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Fragrant Travels at GINZA SIX

大城壮平

GINZA SIX EDITORS Vol.104

Spending so much time at home can leave you feeling melancholy. To get by, I’ve found some respite in fragrance: the elegant aroma of perfumes, the nostalgic smell of old books, the gentle scent of detergents and fabric softeners, the pungent aroma of spicy curry, the delectable bouquet of wine and whisky. Even while homebound, I’ve discovered from day to day a variety of scents, which for me provided a subtle source of enjoyment in an otherwise featureless locked-down life.

My interest in fragrance has only blossomed since. I want to learn about, buy, try, and enjoy even more scents and aromas. And since we can now venture out, why not go to the ultimate retail complex in the ultimate Tokyo district? Today, my fragrant travels take me to GINZA SIX.

I go first to Jo Malone London on the second floor, a London-based lifestyle brand you’re certainly familiar with. Launched in 1994, the brand presents spare, sophisticated, enriching lifestyles with fragrance—through colognes, above all, but also bath and body products and its home collections. I like Jo Malone’s creative scents. I love their candles. But my goal today is cologne. I’m excited to see what I might encounter.

At the in-store testing bar, the attendant carefully explains each fragrance to me. The best-selling English Pear & Freesia is, just as the name suggests, the scent of fresh pears and freesia. I’m also introduced to strange bedfellows, like Wood Sage & Sea Salt and Poppy & Barley. I’m astonished at the scents that emerge from the combinations!

With so many wonderful fragrances, I’m not sure which to choose. I end up buying the Dark Amber & Ginger Lily cologne (100 ml, 21,500 yen / 50 ml, 15,000 yen; all prices listed before tax), a series characterized by a relaxing, agarwood aroma and inspired by traditional Japanese incense ceremony called Kodo. From top note to heart note to last note, the expression of a fragrance changes, which simply adds to its appeal. I bought just one bottle today, but with Jo Malone products, the practice of scent pairing—combining fragrances—is perfectly acceptable. I’ll look for some hand cream the next time.

The bag is the familiar cream-colored box with black ribbon. Come to think of it, the black ribbon is a bold move. Carrying with a good scent in one hand, I head to Ginza Tsutaya Books on the sixth floor.

I love this bookstore for diverse and sundry reasons. One is their vintage art book and photo collection. Today, while enjoying that great old book smell, I plan to go look for books on fragrance.

First up is the vintage book area. This shelf features some of the store’s most treasured titles. With the opening of the glass doors, the scent of nostalgia comes wafting forth. There’s Joseph Beuys’ Coyote, Picasso’s A Los Toros, a book of Shunsuke Matsumoto’s drawings—all landmark volumes I’d be overjoyed to own someday. Just looking at the bindings and titles is a delight.

I’m particularly interested in Shinro Otake. The store has a special edition of Kasuba no otoko: Morocco nikki (“Kasbah Man: Morocco Diary”) (145,000 yen), published by Kyuryudo in 1994. What’s inside, of course, is remarkable. But the craft and workmanship and radical design of the binding is almost as remarkable (it’s too bad I can’t show it to you more clearly—copyrights!). It’s edited by Kyoichi Tsuzuki, who worked at POPEYE and BRUTUS in their heyday and won the Kimura Ihei Award for ROADSIDE JAPAN (Chikumashobo). As a lowly editor working in print media, how great would it be, I think, to create an amazing book like this someday.

In the fashion magazine section, I find my magazine, VOSTOK! All the back issues are here, and the bookstore provides some really nice captions. Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone at Ginza Tsutaya Books! With print media, when you publish a magazine on your own dime, bookstores like this and their staff can really help. I wanted to create a Japanese original, a fashion magazine that wasn’t a pale copy of overseas fashion magazines. And that magazine is VOSTOK. I put my heart and soul into every issue, like there’s no tomorrow, so it moves me no end to see every single issue on display here. The cover shots, incidentally, from left to right, are by Yoshiyuki Okuyama, Kyoji Takahashi, and Mayumi Hosokura.

Located in the kitty corner of the fashion magazine section is an area with books on scents and fragrances. From encyclopedias of herbs and whole spices to catalogs of famous perfumes published by the major fashion houses—row after row of a diversity of fragrance books. Of course Tsutaya would have a lineup like this. Today, I buy two books: Chokoshi no techo (“A Perfumer’s Notebook”) by Shoji Nakamura, who was a perfumer at Shiseido, and L’Herbier Parfumé, an encyclopedia of aromatic plants with commentary by 38 perfumers from Grasse in southern France. They’re both profoundly absorbing tomes. I have a feeling I’ll be referring to them for a long time.

After applying and learning about fragrance, it’s time to eat some! So, lastly, I go to Tamarind, an Indian restaurant also located on the sixth floor. The Indian food most people know, dishes like nan and tandoori chicken, comes from northern India. This restaurant has its roots in Mandala, a restaurant famed for its northern Indian cuisine established in Jinbocho in 1986. The owner, who’s been to India close to 50 times, has opened the rare restaurant in Tokyo where you can enjoy both northern and southern Indian dishes. You encounter the great spicy aromas even at the entrance.

It’s not unusual for Japan’s Indian restaurants to have Nepalese cooks. In contrast, Tamarind has five full-time cooks from northern and southern India, suggesting its endeavor to represent genuine Indian cuisine. The kitchen is open to view. Part of the fun here is viewing the unfamiliar cooking implements and methods.

My first three dishes quickly arrive. The Prawn Amritsari (980 yen) is spicy prawn fritters; Rumali Roti (440 yen), which means ‘handkerchief bread’ in Hindi, is, just as the name indicates, bread folded like a handkerchief. The technique of the cooks is marvelous and fascinating. Finally, Malabar Fish Curry (1,580 yen), from a coastal region in southern India.

One bite of the Prawn Amritsari fills my mouth with the flavor of prawns and the flavor and aroma of spices. The fish curry is great, too—the fresh coconuts really work well. The Rumali Roti is just as impressive, more flavorful than regular nan.

Last to appear is the Rava Dosa (1,580 yen), a crispy crepe filled with lentils. Its huge dimensions are a visual treat. The crepe lets you experience a range of spices, starting with tamarind, the southern Indian fruit that gives the restaurant its name. The aroma and flavor are both firsts for me. So many dishes available only at Tamarind…I’ll definitely be back soon.

So I’ve taken in fragrances from London, handled beautiful vintage books, purchased books on aromas, and relished the authentic spicy flavors of Indian food. In just three stops, right here at GINZA SIX, I’ve learned about and enjoyed new scents and fragrances. Still more places at GINZA SIX remain to be discovered in this odyssey of new aromas, places like the coffee salon Grand Cru Café Ginza, wine shop Enoteca, green tea proprietors Tsujiri, and Diptyque. Where to go next? My fragrant travels stretch to the horizons.

Text: Sohei Oshiro Photos: Mitsutaka Omoteguchi Edit: Yuka Okada(81)

editors_oshiro

大城壮平

编辑。1988年出生于冲绳县宫古岛。从学生时代开始在《HUgE》(讲谈社)打工,经过《Them magazine》(Righters)的编辑,2018年独立。2019年3月创刊《VOSTOK》。株式会社CHIASMA代表。2020年12月发行了《VOSTOK》Vol.004。

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2020.12.28 UP