This old friend has been my favourite perfume for a while.
I came across it in Seoul in the 1990s. I was spending my holiday studying Korean at Seoul University at the time. A class friend was chatting to us in the break and I noticed a fresh sweetness from her.
She told me it was Issey Miyake’s new perfume when I asked her about it. It was so lovely. The perfume must have been out a few years. The internet tells me it was launched in 1992, and I think I went to study Korean when I was at University about three or four years after that.
It was a cold and difficult time. Seoul is freezing over winter. Literally. The temperature drops to minus 10 degrees celsius at times.
That didn’t bother me. It was bracing and refreshing. Sometimes it would snow. It was wonderful to see the teeming city covered in a blanket of white. To make footprints in pristine snow and hear the crunch beneath your feet before it turned to brown ice and sludge a day later.
There were people from all over the globe in our class. From Belgium, America, Kazakhstan, France, China and Australia. Many of us from warmer climates found snow beautiful.
“It may look beautiful but we locals call it hell,” our teacher replied. “The traffic gets congested and the ice on the roads make it dangerous. It may be beautiful for a day, but the novelty soon wears off.”
I took the subway to get to school, so I didn’t mind too much.
What was difficult was adjusting to the social norms of the place. I had grown up with freedom in Australia. Women were judged by different measures. In Seoul I had to play the part of a dutiful niece and granddaugther so I wouldn’t bring shame to my parents.
Much has changed since the 1990s. I could sense it when I visited Korea many years later. But back then, I still had to act in a certain way to be deemed well-brought up. My decisions and actions were not my own. And I longed for the freedom I took for granted back in Australia.
It was a long three months. I missed Hobart terribly by the end of it. Then one day, my Sydney friend walks into class and sits next to me smelling of springtime and freedom.
Something about the scent took me back home. To that blast of clean fresh island air as I step off the plane. To that warm springtime sun when our little garden at home was blooming with colour.
I saved up my money and bought a bottle after my stint in Seoul was over. There have been a few bottles since then but this scent has been with me for about a quarter of a century now.
It’s my little reminder of home when I am far from it.