Perfumer Satori Osawa
Somehow an image appears inside us, even if we can't see it with our eyes. And because we can't see it, the scene surpasses time and space. That is what "fragrance" is. The scenery created through the perfumes by Satori Osawa is the Japanese mentality and the unspoilt scenery of Japan itself.
Have you ever had the experience of a flashback of childhood memories, called upon by a whiff of smell that tickles your nose as you walk down the street?
"All images seen through the eyes are transmitted and processed in the cerebral neocortex in your brain that controls language and analytical thought process, but smell is connected to the limbic cortex which controls memories and emotions. That is one of the primitive parts of your body in the context of evolution. Fundamentally, smell was vital information for survival, such as detecting fire or predators so it speaks to instinct rather than rational thought." says Satori Osawa.
"Sonet", the perfume released by Satori last autumn is based on the scent of Osmanthus. It is popular amongst both men and women and many have commented that it reminds them of summer festivals and sports fairs, the walk back from school and other simple but dear memories from childhood. Though the perfume may not bring back memories of the specific osmanthus flower, there is a distinct familiarity to her creations. Perhaps that is why it doesn't feel uncomfortable and "borrowed".
Drawn by the scent of flowers
Satori always loved flowers.
"I always had a pocket sized encyclopaedia of plants and flowers with me and took my time going home from school in Musashino to my home in Akasaka. My mother held flower arrangement classes at home so I mimicked arranging flowers amongst the students. The garden was always filled with seasonal flowers so I was very interested in gardening as well".
Satori began growing herbs in her garden and learned of aromatherapy using the natural essential oils extracted from these herbs.
"Natural essential oils are extracted from flowers with scents and when different kinds are mixed another new scent is born. If you expand the variety of materials, then one can express infinite number of fragrances". Satori was drawn into the world of perfume as if she was following the ten thousand year history of perfume. Such background is unusual as perfumers often hold expertise in chemistry.
Satori studied perfume in Japan at a specialist school . With internship at Japanese perfume companies and work experience in France, she is now a member of La Société Française de la Parfumerie and works as a freelance perfumer.
"To make one perfume, you have to use hundreds of different perfume essence, even I use more than one thousand different kinds. Large perfume companies have thousands of kinds of perfume essence in stock. However, even though only one-ten-thousandth of the amount is used in one kind of perfume, we you have to buy the essence in kilos or gallons. Of course, there are expiration dates on these essences."
Satori patiently built relationships with Japanese and French perfume companies so that she can purchase the essences in small quantities and slowly accumulated her stock. She has a vitality which is not always visible from her soft, modest and charming character and it is born from the almost stubborn passion to create her own unique fragrance, something only a Japanese could create.
Fragrance spun from words
The theme for her newest creation is "WASANBON".
"In the past ten years in the fragrance world, there has been a trend towards a type of fragrance called "gourmand" which is associated with sweet smells like fruit jams, chocolate or jelly beans. I feel that the mode for such childish fragrances have reached its peak. So I began thinking what would be a sweet but a typically Japanese fragrance and came to 'wasanbon' (a type of Japanese sugar)".
"Oribe", the perfume released in 2008 at the height of the worldwide green tea fragrance boom. Satori in turn created a fragrance based on what a Japanese person would imagine from green tea.
When creating her perfumes, what Satori keeps in mind are "words". What kind of words would describe the smell? Then she would brain storm keywords associated to it. For example in the case of WASABON, they were "light sweetness", "melting taste", "powdery-ness". For Oribe, they were "the cloud-like foams of green tea", "sharp yet fresh bitterness", "soft umami", etc. From these keywords she would select several essences to describe the fragrance. From there she combines these and others, often reaching more than 100 types of essences, to create the final product. It is interesting that each her fragrances are created from specific keywords. And because of this, it is possible to taste it or feel the texture of the motifs.
"Japanese fragrances or scents imagined by people from other countries are often what is called 'oriental' but when you ask a Japanese person what they prefer, they would often choose seasonal flowers or citrus, green tatami or the smell of rain, smell that are very close to the minute details of their every day life. These scents are what they unconsciously become familiar with while growing up in this country and is tied to the scenery of their memories".
The fragrances born from keywords associated with such memories created by Satori feels like a multitude of layers of soft veil creating a gradation of colours. It is light and somewhat transparent. There is no reason why it shouldn't comfortably fit into the Japanese climate and our everyday life.
-From the interview in Ryori Tsushi June 2013 edition-