For a country with such a sizeable penchant for shopping, the Japanese aversion to perfume is initially baffling. For instance, Tokyo Hands, the sixteen-storey department store specialising in absolutely everything, devotes more space to its model plane section than its fragrance section. They tend to prefer neutral smells and as such it’s not really their thing. Even so, when I visited Tokyo recently, I had a few great perfume experiences, which I’d absolutely recommend to break up the arduous onslaught of great shopping, eating and hot-spring bathing.
A friend put me on to a small perfumery called Satori – it’s not simple to find (even my taxi driver seemed surprised when we located it) but persist because it’s worth it. When I arrived at its tiny shop front I assumed I was in the wrong place. It feels like walking into someone’s lounge room and the only person inside was a man at a work-desk hand-crafting the most incredible bejewelled ring. I indicated that I was there for the perfume, he made a call and soon Satori, an elegant-lady-even-by-Japanese-standards arrived. We sat down in front of a selection of her perfumes and I started smelling in order to narrow it down to the one. I finally settled on the Nuage Rose, which is like a beautiful, uber, old-lady pink rose but her signature scent Satori and the Iris Homme were also definite contenders.
Satori then took me upstairs to her office to see her work-station and incredible rare vintage perfume collection. I don’t think the bonus tour is routine and I didn’t feel right taking photos of the cabinets full of rareties and hard-to finds but maybe if you ask nicely you’ll get your own glimpse.
Address: 1F 5-26-5 Sendagaya Shibuya-ku Tokyo 151-0051
You can buy Le Labo perfumes in most cities now but Tokyo is one of the few with a dedicated store. It’s in Shibuya and is a really beautiful place to spend a while. Once you decide which scent is for you from the testers, yours is hand-blended and mixed on an impressive electric shaking device by a white-coat clad chemist at the in-store lab and the bottle and box are customised with your name or message. I ultimately settled on the Bergamote 22, which is so fresh, crispy sweet and citrusy clean that I have worn it every day since – either on its own or layered with another perfume.
Address: 1-35-2 Ebisu Nishi Shibuya-ku Tokyo 150-2001