One of my favourite shopping districts in Tokyo is Nakameguro, which is full of small independent boutiques, vintage stores and cafés. On a recent trip I saw a sign in an alleyway for “Cul de Sac”, which turned out to be a tiny store in an old house selling a few racks of stark, unisex clothing and its own-brand range of products made from hiba wood.
The smell was striking – the products were all made from the prized timber of the hiba tree, which has a strong olfactory essence somewhere between evergreen alpine fresh and smouldering bonfire. It was an aroma familiar to me from visits to Japanese temples, many of which are constructed from this indigenous wood because of its inherent water and mould resistance.
I bought several items from the range for myself and as gifts, and quickly worked my way through my supply by spraying the cushions on my sofa weekly, as I was instructed to do by the store’s staff. Everyone who visits my house remarks on the effect; it’s as if there’s a scented candle burning somewhere out of view.
Now while the store’s own website doesn’t ship overseas, and the brand is rarely seen outside Japan, I found my favourite product – Wild Incense spray – on the website of Oregon-based store Una, priced at $28 for 50ml. Una also stocks Cul de Sac’s hiba closet sachets ($22), to fragrance the inside of your wardrobe, as well as handwash ($36).