Scent Diary : 72 Seasons

“Bush warblers start singing in the mountains.” This is the name of the current season, according to the traditional Japanese calendar. The calendar is divided into 24 parts, called sekki, from Risshun (Beginning of spring) in early February until Daikan (Greater cold).  The 24 sekki are each split into three making up a total of 72 kō. Each kō is about five days and it has a poetic name adapted to Japanese climate.

To read through the calendar is to travel through the Japanese year, tracing the changes in nature and observing our surroundings in their minute detail. The names of the seasons are concise and yet descriptive, evoking perfectly the transformation as winter fades, spring undulates into summer and fall smolders into winter. As Murasaki Shikibu, the 11th-century author of the marvelous Tale of Genji noted, “It is nature that gives me the most pleasure, the changes through the seasons, the blossoms and leaves of autumn and spring, the shifting patterns of the skies.” If you’re curious to learn about 72 seasons, I invite you to read this article in Kyoto Journal.

Scent Diary is a place to write your observations about the scents around you–and about scents in your environment. Whether you write down 1 recollection or 10 matters less than simply reminding yourself to smell. You can add as many comments as you wish. You can comment today or over the course of the week; this thread will always be open. Of course, do share what perfume you’re wearing or what particularly good scented products you’ve discovered.

While looking through my articles, I found this article that I wrote a few years ago but that still remains popular and often-read: A to Z Tips for Enjoyable, Affordable and Rewarding Perfume Hobby. If you have any tips to add, I’d love to hear them.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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22 Comments

  • Donna: This 72 Seasons way of engaging with nature has been a highlight of interest in Japanese culture.
    It’s an ennobling of nature, POV , isn’t it?
    Tham
    nk you. February 12, 2024 at 9:50am Reply

    • Victoria: Makes you pay attention more to your surroundings, doesn’t it? February 12, 2024 at 1:03pm Reply

  • Ewan: I made an essential oil perfume the other day:

    Amyrys, Rosewood, Geranium Bourbon, Coriander, Bitter orange and Pineapple.

    The pineapple and coriander prove a pleasant chord

    It has just rained and all the smells of the earth, trees and streets have that fresh, invigorating fragrance February 12, 2024 at 12:07pm Reply

    • Victoria: Sounds wonderful. I especially like the idea of pairing pineapple and coriander. February 12, 2024 at 1:03pm Reply

      • Ewan: Hi,

        Yes , it’s a wonderful combination. Might be interesting as a dish. February 13, 2024 at 12:57am Reply

  • Nina Z: This is the time of year when my neighborhood smells of Daphne. Daphne is a flowering shrub native to China that has small white and pink flowers in the winter here, and they have a fragrance that is sweet and bright and a little sharp, like narcissus. When the sun is shining, you can smell it from yards away. I have several bushes in my front garden.

    I’m excited that the acacia trees (our mimosa) in our neighborhood are also blooming right now, but they need a bit of time to become truly fragrant. These are less common in the neighborhood, so I have to intentionally pay certain trees a visit when I want to smell their perfume. February 12, 2024 at 1:39pm Reply

    • Nina Z: I realized the closest perfume I have to this is Le Temps d’une Fête because of the distinctive narcissus note combined with the green, all of which seems softened by the opoponax. February 12, 2024 at 3:35pm Reply

    • Gabriela: We also have a lovely mimosa tree in the neighbourhood and right now it is beautiful. I am anxiously waiting for its delicate fragrance. February 13, 2024 at 4:50am Reply

      • Victoria: How beautiful it must be! February 20, 2024 at 4:47am Reply

  • Elizabeth: I’ve been reading David George Haskell’s fascinating book Thirteen Ways to Smell a Tree: Getting to know trees through the language of scent. In his last chapter he encourages developing our sense of smell and lists 6 “exercises” to try. The first is to smell books and to take in the various odors of papers, ink, binding glues, etc. On my walk today I plucked leaves from pine, holly and oak trees and later I plan to stick my nose into some of my favorite books… February 12, 2024 at 2:27pm Reply

    • Victoria: I’ve added this book to my list thanks to your recommendation. I can’t wait to read it. February 20, 2024 at 4:47am Reply

  • Gabriela: Another fascinating read is Odorama, by Federico Kukso. A history on odour and smell, a must read for any perfume lover. February 13, 2024 at 4:59am Reply

    • Victoria: Adding it to my list! February 20, 2024 at 4:47am Reply

  • Kathy: Thank you for sharing this. I love the idea of 72 seasons. I’ve noticed the day when I first hear birds in the Spring, or the week that the night insects stop singing for the year. It is a wonderful way to mark time, and I will look for other changes more carefully. February 13, 2024 at 5:47am Reply

    • Victoria: Mari’s idea below to write down one’s observation is excellent. February 20, 2024 at 4:48am Reply

  • Rachel h.: Thank you so much for sharing this. I love the close and poetic awareness and tracking of the changes in nature as the seasons develop and pass. I wasn’t aware that they had such a system. I will follow it! Lovely. Thank you for this blog and all the beauty that you share. February 13, 2024 at 12:43pm Reply

    • Victoria: It’s such a beautiful and profound way of connecting with one’s environment. February 20, 2024 at 4:48am Reply

  • Aurora: I didn’t know about the Japanese calendar, thank you Victoria. There are some timid signs of spring, snowdrops. The weather has been really mild these past 3 weeks.
    Wearing l’Instant Magic, a perfume I like very much but I don’t like it’s name mixing English and French, go for one or the other Guerlain. February 13, 2024 at 12:44pm Reply

    • Aurora: *its February 13, 2024 at 12:45pm Reply

    • Victoria: I also find it odd, especially from Guerlain. February 20, 2024 at 4:49am Reply

  • Mari Carmen: Thank you for sharing information about the Japanese calendar! It’s a beautiful concept and I like how it invites us to examine our environment closely. Last year I read “Saving Time” by Jenny Odell, who discusses seasonal calendars from various cultural groups. I started making handwritten notes about my environment to more accurately record the plants’ and animals’ activities, instead of relying on memory.

    This time last year, the mountain laurels were already in bloom. I am awaiting their blooms, as well as the crepe myrtles, the citrus trees, and the jasmine. Although I haven’t noticed fragrant flowers blooming in my area, I enjoyed the scent of the ash juniper trees in the cool air on a recent walk.

    I’ve been sampling many fragrances recently, and I’ve become partial to Meo Fusciuni Viole Nere, Jovoy Psychedelique, Jovoy Remember Me, and L’Artisan Parfumeur Mure et Musc Extreme. February 18, 2024 at 5:41pm Reply

    • Victoria: Such a beautiful and inspiring idea, Mari. I always find that writing down, even if it’s a simple one-line note, makes the connection and impression stronger. I always advocate it to my students too. February 20, 2024 at 4:50am Reply

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