Françoise Rapp

Japan is known for its rich history of art and culture, and one of its unique contributions to the world is aromachology. This innovative practice was pioneered and developed in Japan in the early 20th century when the country underwent significant changes.

The Meiji period was characterized by the opening of Japan’s ports to European and American merchants, which led to chaos and disruption. However, the Japanese people’s remarkable adaptivity allowed them to incorporate effective lessons from foreign powers while 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. Blending 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 emotionally affected people. Unlike aromatherapy, which focuses on holistic and health-related practices, aromachology focuses on the psychological impact 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, a big piece of wood drifted ashore at the south of the Awaji Island. The Islanders burned it and found it very aromatic, so they offered it to the Imperial Court. This was the start of appreciation for incense in Japan.

In the Nara Period, incense gradually became popular, and the art of Kodo (the way of aroma) became popular. Kodo is the art of appreciating incense, and it has become an important part of Japanese culture and spirituality.

In modern-day Japan, the traditional culture of aromatherapy has been kept intact. However, modern Japanese Aromatherapy has also evolved, 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 art form. Thus, a Japanese way of appreciation evolved into being. Today, people in Japan practice aromatherapy for various reasons, including relaxation, stress relief, and overall well-being.

Exploring the Heart of Japanese Aromachology

Regarding 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 rooted in a unique aspect of Japanese culture – the heart.

Traditional Japanese Shintoism believes everything has a soul, including inanimate objects such as rocks and trees. This belief extends to incense, 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 its animistic approach. This reverence for the environment can be seen in its 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 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, bringing back memories and nostalgie for many people. Mint has played an essential 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 popular. Even today, Hakka’s smell can evoke nostalgia and comfort, reminding people of simpler times.

Hiba: Hiba is a particular type of Hinoki that originates from the Aomori Prefecture in the northern region of Japan. It is highly prized for its numerous benefits, antibacterial solid properties, and moisture resistance. Additionally, Hiba is known for its unique scent, which is sharper than traditional Hinoki.

Kaya: The Kaya tree, also known as the Japanese torreya or Japanese nutmeg-yew, is a slow-growing and rare species in Japan. Its nickname, the “phantom tree,” comes from its scarcity and elusive nature. The Kaya tree’s fruit and pulp produce an essential oil with a unique scent. The fragrance combines 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 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 Japanese government protects the Kaya tree, 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 even a bit of Kuromoji essential oil goes a long way!  Kuromoji oil is produced from wood branches harvested 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 deeply rooted in Japanese culture. It was even a symbol tree of Totoro, a popular Miyazaki Animation. It is one of the most giant 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 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 like bronchitis and coughs. It also treats skin disorders, rheumatic pain, and muscle cramps. Camphor White is also used to produce 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 usually 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. It is an uplifting and refreshing Essential Oil that clears the mind and helps improve focus.

Shiso or Perilla: Shiso leaf is used in Japanese cuisine and as a medicinal plant. Shiso essential oil is particularly effective for treating skin problems thanks to its high content of omega 3, for example, in the prevention of wrinkles or acne. Its smell is complex; it 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, as well as anti-lice and anti-mosquito properties. 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 an essential oil extracted from the Abies sachalinensis Masters tree, which belongs to the pine family. This tree is native to 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 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 centuries. It is usually used 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 rooted in Japan’s 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.

If you are looking at purchasing high-quality and unique Japanese essential oils, I highly recommend you to discover this vendor’s high-grade products:


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