Am I Still A Redneck If…? (Tokyo by Kenzo Review)


Is it actually possible to be a redneck and a perfumisto at the same time?  Sometimes, I have my doubts.  I get this horrible, haunting feeling that I’ve sold out one side or the other.  It’s like the Ghost of Hunts Past comes and tells me that my NRA life membership has been revoked.  Or a spirit called Sephora comes floating down the hallway, her translucent clothing billowing in the otherworldly ether, telling me that I am no longer a Beauty Insider.

The horror!

Last night I had a strange, terrible dream.  Some nameless kid from junior high, who I had picked on, or in some other way offended, was now a murderous psychopath.  Never mind the fact that I was the 65-pound weakling who got picked on in junior high (until I doubled my size and weight in one year).  This kid, now an adult with serious “issues”, was after me.  He killed two innocent people who got in the way.  And now he was firing bullets into the overturned trailer of a wrecked semi truck, where I was hiding.  Suddenly, a barrage of gunfire from the inside of the trailer!  And in .45 caliber!  But I was missing the guy!  Oh, no – even worse than dying!  Living as a redneck who can’t shoot worth crap.  Lord, just take me now!

My dream changed.  Now, I had this weird string, eerily similar to 10-pound-test nylon monofilament, running through me.  In my mouth and out my….  Yeah.  Still weird, and anatomically inconsistent due to inter-system crossing.  Anyway, that dream morphed into another where I was fishing with an old buddy.  We were in two boats.  I wasn’t getting anything.  He got a nice fish, of a strange species that I knew in my dream, but not now.  Finally, I got one.  It kept getting bigger on the line.  I finally saw it.  It was a bullhead catfish.  It became a channel cat.  It became a big hairy channel cat, covered with algae that became fur that was a lot like the fur of the mythical totoro.  Then it became a coelacanth.  Then a furry coelacanth.  And that got bigger, and bigger, and bigger.  Finally, the damn thing became a giant, prehistoric rabbit, with four legs like a kangaroo’s hind legs, and big – big as a VW.  It hopped up on land.  It was still on my line.  It wasn’t afraid of us.  It was only about 20 feet away.  I had to act quickly.  I was struggling to get off a shot in time, with my… camera.


When I married my fancy Japanese wife, I didn’t think she would change me.  After all, the classic mistake of guys is thinking that women won’t change, and the classic mistake of women is thinking that guys will.  Sure, I had latent perfumisto written all over me, even as a teenager – smelling my old man’s Hai Karate, rejecting his Aqua Velva, and gravitating toward his Givenchy Gentleman.  I even carried a mini-bottle sampler of the latter with me on dates.  And I still have it, locked away in a little music box, next to ticket stubs from the movies and concerts I saw with my girlfriends in high school.

Sure, I could explain an emergent perfumisto.  But am I losing my inner redneck?  I mean, what type of redneck would drag his own boy into Sephora on a Saturday afternoon?  The same boy who would gladly split logs with the old man on many other Saturday afternoons.

Well, as proof that you can’t take the redneck out of the perfumisto, I offer…


HUH?, you rightly ask.

Allow me to explain.

As I began schooling my boy in the finer arts of cologne appreciation in Sephora, I noticed that he took an immediate liking to Polo.  But of course.  Polo is the high-class Brut of subsequent generations – the ubiquitous and unmistakable scent that appeals to the inner perfumisto of non-perfumistos, tempting them into the fold.  I knew better than to chide him for making the common choice.  Just like drug pushers who encourage their future clients with lesser fare, so I would let my son enjoy the frat-boy classic, in hopes that he would someday lust for the truly good, off-the-beaten-path, perfumisto stuff.

Having accomplished my priority mission, I moved on to other tasks.  Terre de Hermès deodorant?  They have it!  Done.  Hmmm.  Still some time on the clock.  Maybe another scent.  But what?  As I tried out a good two dozen men’s fragrances, I had sprayed a strip with Tokyo by Kenzo, in hopes of some comedy.  You see, on my last trip to Sephora, I had been thoroughly appalled by the nothingness of Tokyo.  The aroma of Tokyo is so faint, you can barely tell it’s there.  I wanted to show my son just how much of a joke this scent was.  So I sprayed a strip and….

Unfortunately for my prejudices, I’m a scientist.  And because of that, reproducing an experiment is always an option.  And this time, Tokyo smelled damn good.  Not only was I getting some nice, fresh, citrus notes on top, but also some nice wood down under.  There was even a base that smelled rather close to my new favorite, Terre de Hermès, but a little more musky and fresh at the same time.  That’s unexpected.  Now, all of a sudden, I was getting the box.  The box for Tokyo, shown here…


…had struck me earlier as a complete lie.  Bright lights in the city?  For an odorless scent?  C’mon.  I mean, look at those lights.  That, my friends, is the picture that everybody brings back from Japan, but doesn’t show to their friends unless they’re an anal retentive like me.  Basically, when you try to take a picture at night in Japan, and you don’t know crap about your camera, that’s what you get.  It’s oddly beautiful, and tells the truth about Japan, so it’s almost impossible, emotionally, to delete the picture.  And the packaging picture for Tokyo is really cool, because as you rotate the box, you see that the urban lights are actually superimposed on, and turn into, a picture of sunlight coming through a big tree.  And THAT seamless blending of contrasts is the real truth about Japan – in an infinite number of dimensions.  New/old.  Modern/traditional.  Artificial/natural.  Fresh/woody.  Strong/subtle.  Yeah.  This Kenzo dude was talkin’ to me.

