The Twilit World of Falling Wisteria – Maiko



– Part Two of Aroma M Geisha Perfume Oils

In this part of the Gion district of Kyoto, the atmosphere is different. Here you will find all that is traditionally associated with ‘geisha’ in the Western mind, the elaborate hair with the cascades of ‘falling wisteria’, the graceful white-painted face with the alluring neck left semi-bare, and the elaborate folds of obi that designate not the geisha, but the maiko, the geisha-in-training who are learning all the geisha art. Artlessness, they well know, must be learned by first studying artifice, so in these tea houses, you will find a younger vibe, more in tune with twilight than night.

In this twilit world the maiko show their skill and are eager to entertain and to please. Here, the perfumes are lighter and airier, but no less complex and certainly no less surprising than their sisters among the geiko.

Follow me down this Kyoto street and into this tea house, and meet the maiko of the twilit world, a world where even the wisteria sparkling in its ebony hair knows to dance a singular tune, and the rustle of a heavy silk kimono contains a music like no other, artless in all its studied, careful art.

Geisha Green

Absinthe, the famous La Fée Verte, has been used in several modern perfumes, but this is no regular wormwood scent. It starts with a sweet, deep viridian kick to the senses, sharp with mandarin and blackcurrant yet none of blackcurrant’s sometimes animal vibe, and dries down in the course of several hours into another, equally haunting green fairy, the kind that won’t quite let you go, not that you mind. Apparently, the aroma of absinthe is known for not just being a famed aphrodisiac (I’ll attest to that one!) but a creativity enhancer, and I can see why. I put this on, and find myself daydreaming the story arcs of my next two novels…

Notes: Absinthe, blackcurrant, mandarin, violet, amber and tonka bean.

Geisha Blue

I had a day last week that qualified as a Day To Forget. The kind where nothing works out, no one understands you and might as well be speaking in ancient Sumerian for all you understand them, the kind where the kid won’t cooperate no matter what he’s bribed with and the day’s miseries drag unending on…and on. When peace and quiet finally arrived, I was so frazzled and exhausted, I didn’t know what to do. I applied this blue-green wonder on the strength of Lucy of Indie Perfumes’ beautiful review, and for the first time in over twenty-four hours, my shoulders sank down to their proper place, I could breathe, think and…relax. So much, I went to bed and slept like a happy baby, even with two cats on top of me. Valerian may work for you, but Geisha Blue is my new favorite chill pill. Some days, you need all the aromatic help you can get, and relief gets no better than this.

Notes: Blue chamomile, green tea, leafy greens.

Geisha Pink

The sweet fruity perfume is a genre much maligned among perfumistas, mainly for being so ubiquitous. In the case of Geisha Pink, that’s a shame, because Pink is a several miles above anything sold to garrulous mall-rat teenagers at Sephora. It is indeed sweet, fruity with plum and orange, and with a long, soft, vanilla cashmere-ish drydown that lasts, but not so long you get bored with it. I may feel too old and jaded for Pink’s girlie vibe, but I happen to know the perfect teenager, who will now receive a perfect – and perfectly unusual – Christmas present. She’ll be the envy of all her Cosplaying friends with Geisha Pink!

Notes: Sugared plum, orange, vanilla.

Geisha Blanche

White in many cultures symbolizes innocence and purity, and the white collars of a geisha’s inner kimono accentuate the erotic appeal of the neck. Geisha Blanche is a stunning, summery, airy floral scent with a special touch of lychee which elevates those white blooms and makes them dance above your skin. Dance they certainly do – this is the happiest, coolest summer day in a vial, and even if you’re not a fan of white florals, that lychee might make you reconsider. It’s nothing like the insipid floral blends you see and smell everywhere yet perfect as it is – and as perfectly feminine as you can make it! Wear it for a June wedding, even if you’re the bride!

Notes: White flowers, lychee.

