The cherry blossom trees in 2021 have reached peak bloom at the earliest time in 1,200 years according to historical records, already on the wane. This hasn’t stopped crowds in Tokyo – albeit masked – gathering to do ‘hanami’, or cherry blossom viewing, although reportedly (sensibly) in far fewer numbers than usual. Maybe next year. Nothing stops you from enjoying the trees from a distance, or in person, because they are everywhere with their faint gossamer pink scent and petals falling like snow.
Sakura is not usually successfully rendered in perfume. Neither in incense. But I couldn’t resist a small box of Kungyokudo’s Daigo Cherry Blossom incense the other day from the lovely boutique in a Yokohama department store. This is a highly esteemed Kyoto incense manufacturer that has been around for hundreds of years. D and I once visited the original shop in the ancient city and it is worth going there just for the exquisite austerity ; the incredible aromas that linger.
It is also interesting, though, seeing how artisanal houses adapt to modernity. The small concession we went to the other day is full of delightful incense trays and holders, hair oils, room fragrance, and design-wise is a perfect fusion of the classical and the contemporary. I was fascinated to be able to experience incense ingredients such as nard, camphor, and roasted seashells from the jar
-ingredients I recognized from classical incense compositions but which were interesting to isolate. There were many in the range I would like to buy and use – prices are very reasonable – on this occasion, though, the sakura seemed appealing. While in the box it has some more traditional Japanese sandalwood resonances, when lit there is an afterglow like Bulgari Rose Essentielie meets vintage Chamade – powdery and animalic. Incense was traditionally used as a perfume here to scent clothes, and with Daigo Cherry I can also imagine something similar, in a young woman’s urban boudoir.