Six Top Japanese and Japan-Inspired Perfumes

Looking for a new fragrance, a special gift, or a sweet-smelling souvenir from your holiday in Tokyo? Here are some of our favorite scents to choose from.


Compiled by Annemarie Luck and Mandy Lynn


Nightingale by Zoologist

A couple of years ago, Toomo Inaba left Tokyo for a quieter life in Kyushu’s countryside, where he continues his work as a fragrance reviewer, producer, and self-taught perfumer. Although Nightingale is his own official debut scent (launched in October), he has in fact created 50-odd private blends over the past several years, and his company Zoologist features a range of deluxe fragrances by different perfumers. He describes his inspiration for the pink floral chypre as coming from an ancient Japanese poem, picking out one line in particular: “Soon you will be wearing a black robe and enter nunhood. You will not know each rosary bead has my tears on it.” The notes include plum blossom, agarwood, patchouli and moss.

Nightingale Eau de Parfum ¥14,200, www.zoologistperfumes.com

Nightingale perfume

Scent Three: Sugi by Monocle  

The third of a series of fragrance collaborations between Monocle and Comme des Garcons, Sugi (Japanese cedar) is described as a “delicate, clean and energising” fragrance. It’s a unisex scent with top notes of Meditarranean cypress and pepper from Madagascar, followed by iris from Florence and cedar from Virginia, and finished with pine and Haitian vetiver.

Scent Three: Sugi Eau de Toilette ¥10,800, available from The Monocle Shop in Tokyo or from monocle.com 

monocle perfume

Sakura by Miya Shinma

Born in Shizuoka, Miya Shinma now divides her time between France and Japan, but her perfume range is devoted to her country of birth. Inspired by the cherry blossom, Sakura has robust notes that meld into soft floral nuances. Its characteristic scent starts off strong (like a woman who knows exactly what she wants), wrapping one in its musky embrace, before fashioning into a scent of freshly cut peonies amid hints of blackcurrant. It ends with tones of citrus and rose.

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Sakura Eau de Parfum, ¥21,400, miyashinma.fr

sakura perfume

Gaiac 10 Tokyo by Le Labo

Known for its niche perfumes, Le Labo created Gaiac 10 exclusively for Tokyo. This means that its soft scent is tailored to suit Japanese tastes (or in this case, noses), and it’s only available from the store in Daikanyama. We popped by to take a whiff, and the salesperson led us outside into the fresh air for optimal smelling conditions (because that’s how gentle the scent is). It’s a beautiful woody and musky blend that develops into a powdery, romantic fragrance.

Gaiac 10 Eau de Parfum ¥51,840, www.lelabofragrances.jp

gaiac 10 tokyo

Kyara and Kazehikaru by Di Ser

We’ve chosen two different perfumes by this Japanese brand that’s based in Hokkaido and also sells herbs and medicines, organic cosmetics, and organic health foods. Their fragrances are made without any synthetic materials, and they favor high quality over mass production. Kyara is named after the fragrant wood that’s used in kodo (incense burning), and contains agarwood, cedarwood, rose otto, patchouli, and sandalwood. Kazehikaru represents “the wind that dances about the land,” and includes yuzu, neroli, shiso, Japanese rose, and vetiver.

Kyara Parfum ¥120,000, Kazehikaru Eau de Parfum ¥10,000, www.diser-parfum.com

di ser fragrance

Hana Hiraku by Parfum Satori 

Independent perfumer Satori Osawa mixes her pretty potions in a small Yoyogi studio, which has walls lined with tiny bottles of ingredients. When we visited, she showed us a collection of her perfumes, which are inspired by Japanese culture – her signature scent, Satori, even comes packaged in a porcelain bottle that’s shaped like a chatsubo (traditional tea jar). Her latest creation, Hana Hiraku, launched in October and is inspired by Japan’s blooming magnolia flowers. It’s a dry Oriental with top notes of creamy melon and bergamot; middle notes of magnolia, jasmine, and rose; and a unique finish of miso, bees wax, and wood.

Hana Hiraku Eau de Parfum ¥16,000 (before tax), www.parfum-satori.com

Parfum Satori


This article appears in the January 2017 issue of Tokyo Weekender magazine.

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