There’s very much to love and admire in all the Aroma M Geisha Perfume Oils – their truly unique hybrid West-meets-East approach to perfume construction where they evolve in surprising and delightful ways, the underlying uncompromising aesthetic idea behind them, and the sheer range of scents in their stunning Yuzen paper packaging. Whether you’re a diehard Oriental fan (Geisha Noir & Rouge), you’re a Green fiend (Violet, Blue and Green) or you like your florals light, airy and a touch eccentric (Geisha Blanche & Pink), there will be a Geisha for you. I’ve read reviews that said something about ‘plastic doll head accord’, but I don’t get that at all.

What struck me most, apart from their evident beauty and surprising longevity, is their extraordinary ability to evoke or promote a mood. All the perfumes I love with a fury evoke certain moods and ambiences, aspects of persona, situation or moment I wish to enhance or tone down, yet all the Geisha line went straight for the jugular and created moods I wasn’t even aware I wanted. Noir…a night to remember, Rouge…a spicy, hot, invigorating kick to my writer’s block, Violet, a singing Mallarmé poem in a perfume, Green…la Fée Verte, which makes you dream visions and think possibilities, Blue, a calming, relaxing, centering deep, deep breath of a perfume that was the perfect ending antidote to an awful day…Blanche and Pink, floral, flirty and girlie, the perfect present for a floral, flirty, young girl I know who loves all things Japanese.

As for me, I know I’m in deep, deep trouble when I look at my scribbled wish list in my perfume notebook – and find six names!

For a magic carpet ride into another world I never knew before, and an experience I know I’ve never had before, I thank Maria McElroy. And Lucy, who introduced us!

So I come across another waka poet from another time and place, the lady Otomo of Sakanoue, and echo these words…

“How fine you are

So thinks my heart

In a rushing torrent

And though I

Dam it up

Soon, it is sure

To burst…”

The geisha, meanwhile, walk the streets of Kyoto’s Gion in the Floating World to this day, still weaving their enchantment for all to see in this compelling video.

Image: Wood-block print by Utamaro, c. 1820, ‘Geisha and Maiko’

Disclosure: Samples provided by Maria McElroy/Aroma M for review.

12 thoughts on “The Twilit World of Falling Wisteria – Maiko

  1. I loved those two posts about those interesting scents. I am slowly making my way through the Geisha perfumes as well, enjoying each and every one in their own way.
    The backstories you provide are fascinating, since Japan is a country and culture I know very little about. Thank you!

  2. Maria McElroy is a huge talent, and I cannot wait to see what she does next. I personally still can't get over Geisha Noire. The best part is, the weather here is cooling off, big time, and I'll actually be able to wear it! Time to get a bottle.

  3. Gorgeous writing, I so enjoy your enjoyment of these perfumes, which you transmit so precisely.
    Sadly last night I accidentally broke my flacon of Geisha Noire — must replace! I cleaned it up but a small plus is the scent is still permeating my place in a wonderful way, on this cold and rainy morning.

  4. B…I'm glad you're enjoying them, too – I thought you might like them, knowing a little about your tastes. I know a little (accent on 'little') about Japanese culture and history, and what I added by my research for these two reviews only deepens my intrigue. I can only hope I got it right!

  5. Lucy..thank you for making the introduction! Ah, it's so heartbreaking when perfume bottles break…but the good news is…the scent often ligners on and on and…on! Noire is…well. splendid! But it gives me such ideas…;)

  6. Geisha Green sounds wonderful, but not overly “green”, which might make me more inclined to try it (I'm stocked up on green at the moment!). Coming from you, who I think of as the queen of green, exactly how green is it? 🙂

  7. Another…I'd have to say that containing absinthe, it comes across as a 'spicy' green, if that makes any sense! Not a leafy green, not a citrusy green – although I can detect the mandarin quite well – but spicy! Slightly bitter, not overly sweet, and certainly not grassy-green. It's unusual, like all the Aroma M line, and there's really no way to describe it any better than to say…try it! You just might like it…;)

  8. Thank you! I think I do know what you mean by spicy green, and all I can say is: yes, please! 🙂 Added to the list.

  9. I have so much love for this line. Geisha Green is my favorite absinthe perfume and I also love Geisha Violet. Geisha Noire is scandalous 🙂 The line is diverse with emotion and very affordable.

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