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First encounter: I received news of the newest fragrance that was launched back in October 2016 from the perfumer’s website, and I recalled it was good news for me as I was heading to Japan in January earlier this year. However, I was in Kansai, another region of Japan, instead. That did not keep me from arranging a meeting with her and booked a separate return day flight from Osaka to Tokyo. I could not contain my excitement the night before that I did not sleep, worried that I might miss my flight.
Thankfully, I did not, and I successfully made my way to her atelier. It was nice seeing everyone well again before I tried smelling her newest creation.
Inspiration: Patrolling around Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden (新宿御苑) would be a daily occurrence for Satori-san as she would often be seen either observing flowers blooming up close or witnessing the different stages that are happening within the garden itself. “I would take note of the entire flow, from its shoot to watching them grow in its full glory, as each stage emits different smells coming not only from the flowers and grass but also the soil that they are grown from.”
Having interests in flowers while she was much younger and mastered the art of Kadō (華道) or the Japanese art of flower arrangement, it’s no surprise that she had an observant eye with all things flowers and Hana Hiraku, is no exception. Building around various types of Magnolia native to Japan, Satori-san incorporates several species of Magnolias such as Hoh-no-ki (scientific name Magnolia obovata thunb), Mokryeon (Magnolia Kobus) and Magnolia Heptapeta into this unisex fragrance, her 19th scent so far.
Hoh-no-ki, in particular, is a 20-meter tall deciduous tree that has the ability to withstand the harshness of winter. This is because it harnesses the Chikara (力/power) from the ground, enabling it to live more than a century. “Grass flowers are cute and beautiful, but in a way, [they’re] not strong,” explained Satori-san. As the tree emanates this overflowing life force energy, she uses this interpretation by expressing such kind of blossoming vigour through this fragrance.
When I probed further how she harmonised the usage of this tree into Hana Hiraku, she indicated that the wood is often used in crafting wooden slippers used by both Japanese men and women when wearing kimonos. As for its leaves, she further mentioned that in some parts of Japan, some Japanese still utilises them as plates and a delectable dish called Hoh-ba-miso1. That eventually gave her the idea of using miso in Hana Hiraku.
Immediately, I felt intrigued and amazed before commended Satori-san for her bold move to use this never-been-used (including soy sauce) accords in perfumery. She then reasoned, “I want to be the first one to use such kind of flavour in a fragrance. I combine both of them to make the sweet perfume with more balance by giving a salty note.”
While the Japanese and I are familiar with miso (I’m obsessed with it actually), Satori-san indicated that some Europeans or people abroad are unfamiliar to them. “By using them, these kinds of fermented ingredients is getting popular globally, and I want to demonstrate such kind of attitude through this fragrance.” This somewhat echoes her mantra on creating one-of-a-kind perfumes that can be described as “Real Oriental”.
1Hoh-ba-miso, in particular, is a traditional dish incorporating miso, in which the aroma of the Hoh-no-ki leaves will be infused into it upon heating up.
Bottle: Just like the rest of Satori-san’s creations, Hana Hiraku comes in a simple rectangular bottle which pairs with a thin, gold neck cap. As part of the premium white collection, it comes in a frosted design. Signing off her fragrance, Satori placed her characteristic Kikko-mon(亀甲紋), a hexagonal-shaped logo, which understatedly adds luck to its wearer.
Satori-san houses all of her scented creations in an unembellished black box complemented with Inro-gata (印籠型) – a thin gold line, adding a tinge of elegance as a final touch.
Type: Dry, Oriental
Fragrance Concentration: Eau de Parfum
Top – Creamy melon, bergamot, galbanum essence
Heart – Magnolia essence, iris butter, jasmine absolute, tuberose absolute, rose essence, ylang-ylang oil, chamomile (blue) essence
Base – Miso-an (miso), Kogashi-shyoyu (soy sauce), beeswax, sandalwood, cedarwood
Occasion: Day, casual, office, weekends, winter, spring, fall
Duration: I found out that by just spritzing Hana Hiraku on my pulse points gave me a few decent hours (4 hours, in fact) before fading away. As for its sillage, it lies in the close to the average range. This speaks of Satori-san’s formulation to suit her predominantly Japanese clientele, where overly strong scents are usually shunned away in favour to more subtle, gentle smells.
Justifying her craft, she explained, “[In general], Japanese are very conscious about the smell. So, for example, my creations are in a way more sophisticated [that] is not too loud, more in a delicate manner that is created.”
Verdict: From the top, Hana Hiraku unveils its magic with a delicious blend of melon. The prominent creaminess of melon is further complemented with the infusion of bergamot, providing a hint of citrus freshness to the top ensemble. That initial whiff somewhat reminds me of having a chilling melon gelato on a hot, summery day here in Singapore. Somehow, I can not detect the presence of the bitter green note of galbanum as perhaps, my skin might have suppressed the accord.
As the fragrance commences to develop its middle layers, waves of white floral accords coming from magnolias and jasmine start to envelop me. I recall in my previous conversations with Satori-san, she mentions in using a lot of jasmine absolutes in Hana Hiraku. The creaminess of tuberose further accentuates the melon accord that still lingers on my skin and by combining with a tinge infusion of chamomile, it gradually adds a layer of subtle sweetness in the heart note.
The base notes, however, comes off as a surprise as the floral heart layer paves the way to something that’s more savoury. The key word here is subtlety as to how Satori-san envisions her perfume to be, “The flavour (of miso and shoyu) is not so noticeable in this fragrance, just a hint found in the base note.” To keep it more masculine, cedar and sandalwood are introduce here as well, reinforcing the “dryness” when applied on my skin up to this stage.
Initially, I was afraid that I was not able to pull off this scent as it has various accords that are borderline feminine. But the saving grace is the two fermented items, which does give a right balance of virility to the delicateness of the perfume. Hana Hiraku, to me, is a multi-faceted fragrance, from the bright fruity and floral accords at the beginning to somewhat more muted woody and dark notes at the end. This is a good scent to try out if you like to experience the surreal layers, and most indeed Japanese, all at once.
As recommended by Satori-san herself, I would reserve wearing Hana Hiraku on slightly colder conditions in Singapore or when I need to perk my happiness up. In most cases, preferably in air-conditioned areas (Singapore is forever hot and humid, and it always messes up my hair!) or in colder climates (you, Westerners, are so lucky in a way ????) when I travel in the coming future.
5 Chome-26-5 Sendagaya
Shibuya, Tokyo 151-0051, Japan
Tel: +81 3-5787-7207
Directions from Shinjuku Station
Directions from Yoyogi Station
All other images credit: Parfum Satori