Detective Note

No.78 – Twilight and an Oil Lamp



The cherry blossoms have fallen and scattered and the riverside before my eyes grows over in a mixture of shades of green. The smells of new green leaves and the scent of spring coming to an end rides on the breeze. It is a rare Sunday with no work or business trips, just fine weather. As I was watching the surface of the water along the Sumida River, I heard a little voice “Have you forgotten about your Detective Note?” So pitiful, I can`t even remember the last time I wrote a Detective Note…. So, I apologize and I have decided to write down a few simple thoughts.

The topic this time is the chemistry between twilight and an oil lamp. Before my trip to Vietnam last week, I took a few pictures in my rooftop garden. Just as I was lighting an oil lamp for the dinner table, across the river, the evening sky was a beautiful gradation in the full blue moment. At my house, we like to enjoy the start of the evening with drinks and appetizers outside, then come in for the main dish. I don`t think I even need to explain how great this slow, relaxing and rambling time before the main course feels. Alfresco dining with a slight breeze and the last light of the day is the best. Imagine the orange flame of an oil lamp against the backdrop of this clear blue evening sky.

Candles and wind are not a good combination, but a kerosene lamp with a glass globe provides the candle-like flickering, but with a steady wick. The amount of light is also adjustable on types with a dimmer, just like an incandescent lamp. At home, I make a point of using candles inside and an oil lamp in the rooftop garden, because dining by firelight is a very pleasant feeling.

The last snapshot is of Paul Marantz, a fellow lighting designer, and his wife, Jane, while visiting my home. On this visit to Japan, Paul was invited to present at the 100th year Anniversary celebration of The Illuminating Engineering Institute of Japan, IEIJ. Paul presented a lecture the following day titled, “Farewell to the Steering Wheel and the Light Bulb.” During this relaxing evening, while watching the Sumida River flow by, Paul sighed, “it doesn`t get much better than the flame of a lamp.” His words stuck in my head as we come to a crossroads where automated driving might replace regular cars and LEDs might make flames frugal. And who is asking for this kind of future?!?

It has been a while since my last note, and this one turned into a mini lecture. I`ll try a softer topic next time…

Kaoru Mende