Japan is a country known for its rich history of art and culture, and one of its unique contributions to the world is the practice of aromachology. This innovative practice was pioneered and developed in Japan in the early 20th century, a time when the country was undergoing significant changes.
The Meiji period was characterized by the opening of Japan’s ports to European and American merchants, which led to a period of chaos and disruption. However, the Japanese people’s remarkable adaptivity allowed them to incorporate effective lessons from foreign powers while still maintaining their traditional cultural sensibilities.
The Birth of Aromachology
Aromachology appeared in 1982 in Japan, following numerous studies on the impact of odors on our brain. The blending of traditional Japanese and modern Western approaches to science and society resulted in innovative practices, such as aromachology.
During the exploratory phase of aromachology, practitioners noticed that certain scents had emotional effects on people. Unlike aromatherapy, which focuses on holistic and health-related practices, aromachology focuses on the psychological effects of scents and their ties to memory and emotion.
- Aromachology is used in various industries, such as perfumery, cosmetics, and food, to create products that elicit specific emotional responses in consumers.
- It is also used in the hospitality industry to create sensory experiences that enhance the overall customer experience.
- In addition, aromachology is used in therapeutic settings to promote relaxation and reduce stress.
History of Aromatherapy & Aromachology in Japan
Aromatherapy has a rich history in Japan, dating back to ancient times. The earliest form of aromatherapy in Japan came in the form of incense. As the story goes, one night in the Spring of Year 595, there was a great light across the Southern Sea. Thunder roared throughout the night. Thirty days later, at the south of the Awaji Island, a big piece of wood drifted ashore. The Islanders burned it and found it to be very aromatic, and hence they offered it to the Imperial Court. And this was the start of incense appreciation in Japan.
In the Nara Period, incense gradually became popular and the art of Kodo (the way of aroma) came into being. Kodo is the art of appreciating incense, and it became an important part of Japanese culture and spirituality.
In modern-day Japan, the traditional culture of aromatherapy has been kept intact. However, there has also been an evolution of modern Japanese Aromatherapy, which is a form adapted from Western aromatherapy techniques, using primarily essential oils instead of incenses.
The modern Japanese Aromatherapy method is infused with the unique Japanese approach to this form of art. Thus, a Japanese way of appreciation evolved into being. Today, people in Japan practice aromatherapy for a variety of reasons, including relaxation, stress relief, and overall well-being.
Exploring the Heart of Japanese Aromachology
When it comes to aromatherapy in Japan, there is a fascinating interplay between the traditional and modern approaches. While the delivery format for traditional Japanese aromatherapy is incense, modern Japanese aromatherapy uses essential oils. Despite this difference, there is a deep connection between the two that is rooted in a unique aspect of Japanese culture – the heart.
Traditional Japanese Shintoism believes that everything has a soul, including inanimate objects such as rocks and trees. This belief extends to incense, which is seen as a way to connect with the spirit of nature and the divine. In the Japanese language, the word for heart is “kokoro” (心), which has a much broader meaning than the English equivalent. Kokoro encompasses emotions, spirit, and consciousness.
Japan has a deeply ingrained tradition of respecting nature, which is rooted in their animistic approach to it. This reverence for the environment can be seen in their high regard for aromatherapy and aromachology. Essential oils are considered an integral part of these practices, and the Japanese have perfected the art of producing high-quality essential oils with a superior level of excellence.
Discover the Power of Essential Oils from Japanese Endemic Plant
Japan is a treasure trove of essential oils that are extracted from endemic plants. What’s fascinating about these oils is that each possesses a unique scent and benefits on the body and mind. They also have interesting natural perfumery facets that make them stand out from essential oils from other parts of the world.
As a natural perfumer/aromachologist/aromatherapist, I’ve had the opportunity to work with clients from different countries, and one thing I’ve learned is that olfactory likes and cultural preferences vary widely. That’s why I always prospect and define a specific analysis of the olfactory likes and culture of the country before recommending an essential oil. Discover some of the most notable ones:
Haka: Haka refers to mint, a popular herb that has been used across the world for its various benefits. In Japan, mint has traditionally been used for candy and sweets, and it brings back memories and nostalgic feelings for many people. Mint has played an important role in Japanese culture for centuries. It is commonly used in cooking and baking and is often paired with sweet flavors. The herb is also known for its refreshing properties, making it a popular choice for personal care products such as shampoo and soap. For many Japanese people, the scent of Hakka brings back memories of childhood, when candy and sweets infused with the herb were a popular treat. Even today, the scent of Hakka can evoke feelings of nostalgia and comfort, reminding people of simpler times.
Hiba: Hiba is a special type of Hinoki that originates from the Aomori Prefecture in the northern region of Japan. It is highly prized for its numerous benefits, including its strong antibacterial properties and moisture resistance. Additionally, Hiba is known for its unique scent, which has a sharper quality compared to traditional Hinoki.