But would I break down and buck the two-star rating that Tokyo got in Turin & Sanchez?  I mean, here is their review:

Tokyo (Kenzo) ** milky woody

The apologetically mild fragrance within is no match for the streaks of urban light blasting across the packaging.  Nicer on skin, in a kind of baby’s-breath way, than on paper or fabric, where the potent woody amber tramples everything.  TS

Well, I think this goes to show you that this new guide is not about to ruin the fragrance world, as some of us have feared.  I was getting this fragrance.  Yeah, I like ’em louder.  Even my new love, Terre de Hermès, is light enough that I needed the flankeroid deodorant to work around conflicting notes in my usual Old Spice pit stick.  But Tokyo is not about America.  It’s not about France.  It’s about Japan, and especially Tokyo.  And when you tell a story – and perfume is a story – you want to create a lie so true that the truth seems like a lie.  And, as far as I’m concerned, Tokyo tells the utterly true lie.  It’s understated, but it’s still there in some weird, powerful way, just like Japan.  It’s safe – all day and all night long – just like Tokyo.  It’s actually a fragrance that you could wear in Tokyo, on a crowded train.  In fact, everybody could wear it, at the same friggin’ time, on the same friggin’ train, and it would still smell great.  I can even imagine myself on the train, next to my wife, trying not to step on the little old lady I just gave my seat to, and trying not to bump into any of the people standing next to us.  And I look at the little old lady who smiles continuously, constantly, unchangingly, and faintly at me, and I’m trying to figure out what in the hell she’s thinking.  And she’s thinking, “This guy doesn’t smell so bad for a gaijin.  The ones in suits usually reek like the perfume counters at Mitsukoshi.  And the ones in shorts generally smell like rubbing alcohol.  Huh.  I wonder if it’s something from Kenzo.”

I think the milky woody description by T&S – which in my mind rightly belongs to the base – is spot-on.  Long after most of this scent is gone, there’s this bit of woody stuff left that does *not* seem like cedar to me.  The heart seems more cedary to me, and also milkier.  The top notes are this light, citrusy thing that feels like you just cracked open some fruit and it sprayed you in the face.  Really nice.  It feels like you just arrived at some fresh, open-air restaurant, and you just cracked open your little hot-weather, lime-scented finger-wipe (oshibori – the Lexus of the moist towelette world).  Only the citrus smell in Tokyo is better – way better – and harder to place (at least for me).

The heart is interesting, and somewhat mysterious to me.  It’s good.  It’s the thing that made me buy it.  It’s just as good on skin as it is on paper – thankfully.  But it’s mild.  My wife’s Bvlgari pour femme overpowers it at 6 feet away.  So my recommendation is that you spray this one directly on skin, without skimping, if you want it to stay with you.  This is not a scent that needs to be applied carefully.  But if you’re 30 seconds from a crowded elevator, and you need to put on something fast without causing anything but positive notice, then walking through this scent would work just fine.

Here’s what the website says:

An electric aromatic woody scent

  • Explosive Yellow:  essence of ginger, lemon, grapefruit
  • Luminous Green:  essence of shiso, maté absolute, green tea accord
  • Vibrant Red:  essence of pink pepper, bitter orange accord
  • Intense Darkness:  essence of guaiac wood, cedar, essence of clove and nutmeg

I can see most of it, except for the green tea, which I thought I found a couple of times, but was having to convince myself of it.  But what’s fascinating to me is how well blended the heart is.  Yes, I can see the virtues of all of these things in the heart, but none of them is jumping out at me, doing a solo.  It’s one, beautiful odor to me.  Isn’t that supposed to be a good thing?  I’ll tell you something else – this fragrance has the power to actually make me hungry.  I was a bit surprised by that part.  Most of them don’t do that.

After writing the preceding paragraph, I found this on the fragrance’s website:

The fragrance is a creation by Marie Salamagne from Firmenich, who loves to blend scents and colors. She was inspired by the luminous spices and the explosive, responsive green notes of tree sap found in the colorful Japanese atmosphere.

Thank you, Marie!  Please feel free to blend up some more good stuff.

So maybe it’s OK to like a fragrance that’s not in the T&S top ten.  But it’s still a pretty wimpy cologne.  Can I wear it and still be a redneck?

Absolutely!  Check out the bottle!


Are you seeing what I’m seeing?  If the wood in the background isn’t enough of a hint, consider what kind of wood they often use to make stuff with in Japan.  Especially stuff about as big as this bottle, diameter-wise.  You got it!  Bamboo!  See the joint?  just like real bamboo.  Pretty clever.

But that’s not really it.  The bamboo thing is a nice touch, but it’s not the real story.  You’ve gotta put the bottle in your hand, like a man.  Like a redneck at a gun show.  Then you won’t just see it.  You’ll feel it…


Oh, yeah!  I’m gettin’ it now!  The way I can actually rotate the thing in my hand, one-handed!  Suddenly, I’m at the gun show, trying out a katana at the WWII paraphernalia table.  Suddenly I’m checking out the brother-in-law’s righteous blade, as we talk about guns and his hopes of coming to America so we can powder a box of clay pigeons at the range.  Suddenly I’m Mugen, whipping out my sword in the tea-house, sayin’, “Hey, daikon-breath.  You can’t say that to Fuu.  Only we can say that to Fuu.”


Yeah.  Tokyo by Kenzo.  For your inner redneck.

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