|Yawaraka: Essential oils|
from the forests of Yakushima
The aromas of the forest are believed to relieve stress, heighten alertness, perhaps even ward off senility, and in this country of mountains and forests, it's no wonder that one of the latest trends in Japan's aroma industry is a shift from foreign florals to comfortingly familiar forest scents. In Yakushima, the small company leading trend is Yawaraka.
Founded in 2012, Yawaraka is an enterprise born of the incessant rains and powerful sunshine that nurture the ancient forests of Yakushima. The headquarters is built along an open stretch of the main road, but the bustle of traffic disappears as I step inside the foyer and close the door behind me.
Instantly, I am transported to a world of moss and mist as I am enveloped in soft forest scents -- so different from the haute pretences of floral perfumes. Warm lighting, the tingle of music, and soft chatter spilling out from the private aroma therapy room add to the sensual experience. Yuka, the manager, and the staff greet me and ask after my boyfriend, who has worked with them in the past.
|Tasteful display of |
|Yuica: Essential oils from|
the forests of Japan
On the right side of the room is a low table, where patrons can browse and select scents to create personalized concoctions, sort of like selecting trees to grow in a mixed forest and recreate the island atmosphere.
On the left side of the room is a display tastefully depicting the process through which the essential oils are distilled, but today, the staff asks if I would like to see the factory in the room next door. Outside, several racks of ginger are drying in the sunshine. Inside, several crates of tankan oranges are waiting to be peeled. The back of the room is dominate by the distillation machinery.
|Distilling the magic.|
plant material is steamed in the right side and the resulting vapors are collected on the left side in a jug. After the jug fills up with clear floral water, the essential oils sold in the main room are syphoned from the top. It takes a lot of raw material to produce a few ounces of essential oil.
Yuka opens a large refrigerator to show me smaller jugs of dark, murky water. This is the water that boils up through the raw material but simply condenses and falls back down without making it to the jug of floral water on the right of the distiller. It is called "thick water" or "deep water," and although it is essentially a waste product, it contains many molecules released from the raw plant matter, and the company is exploring its potential uses. I like it. As I visit different companies around the island, I continue to encounter the theme of minimal waste and intuitive use of byproducts.
In addition to selling aroma goods and treatments, Yawaraka also offers workshops, helping visitors and residents and visitors alike to experience harmony with nature as they create hand-made products or learn therapeutic care.
Yawaraka is located about halfway between the port of Miyanoura and the airport near the Shimo-Makino bus stop. Prices start around 1200 yen to blend your original aroma spray. Essential oils are more expensive and vary with tree species. Please check business hours because the scent lab is closed on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and "s.p.a." treatments are also not available on Thursdays.