Tokyu Hands is the go-to emporium for anyone in Japan in need of anything you can’t get outside of a traditional supermarket. All one’s craft needs are met; stage makeup and party wigs; toiletries galore; novelties of all descriptions; bags and satchels, camping equipment, notebooks, mugs and key rings – it’s the kind of place you either go into for something specific, or else just wander around aimlessly waiting to buy something you didn’t know you actually wanted until you see it. A good place to zone out for a few minutes between assignations, I sometimes have a look around the soaps and bath salts; incense, high end shampoos and conditioners – it’s an ideal place to treat yourself on pay day.
With its extensive dedicated male grooming section; all sorts of shaving gels and creams; hairslicks and pomades and creams and sprays of every description as well as a fragrance selection with all the Bulgaris, Ferraris, Jaguars, Alain Delon Samuraï flankers you could possibly ever wish for (with some perennial men’s favourites such as Eternity for Men and Givenchy π, which has enduring popularity here, especially in the lighter versions), the young(ish) man about town can stock up on his weekly necessities in one quick stop. However, my nose bores easily in such terrain; I know all those smells like the back of my hand, and want something new to give me a boost; a quick fix of fun, olfactory stimulation.
Having a quick stroll around the sixth floor in Yokohama the other day, I excitedly stopped in my tracks when I saw that the store now carries the entire range of intriguing domestic brand J-Scent, a series of very well made perfumes that, like Demeter, with their instantaneous recollections of every variety of smell under the sun, remind you vividly of every day smells and sensations; working, essentially, as momentary ‘wow it is just like it’ scent baubles, but unlike the iconoclastic American brand, actually work as wearable perfumes with more complexity and depth, often with a very pleasing softness and fullness that raises them above the level of mere gimmick.
I have written about several of this company’s perfume oils before (the only iteration I have come across until now), including Sumo Wrestler, a lovely powdered amber and the rapturousness of the rose/violet, spring kimono’d Hanamachi- but this was the first time I have been able to try the much fresher and vivid eaux de toilette, which I vastly prefer. Like a kid in a toy shop, taking off my mask for a while and indulging my senses properly, I went through each of them one by one and I have to say there is not a bad scent in the entire collection. Admittedly, some are rather odd: Honey And Lemon perhaps goes too far into that in bed with a cough sweet territory in the mucky area between balm and phlegm; Roasted Green Tea (look at the notes list!: peanut and coconut with roasted green tea (an extremely popular drink here in Japan); mint, vanilla, clover, iris and jasmine – we are definitely talking freaky gourmand weirdness, but somehow the perfume merits a few takes just to be sure and I am still not sure that I am ); Tsukishizuku (Mother Of Pearl) was an emotional upstart in the collection; a nacreous, jasmine wet floral area I found strangely disturbing (but want to try on my skin); Hanamizake a cherry blossom musk scent with a very clear and present top accord of fresh sake, an alcohol I have never personally taken to (and I certainly don’t want to smell as though I have spent the night sloshed and unconscious in a nihonshu factory); yet, it has been blended in a way that definitely perks up your nose tendrils and makes you want to go for a second spin.
Ramune, the blue, indigenous variant of lemonade, with a more sugary, creamier, more soda-like vibe, is captured very sweetly by J-Scent in its namesake perfume; on first impulse I thought this might be the one I might buy first, as it has a soothing, no-nerve quality to it that might be fun on a rainy day; a childlike regression; similarly, Yuzu is truly a fully realized yuzu perfume initially, with that ubiquitous winter fruit dominating smilingly along with mandarin and bergamot until, like Diptyque’s Oyedo, it morphs into a more thyme-musk finish. I quite liked it, and am still hesitating (the point being, that at ￥4000 ($40) or less for the edts, and much cheaper for the oils, you can experiment and not break the bank : I like, sometimes, to just have impulsive purchases with perfumes that I can just enjoy brainlessly, not considering them as some form of ‘investment’); along similar lines, Paper soap is a soft, and yes, soapy musk scent I was mildly drawn to as I am a soap-fiend in general and can happily smell of it all day; Rakugan, a nicely done sweet gourmand that might remind me too much of the mouth-clogging powder of certain types of exquisite, sugared confectionery here that, while very easy on the eye with its pastel shades and intricately cut patterns, make me just want to gulp chugfuls of water.
Sensibly, not all of the scents in the J-range are based on the cute and the culinary. Black Leather, a less tangy modern Cabochard, won the Best New Niche prize at the Beauty Global Awards in 2019 and merits further attention; Agarwood an undressed, very sober take on oud from a Japanese perspective that is quite nice; there are also some more unusual and inspired perfumes such as Hakka, which combines the wonderful native peppermint I was raving about earlier this year when a taxi driver suddenly sprayed some in the car as we were paying, with green leaves, lotus and lily with an cedar base; I would definitely try this one again, as I would also Shaft Of Light, an unusual fresh floral/ fruit chypre. All of these will be getting further inspection from me. Strangely, the scent in the range I was most geared to on first and second sniffings was Wood Flake: strange because, as you probably know, I am not at all fond of densely wood-based perfumes (unless they are vetiver or patchouli); if I am, they tend to be those that smell ‘red’ rather than ‘brown’; ie Féminité Du Bois; Serge Lutens’ Cèdre and the like. Though the sweet vanilla musk conclusion of Wood Flake might be a little too blousy for me as the day goes on – I won’t know until I try it on myself – I was immediately entranced by the hinoki/ cedar / rose/ vetiver main theme of the fragrance, which seems perfect for the coming days as Autumn begins to cede into Winter. At any rate, I will certainly be going back and buying myself a couple (or three or four) for my own collection; if any of these also sound appealing to you in terms of mind travel, I would recommend getting the discovery set of 1/5mls: whether you are blown away or simply amused, there might be new departures in note combinations and evocations you have never known ; delicate, original, and playful.