paraphernalia and used detritus that has an undeniable appeal, at times as you try to navigate this place it looks like the most slovenly place on earth ; batteries rotting in acid, a teddy bear left to rot in leaves

 

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The photos don’t capture the chaos here ( D took them and couldn’t help aestheticizing everything : I wanted to show you the unbelievable MESS); a place you can rummage to your heart’s content if you like such things ( the only downside for me being they play The Beatles on loop which is never for me but you can’t have everything ).

 

 

 

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a broken, stringless shamisen

 

 

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We needed a new clock and got one, along with an antique wooden Japanese case filled with coral I liked; an armadillo (sprayed gold the moment we got home); some Pet Shop Boys 12”s; some almost indescribable items that D will use for a performance in January, and, naturally, some perfumes.

 

 

 

The woman there I have never seen before made things more expensive than they would be usually ( all prices are made on spec ); I could have had some No 19 eaux de toilette but decided they were past their best ); I was excited to see a big of Caleche parfum but there was no perfume inside (typically); instead for ¥200 I got a beautiful extrait of something I don’t know the identity of, but it smells like honey covered coral roses grown in a bottle of Malibu; a sexy cousin of Tresor or Poison in the Kenzo Kashaya mode; a glamorous perfume for a harem. I left the L’Air Du Temps but wondered if I should have got the Madame Rochas soap. Gabrielle, I didn’t get the Molyneux Vivre spray parfum but I will if you want ( any excuse to go back there) – I find the Aladdin’s cave aspect of Kurukuru very relaxing; the oddity of it – the humanity.

 

 

 

 

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