When I first came to Japan, I lived in a traditional Japanese home that had been built at the turn of the century. Now, to many of you this may conjure romantic images of sliding paper doors, manicured gardens, wooden-beams, old rice mats, and largely, you'd be correct. Before I continue, I should also tell you that this house was owned by a gay man. I figured "old house" plus "gay man" equals "fabulous"...and good lord was I ever wrong.
To learn more about my experiences in what a friend un-lovingly named "ghost house", you'll have to read my novel, but for now, it's enough to continue with the story of how I came to not entirely hate the aroma of kerosene.
Moving on. There was no central heating. Why have that installed when instead your home can smell as if someone's just pumped a tank of gas while you live in fear that at any minute you could explode? To be honest, I was often afraid to light incense or burn candles to mask the aroma, feeling that this open flame or spark could somehow tempt fate. But as it's an inexpensive alternative to electric heating, it's still popular. In fact there's even a kerosene truck that comes around the neighborhood a few times a day blasting an unbelievably annoying yet somehow surprisingly catchy little tune sung by 6 year-olds that sounds like something Mao might have had written expressly for a communist children's parade.
Moving on...yet again. I've found that not only does my disgraceful ex-landlord (disgraceful because I believe a vow for eternal home improvement is now part of the yearly contract we homosexuals sign when renewing our gay cards) use kerosene, but a majority of my friends, both Japanese and foreign, still use it as well. Kerosene accompanied my first Thanksgiving turkey dinner in Japan when a friend lovingly presented me with a frozen $50, 2-pound turkey 45 minutes before dinnertime; it accompanied my nightly Japanese lessons, drunken dinners of dried squid and octopus balls, and learning how to play Hana Fuda (a game I later learned that is popular with Japanese mafia...I know, still, it's nice to have skills); in short, it accompanied some of my favorite moments in Japan.
So, in short, the smell of kerosene on a chilled winter day is now a scented memory of not just the Ghost House, but dear Japan as well. Yes, the pungent fumes are a warm and fond association of my time spent in the Land of the Rising Sun.
What not entirely pleasant scent that reminds you of a special place do YOU love ?