Japan is famous for its great food, natural hot springs, and so many other quality stuff that make a visit to this country a real pleasure. But what about the ones like us who can’t help looking for new fragrances in the midst of a shopping afternoon? Knowing that the Japanese are very considerate people who do not like to wear strong perfumes if any at all (in order not to disturb the others), what can we expect to find on the shelves in Tokyo? This is what my son Remy and I tried to find out during our winter holidays in the capital of Japan.
A first search on Google and Google Map confirmed our apprehension. The number of perfumery shops is ridiculously low in Tokyo. We only found two stores in the young and trendy area of Shibuya that specialize in selling perfumes. One is called P.D.C, standing for “Parfums de Createurs”, having 16 branches around Tokyo. Another one in the same neighborhood is called Perfume Zone. Both shops sell mainstream designers fragrances, from the most classic to some novelties and even some discontinued ones, all usually available in very small bottles of 30ml or even smaller. The positive point of these shops is that they have samples of each fragrance in their inventory, which allows you to test a lot of yet unknown or forgotten juices and train your olfactive memory. Not very exciting for the lovers of niche fragrances though!
But what about Japan’s famous department stores then? Isetan is by far the best choice for perfume lovers. Their flagship store carries a remarkable amount of perfume brands, from mainstream to niche. On the ground floor, besides the designers’ house collections, the exclusive lines of Guerlain and Dior, we have been nicely surprised to find Annick Goutal, Bond No.9, Diptyque, Le Labo, Penhaligon’s, Creed, The Different Company, Miller Harris, Maison Francis Kurkdjian, L’Artisan Parfumeur, and to my great surprise and joy, the full line of Oriza L. Legrand. As the shelves are not broad enough to host the entire line of these labels, the shop keeps the least selling items in their closets but can make them available to you for a try if you ask them. On the third floor, you will find the complete line of Byredo and the local star brand of Comme des Garçons. In one corner of the same floor, we found a surprisingly good selection of Santa Maria Novella, including their soaps and other cosmetics, but beware the price tags. We have spent perhaps 3 hours in this beautiful department store, sniffing each available tester, and even repeated our visit a couple of days later, can we call this addiction?
Close to Isetan, also in Shinjuku, you can pay a visit to Barneys New York. The American store has a few other shops in Tokyo and distributes attractive niche perfume brands. We found there a small selection of various houses such as Il Profumo, Nobile 1942, Escentric Molecules, Les Parfums de Rosine, Annick Goutal, Diptyque, Dr.Vranjes room fragrances and Aedes de Venustas.
Lovers of Le Labo should visit their flagship store in Daikanyama, one station away from Shibuya. There you will find the complete line of their products, including a few exclusives such as Gaiac 10, which is made for the Japanese market and hard to buy elsewhere.
We also seized the opportunity to visit the flagship store of Fueguia 1833, located inside the Grand Hyatt Tokyo hotel in Roppongi Hills. It is a very chic and trendy shop with a complete selection of the original creations of Julian Bedel. In the same complex of Roppongi Hills, don’t miss ESTNATION, a fashion store chain with a decent selection of fragrances like Creed, Diptyque, Byredo, Montale, Annick Goutal, Maison Francis Kurkdjian, Molton Brown, The Different Company and Laboratorio Olfattivo. ESTNATION has five shops in Tokyo, and some in the other main cities in Japan.
In the exclusive area of Ginza, we found some private collections in the high street boutiques of fashion brands, and a small selection of niches in Mitsukoshi. A bit disappointing somehow for the most reputed landmark in Tokyo. Not far away, the other side of Tokyo station, we have been delighted to discover by chance the Isetan Salone store with a beautiful presentation of the collections of Creed, Serge Lutens, Penhaligon’s and Byredo. A block away, you will see a Jo Malone shop opposite to Comme des Garçons, both carrying their full range of fragrances. Comme des Garçons is often unknown or underestimated as a fragrance brand, but for us, this is undoubtedly one of the most creative and original houses we can find on the market. Do not miss it if you come to Japan; you’ll be amazed.
Back to Shibuya, we passed providentially by Tomorrow Land where we found a stunning collection of niche fragrances. The shop carries Mad et Len, Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle in its integrity, the Japanese house of A Lab on Fire, Diptyque, Byredo (again), Parfums D’Orsay, Eight & Bob, Bon Parfumeur, Apothia Los Angeles, and Arquiste. Tomorrow Land has several shops in Tokyo and many large cities of the country. I am not sure if they all distribute these labels however.
As a conclusion, we can say that Tokyo is a fantastic place for food, shopping, and cultural activities. We now also confirmed it to be an exciting place for perfume shopping, especially because the treasures are not always where you most expect. I am sure that we could have found many other places with niche fragrances, would we have spent another few days in the capital. That will be for another trip I am sure.
Let us wish you again a Happy New Year 2017, full of olfactory discoveries and bliss, and look forward serving you again weekly with Scent & Flavor.
Cheers my friends!
Laurent and Remy