If I fashioned my life following the recommendations of Japanese beauty magazines, I would wake up in a white and pink bedroom tastefully decorated with colorful cushions and artfully arranged designer shoes. I would go to business meetings in mint and rose ensembles complete with vertiginous high heels and wear the perfect cat eyeliner. My meals would be so picture perfect that guests would be wondering whether they should eat them or simply admire my ability to carve carrots into maple leaves.
Given the number of impeccably groomed women I encountered in Tokyo, being perfectly polished is possible, but for better or worse, my life is not even close to the Japanese magazine fantasy. (OK, I did learn the cat eyeliner thanks to the point-by-point instructional diagrams spanning several pages.) But I enjoy the portrayal of a neater and prettier universe on the glossy pages as a kind of vicarious thrill. It’s the same reason why I watch flamboyant Bollywood movies and moody film noir. It’s an escape from the routine.
While the Japanese are famously understated when it comes to perfume, fragrance is an important part of the fantasy that every magazine puts forward. Most choices are sheer, fresh and sparkling, as I’ve previously described in The Japanese Fragrance Conundrum : Top Selling Perfumes, and there are plenty of roses.
Sheer roses, sparkling roses, fresh roses, and luminous roses fill the Japanese perfume editorials, and I’ve leafed through my pile of magazines to compile the list below. As you can see, sumptuous, dark or rich doesn’t make the cut. While I don’t think that I can give up my provocative roses like Guerlain Nahéma or Etat Libre d’Orange Rossy de Palma, sometimes light and delicate is more appropriate, and that’s an easy fantasy to indulge.
Annick Goutal Rose Splendide
A shower of pink petals. Annick Goutal Rose Splendide is one of the truest roses and smells like a freshly picked blossom.
Serge Lutens Sa Majesté la Rose
Sa Majesté la Rose is one of the most understated perfumes from Serge Lutens’s exotic and opulent collection but it’s not a wallflower. A radiant rose laced with green geranium leaves, it starts out fruity and sweet and then takes a detour into smoked woods and vanilla. The dark touches are added with a light hand, and the overall effect remains transparent and glittering.
Chloé Eau de Parfum
This perennial Japanese best seller reminds me of shampoo, but I admit that whenever I smell its trail on someone else, it’s very appealing. A clean, transparent rose set into a backdrop of crisp amber.
Balenciaga Paris L’Eau Rose
Balenciaga Paris L’Eau Rose is my rose of choice if I want something fresh. It’s a sophisticated bonbon of pale woods and velvety rose petals, wrapped with soft violets. Dainty, pretty, but still interesting to wear. Since Paris is the beloved fantasy destination described in any Japanese magazine, Paris L’Eau Rose has a double appeal.
Diptyque Eau Rose
Diptyque Eau Rose is another natural rose blossom rendition that takes you into a rose garden after a rainstorm. Diptyque’s Roses and Annick Goutal La Rose candles are also featured frequently in Japanese magazines, especially in the seasonal gift guides.
Marni by Marni
Leave it to Marni to make an incense fragrance that would be appropriate for the understated Japanese tastes. A whisper of rose scented smoke that wears like the ultimate skin scent.
L’Occitane Rose 4 Reines
To be sure, Rose 4 Reines is a riff on Yves Saint Laurent Paris, a violet-rose classic. But unlike its full-bodied predecessor, Rose 4 Reines is mild and soft. The sheer rose gets sharper and more saturated as time goes on. While Annick Goutal’s and Diptyque’s roses are watercolor etudes rendered in feathery strokes of pink and lavender, L’Occitane’s is a glossy print.
Now for some Japan only rose products. I originally hesitated to include them, since they aren’t available to the rest of us, but you never know what an internet or Ebay search might turn up. I also mention more widely available alternatives.
Rose de Marrakech
Rose de Marrakech is an interesting Japanese-Moroccan enterprise. The small company sources its ingredients directly from Moroccan farmers, and the products feature local ingredients like orange flower and rose essences, argan oil and the famous ghassoul clay. Its Huile de Rose, a cleansing oil scented with rose, is excellent, as are Baume de Néroli, neroli balm, and Ghassoul Clay Shampoo. If you’re based in Asia, you can order their products online.
The rest of us are out of luck, but there are plenty of Moroccan companies in both Europe and the US that offer traditional products. The French brand Decléor has excellent Baume de Néroli and other essential oil creams. The Australian outfit Jurlique is worth exploring if you love floral essences in your skin care. If you’re after argan oil, make sure the ingredient list includes only one item: 100% cold-pressed argan oil.
Shiseido White Rose Natural
Another Japan-only find and a Shiseido classic. White Rose Natural smells like a dewy tea rose and wears like a silk camisole. While I urge anyone visiting the Shiseido boutique in Tokyo to smell this charming perfume, we have other more easily available fresh roses. I would start with Annick Goutal Rose Absolue, Hermès Eau de Pamplemousse Rose and Parfums de Rosine Un Zest de Rose.
Jill Stuart Tuberose & Rose
Until I started reading Japanese magazines, I had no idea that Jill Stuart had a successful makeup and body care range. A modern day princess who can’t get enough pink shops at Jill Stuart. It’s even too much for me, and I’m happy to admit my love for anything pink. On the other hand, their pink blush is perfect and I’ve yet to find a better brown and peach eye shadow palette.
To fit Jill Stuart’s romantic theme, the company has recently released a Tuberose & Rose line of fragrance products. Pink ribbons and diamond motifs abound. You can choose from body milk, mist to perfume your lingerie, hand cream, and fragrance. The notes include lemon, orange, black currant, violet, rose, jasmine, and amber, and Tuberose & Rose smells like the sparkly, synthetic fantasy of a rose. The body products and lingerie spray (Fabric Perfume) are very good, though.
Matching Jill Stuart’s psychedelic Barbie decor might be tough, but Victoria Secret’s Chiffon Peony Freesia, L’Occitane’s Délice des Fleurs and Love Chloé are composed in the same sweet and pretty style.
Photography by Bois de Jasmin, “Sweet” and “Biteki” magazines.