Capturing the ancient sacred concept of “hidden beauty” as well as 1100 years of fragrance art, the Japanese scent wizard Tobali offers a complex collection of fragrances, in the form of perfumes and candles, with “Hidden Japonism 834” at its core and centred on the enigmatic aroma of agar wood, a scent that’s pricier than gold. Available to shop at ENTRANCE.
By Diana Colcer
Photographer: Christian Tudose
Stylist: Amir Doboș
Intellect concealed in seductiveness (Smoke Flower), insanity hidden in elegance (Cypress Mask), innocence disguised in dignity (White Storage), love armoured in strength (Iron Wind), calm resting under grace (Spring Snow) — the “hidden beauty” is that which appears when appeal is purposefully concealed inside in order to bring creativity to knowledge and stimulate new thoughts, and it is the core philosophy which animates this mysterious collection of scents designed by the Japanese fragrance manufacturer Tobali. To understand it with reasoning may seem achievable. But to internalise it with emotion may elude our grasp. Do you accept the challenge?
Introduction to Tobali
Putting into words the concept and meaning of Tobali and describing the nature of these enigmatic Japanese fragrances which rely on the sacred by equally elusive idea of “hidden beauty” can prove difficult to the profane untrained mind of a westerner. But, nonetheless, the beautiful story surrounding these scents prompts me to give it a try. The first thing that captures your senses is discovering that “Tobali” is actually a Japanese word created more than 1000 years ago. It can mean a cloth used to hide something or hanging silk in order to divide a space and offer concealment. Being hidden by a veil, allowing only faded glimpses to be seen, increases the appeal of what lies on the other side, but sublimates the attraction as well. And it is right there, in this bittersweet duality, that the heart of Tobali fragrances resides. The second captivating thing, of a more mundane, mercantile value, is learning that the complex collection of fragrances offered by Tobali is centred around the pricy essence of agar wood, a scent that’s more expensive than gold.
The hidden meaning
What i’m about to say is quite self-evident: for most of us contemporary creatures living in modern times, “appeal” is something that should be easy to understand and represented logically. Japanese ancestors, however, had a culture of valuing the beauty that appears when appeal is purposefully hidden inside. Remember that key cultural Japanese figures — including Zeami, Junichiro Ta-nizaki, Yoji Yamamoto and Nobuyoshi Araki — have at times compared this beauty that appears through concealment to shadows, femininity and embarrassment, making a general point that “appeal” is something which achieves sublimation through concealment. “As modern Japanese, we desire limitless stimulation and excitement, as we rapidly absorb and amplify trends from around the world, lining the sky with skyscrapers, with everything operating in coordinated regulation”, explain the creators of Tobali. “On the other hand, we also have traditional aesthetic sensibilities such as “Zen”, “Fuzei” and “Wabi-sabi” speaking within us—mental virtues providing stability to the heart that are a fundamental part of our DNA.”
This creative duality and avant-garde aesthetic sense existing within Japanese living nowadays is most likely why Tobali have chosen to define their brand philosophy as “hidden beauty” — that beauty that appears when appeal is purposefully concealed inside, the beauty that brings creativity to knowledge and stimulates new thought. In opposition to the appeal of the gaudy flickering light of the sun, which speaks to our primal nature, this is a mysterious beauty, like phantoms of the moon or shadows. Lust that oozes out from within; strength when elegantly repressing emotions; quiet emotions concealed within a sidelong glance.
The essences of self
“We selected fragrance as our means to represent ‘hidden beauty’ because, from among the five senses, the sense of smell is the one closest to the inner-self”, explain the creators of Tobali. “Hiding seductiveness through intellect and keeping it from view serves to sublimate that which is fleetingly seen.” And in order to express the hidden beauty of Japan by obtaining the “core of the most appealing fragrance”, Tobali has worked alongside Nippon Kodo—a central player in Japanese fragrance craft with 400 years of history of their own. This is how the fragrance core of Tobali, “Hidden Japonism 834”, came into being. Subsequently, each perfume has been given two opposing faces expressed through fragrance, in order to represent the idea of hidden beauty — such as seductiveness & intellect, strength & affection or elegance & insanity.
The moon-like, shadow-like aroma of hidden beauty has been named the “Fragrance of Shadows”. And it is so fitting. One drop of any Tobali perfume and you’ll discover that the fragrance harboured deep inside the formula is gradually diffusing — rather than a scent that is instantly gorgeous, this is one that slowly expands its influence. These are fragrances as delicate as a sharpened blade, and as fragile as a taut thread. They sooth the heart while drawing out sexiness, fostering strong feelings amid the quietness of the moon and shadows.
For the candles, concepts like “Zen”, “Quiet” and “Shadow” have been expressed through fragrance, in order to lead the way to the omnipresent idea of hidden beauty. A deep breath of the fragrance “Zen” calms the heart, with the sublimation of one’s appeal leading to the realisation of the beauty that lies within.
As for the perfume bottles and candle pots, the creative vision belongs to artist Tomoyuki Yonezu, whose inspiration comes from the white bowls used to store offerings to the gods. He tuned traditional Japanese culture with the modern days, encapsulating the concept of “hidden beauty” inside a pure white vessel.