Kaya: The Kaya tree, also known as the Japanese torreya or Japanese nutmeg-yew, is a slow-growing and rare species found in Japan. Its nickname, the “phantom tree,” comes from its scarcity and elusive nature. The Kaya tree’s fruit and pulp are used to produce an essential oil with a unique scent. The fragrance is a combination of yuzu and lemon, with a hint of woody forest undertones. Due to the Kaya tree’s rarity, its essential oil is highly sought after and prized by aromatherapists and natural health enthusiasts. Its unique scent is said to have a calming effect and promote a sense of well-being. The Kaya tree’s significance in Japanese culture extends beyond its use in aromatherapy. It has been revered for centuries for its durability and strength, and was traditionally used to make weapons, furniture, and other long-lasting items. Today, the Kaya tree is protected by the Japanese government and efforts are being made to preserve and cultivate the species. Its essential oil remains a prized and rare commodity, sought after by those who appreciate its unique fragrance and potential health benefits.
Kuromoji: Kuromoji, a wild-growing tree found all over Japan, has been utilized for centuries for its antimicrobial properties. In recent years, its essential oil has gained popularity for its woody, peppery, and freshly cut fragrance. It’s no wonder that even a little bit of Kuromoji essential oil goes a long way! Kuromoji oil is produced from wood branches harvested right here in Japan as part of a government program to keep the mountainsides beautiful. The branches are then steam distilled to extract the essential oil. With its unique aroma, Kuromoji essential oil is a staple in many Japanese households. The woody, peppery, and fresh fragrance of Kuromoji essential oil can help improve your mood and promote relaxation.
Kusunoki: Kusunoki has a rich history and is deeply rooted in Japanese culture. It was even a symbol tree of Totoro, a popular Miyazaki Animation. It is one of the biggest trees in Japan and is considered a sacred tree. What makes Kusunoki unique is its scent. The word “kusu no ki” is derived from the Japanese language and means “tree of medicine”. The Camphor crystal obtained from this tree is used as a natural insect repellent for clothing. The oil obtained from Camphor White has several uses. It is widely used in aromatherapy to treat respiratory problems, such as bronchitis and coughs. It is also used to treat skin disorders, rheumatic pain, and muscle cramps. Camphor White is also used in the production of cosmetics, perfumes, and soaps. Its unique scent makes it a popular ingredient in several household products, including air fresheners and insect repellents. When used in aromatherapy, Camphor White can help improve concentration, reduce stress, and promote relaxation. It can also improve respiratory function and boost the immune system.
Koyamaki : The Koyamaki tree has a significant cultural and symbolic value in Japan. It is often used in traditional Japanese gardens and landscaping due to its unique appearance. It also has a rich history in Japanese mythology and is often associated with longevity and good fortune. The Koyamaki tree is so highly regarded in Japan that it was chosen as the Japanese Imperial crest for Prince Hisahito of Akishino, who is currently second in line to the Chrysanthemum Throne. The crest features a stylized depiction of the Koyamaki tree with its distinctive umbrella-shaped canopy. An uplifting and refreshing Essential Oil that clears the mind and helps improve focus.
Shiso or Perilla: Shiso leaf is used both in Japanese cuisine and as a medicinal plant. Shiso essential oil is particularly effective for the treatment of skin problems thanks to its high content of omega 3, for example in the prevention of wrinkles or acne. Its smell is complex and can recall coriander with a tangy note.
Shoga or Ginger: Ginger has been a common root used in traditional Japanese medicine for over 2600 years. Shoga essential oil is known for its stimulating, toning, and anti-inflammatory properties. Japanese ginger is known for being fresher than ginger in other Asian countries.
Sugi or Japanese Cedar: Sugi essential oil is obtained by steam distillation of wood chips. Japanese cedar has multiple properties, including the treatment of body aches and rheumatism, or anti-lice and anti-mosquito. It has a cedar, dry, and woody fragrance and is attributed with relaxing and meditative virtues.
Todomatsu : If you’re a fan of essential oils, then you might have heard of Todomatsu or Momi. It’s a type of essential oil extracted from the Abies sachalinensis Masters tree, which belongs to the pine family. This tree is native to the town of Shimokawa-cho in Hokkaido, Japan, but it also grows in Sakhalin island and southern Kurils in Russia. The essential oil extracted from this tree has a fresh, woody, softly balsamic, earthy, sweet aroma that is much like the outdoors. When you smell it, you can almost feel the crisp air of Hokkaido’s forests. The scent is clear and refreshing, with a hint of sweetness that adds depth to the fragrance.
Yuzu: This citrus fruit has been grown and eaten in Japan for hundreds of years. Normally use for bathing with yuzu in winter and scented for food in Japan. Yuzu essential oil has soothing and relaxing properties. Yuzu essential oil can calm the nerves and relieve anxiety and tension. It has been proven to reduce psychosomatic symptoms of stress such as depression and chronic fatigue syndrome. It can combat bouts of negative emotions and can boost self-confidence.
Aromachology is a fascinating and innovative practice that has its roots in Japan’s complex history and culture. Its unique approach to scent and emotion has inspired many practitioners worldwide, and its effects continue to be studied and celebrated today.
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You can learn all the wonders of aromachology in our French Natural Aromachology Course. Session opens each first Monday of the month and multiple payment us available (3x, 4x). The course is certified by International Perfume Foundation.