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Interview with Masters: FRAGRANT CONNECTIONS Tatsushi Horita - Perfumer, Nippon Kodo

Starting his career off at a domestic fragrance company, he moves on to a fragrance company overseas, then on to a major cosmetic company, and has now joined Nippon Kodo since April 2017. Despite of all of his changes in companies, Mr. Tatsushi Horita has deepened his career as a perfumer for 40 years. He focuses on the details and the beauty of this artistic job that produces works of "fragrance."

Being introduced to a fragrance manufacture as a "fascinating company"

"While job hunting before graduating college, I was introduced to a major domestic fragrance company which was located in Osaka. Since I was from the Kyushu region, I thought it would be convenient when returning home, so I joined the company without much thought. After I finished my training, I got assigned to the cosmetic perfume department. Once I started my job with perfume, I gradually became drawn into the fascination of fragrance making. My job consists of both scientific and artistic elements."

As a child, Mr. Horita states that he had a habit of sniffing food - maybe being a perfumer was his vocation.

Being a 'scent-lover' is the first requirement to become a perfumer

Although Mr. Horita is a veteran perfumer with an established reputation, he states that he first started by training his sense of smell.

"I first started by smelling raw materials such as orange, lemon, rose, and jasmine and then memorized their characteristics in terms of scent. Then I proceeded to recognize the slight differences by smelling each group, such as floral or woody. I believe there are about 4,000 to 5,000 different kinds of ingredients for fragrances, but each perfumer usually has about 1,500 to 2,000 kinds in their fragrance palette. Once you are experienced enough, you will be able to distinguish around 1,000 different scents. Then you could somewhat guess how the scent would turn out without actually mixing them together."

What an amazing ability. You'd believe that one needs natural talent, but Mr. Horita disagrees.

"Normal sense of smell should be enough to be able to recognize such number (1,000) of fragrances through training. The most important thing is perseverance and love for fragrance."

With such a keen sense of smell, packed trains must be intolerable.

"I usually have my nose switched off. You will be able to switch on and off by training."

Being able to control your senses - a true craftsmanship.

Like melodies and paintings- turning an image into "fragrance"

So how does blending perfume actually work? According to Mr. Horita, there are two ways- to start with a concept or to have inspiration from a particular raw material.

"Starting off with a given theme, I would visualize the image of the fragrance by going through its concept, physical appearance, imagery words, and packaging colors/shapes. Aside from that method, I could also start off with the given raw material and get inspiration to create a new fragrance.For example when the wild Hanazansho pepper is in season and smells beautiful, we would create a new blend that makes the scent stand out. In some cases, new fragrances are created based on a 'particular place' or 'past experiences'. For example, someone described a situation where a person was driving in Hokkaido, coming across a vast land of watermelon farm that left quite an impression. Then I was asked to create a fragrance based on this memory. Picturing the scene given, I used ingredients that had an image of a watermelon, and then I mixed them with other fragrances that had an image of hay and soil in order to produce the new fragrance."

We received an opportunity to actually smell the raw material that was based on this watermelon experience. It was indeed watermelon - fruity, refreshingly sweet.

At Nippon Kodo, Mr. Horita blends fragrances mainly for incense and incense fragrance.

The difference between cosmetics and incense is that the scents of incense must stand out in high temperature caused from burning.

"We create new fragrances by perfuming the raw ingredient to an incense. We then burn it, checking the state of the fragrance in the high temperature. Nippon Kodo uses many expensive natural fragrances and we take special attention and care to the ingredients used. It can be said that we distinguish ourselves from other competitors in terms of quality. We hope to carry on that trait as we create new fragrances."

The Japanese incense history of 1,400 years is a grand asset- To produce a world-class fragrance by 2020.

The fragrance Mr. Horita is hoping to create in the near future is interlinked with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

"I want to create a fragrance where many people from overseas would be willing to purchase thinking, 'this' is Japanese fragrance. The Japanese history of 1,400 years in fragrance culture is a grand asset. The modern perfumes in Europe started around the 15-16th century, so their history is surprisingly short. It would be a blessing to take part in creating products that could express the wonderful Japanese fragrance culture."

I daydreamed that it would be wonderful if incense was burned in the Olympics' opening ceremony. It seems to me that Mr. Horita's career itself is like a new incense that burns with much pride.

(Interviewed: 09/14/2017)

Interviewed & edited by Aya Mori

Photos by Tomoko Hidaki

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