Japanese by Choice

ikebanaIf there are ethnicities represented in the world of perfume, then the dominant one these days is probably Arabian, possibly Saudi, more probably the UAE, but either way situated on the Arabian Peninsula.  Possibly it has to do with the abandonment of so many natural materials that Western Europe via IFRA restrictions has espoused, although of course all Montales and Amouages sold in France have to comply with those restrictions.

But the style is one that I find intermittently rather heavy.  I appreciate the richness of the scents, and there is no mistaking their opulence, but what I really want is…well, something Japanese.

I’ve been living with a large sample of Guerlain’s Tokyo for well over a month now, and that is very pleasant and low key, a fine choice for those evenings when  Japanese or Chinese food is on the menu – as it often is – but my Japanese kick doesn’t end there. I’ve taken to Molton Brown’s Toko-Yuzu in a big way for the last year or so.  It’s just a shower gel, but is such a fresh juicy one, that it’s perfect for mornings when I don’t want to get out of bed- a recurring theme with me- unfortunately.  So I use the Yuzu and hey presto am on my feet, it even smells good for about twenty minutes after the shower and that is about as much as anyone can expect of a shower gel.

I’m also a fan of Fresh’s Sake bath.  This is great in place of a loofah, with some baking soda mixed in as an impromptu exfoliant, and although I’m not sure that I’d want to smell like sake per se, it’s fine for use in the shower, and leaves behind that pleasant Japanese scent, so discreet, it’s almost not there, hovering in the background like a Geisha at a business meeting.

This discretion is what these scents are all about, an unobtrusiveness that is very graceful and considerate of everyone else.  These are not big scents at all, but they have a unique presence and they’re uniquely soothing.  In contradistinction to the Arabian aesthetic which tends to go big before going home, they are quiet to the point of self effacement, but are still detectable, and  they get along singularly well with most things I choose to put on later in the day.

Emeraude is a very good partner for Tokyo, though who would have guessed that? Gardenia scents, and Hermes’ Elixir des Merveilles, go well with Tokyo too, and also with the Yuzu. They’re fine choices for the finicky workplace because they are so low key; it’s hard to smell them at a distance, but you can smell yourself, which is the only point of this exercise, a personal esthetic that defies overstatement.  Like Origami, or Ikebana, these scents are a ritual that you perform for yourself, and if the rest of the world enjoys it too, so much the better. But to begin with, this was always something very close to a secret.

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10 thoughts on “Japanese by Choice

  1. My tastes, as you might have guessed, have always leaned more to the… well, I was going to say Rococo, but that’s not quite right. Instead of the gilt and curlicues of, say, many Guerlains, I lean more toward, and I cringe as I write this, farmhouse Americana. Eyelet lace and ribbons and flowers flowers flowers.

    All this is to say, I don’t really like Ikebana. My eye finds the clean lines pleasing, but my heart’s all “Yeah, but you don’t wanna live there. Fine for others. Not for you, you’ll get restless.”

    • When we get down to the nitty gritty of decor (if there is such a thing) Clutter Inc is my decorator. My Hub collects books BIG TIME, and my daughter collects what the Hub calls “Chinese land fill”, the cat collects critters, and the house collects dust. So, I suspect that my yearning for clean lines is a reaction to towers of books and papers, and piles of stuffed animals every place, and whatever the cat drags in, plus the fact that can never seem to find enough time to clean all this. I maintain that all wives and mothers can assert Eminent Domain if they deem it necessary to the standards of the said house hold, or in cases of domestic emergency.

      BTW, I like eyelet too, and prints and such like. Who doesn’t enjoy a pastel wall and a well slip covered sofa? I’ll even sew miles of piping to obtain the look.

  2. I can’t speak to your shower gels or to Guerlain Tokyo, having never smelled them, but I do think Emeraude and Hermes Elixir des Merveilles are so pretty that I wouldn’t mind if you poured the sake wearing one of them!

    (Have only smelled the latter on another perfumista – the lovely Ines – and I had to lean in to smell it, but it was sooo nice.)

    • Wouldn’t it be nice just to pour the sake?
      Elixir des Merveilles is one of JC Ellena’s non-perfumista perfumes; that is, it sort of went under the radar, but I’m glad to hear that Ines is wearing it. EdM is so good in summer. Emeraude is just good. It has edged out my Mouchoir de Monsieur because, and strictly between you and me, they smell very similar except for a civet note that makes me think MdM is a boulevardier who has just exited a pissoir. But hey, that’s just me.

      • You are making me wonder about the common smells in Japan, and the actual perfumes worn there.
        I suppose Japanese sales figures for perfumes would tell part of the story, but then, what do the heavily used scented products there, e.g. laundry detergent, smell like? Sake is probably way too common a background smell to be appreciated in Japan, rather like beer here.

        • I understand that they, like the Germans, often prefer local brands. In their case, this probably means Kenzo, which is very popular here too Very light smells as a rule.

  3. I do think it an important aspect of refining one’s taste (that sounds pretentious, I know) that you decide how much and what sort of presence you want your perfume to have, and that you match the sillage of a perfume to your mood and the occasion. Dunno about you, but I shudder when I read comments on the boards from people who say they’ve worn Estee Lauder’s Beautiful or Dior’s Poison (or whatever) every since forever. Not that there is anything wrong with either, but darn it! Be kind to the people around you!

    I like a bit of complexity and I generally like my perfume to trail a little, just enough to intrigue people and maybe brighten someone’s day. Or at least not ruin it. I’m nervous of oud usually – I’m never sure how oud is projecting. My son likes it when I wear Montale’s Aoud Queen Roses, but he is attracted to dark, moody aesthetics. Not sure my office colleagues are!

    It can take a lot of wearings get that right with a new fragrance. Tomorrow I take Prada Candy out for a first public airing.

    Those irises in the image for this post are lovely!

    • Aoud Queen Roses, that is a beautiful rose, I like it and Rose de Nuit very much indeed, so I vote with your son for wearing that one.

      All preferences and habits aside, yes, you do, one does, have to consider where you are wearing things. Quadruple spritzes of Youth Dew on long flights can reduce me to puce by arrival time, if I’m sitting right next to the offender (I mean wearer). Same thing at the theater, and restaurants call for something that doesn’t square off with the food. But the County Fair, picnics, the water park, sightseeing, large museums etc, the sky’s the limit say I.

      Prada Candy is such a good vanilla, with that lovely benzoin dry down, so wish you luck with it! The Hub chose the irises btw, so will tell him you liked them.

      • Thanks, Candy did very well indeed. Sillage was more restrained than I expected too, so it is a good fit with my requirement that my perfume ‘trails a little’. Not as low key as your Japanese aesthetic, but nothing to scare the horses either. Goodness I like Candy. I wonder if it is Love or just a passing crush? I’m making do with carded samples so far, not ready to Commit, so to speak, to a Long Term Relationship, ie a FB.

        • Just to complicate matters they have a Candy L’Eau out now too that I smelled at Sniffa. So far like the original better, but worth a check, and glad you like Candy!

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