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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Shiseido Koto: fragrance review & draw

Koto by Shiseido was issued launched in the international market in 1985 which makes it a fairly recent vintage, yet in hindsight one can see how this ethereal quality of cool mossiness is reminiscent of other eras when elegance, discretion and manners were the passe-partout into society. {Indeed in Japan it was originally issued in 1967 as it transpires}. Simply put Koto is supremely well-mannered and I could never in a million years "see" it on someone chewing bubble-gum with an attitude, gesturing madly in public and talking loudly on their cell-phone regardless of passer-bys. It exudes a polished, refined aura which puts things in perspective and people who come into contact with it at ease, rather than in a defensive mode. Among chypres, Koto is one of the friendliest and most easy to accept, but not receding to the role of wallflower either!

Naming a fragrance after the national musical instrument of Japan is indicative of Shiseido's thought-process: melodic, graceful, with a refinement that eludes Western appreciation for fuller scores which span contrapuntal levels like in the form of a fugue or canon, koto and the music played on it is an entity of its own. The "chypre" basic structure on the other hand is a classically westernised transliteration of the latter musical idea, interpolating themes woven into clusters of notes: a floral heart, a powdery base, a fresh ~often green or citrusy~ start. You get whiffs of each motif as the fragrance evolves on your skin like voices taking turns into singing the same melody, out of synch yet harmonically. In many ways for a Japanese company such as Shiseido to issue chypre fragrances (Murasaki is another interesting case) is like borrowing the contrapunto of Palestrina and spinning it on its head. Koto doesn't smell as perfume-y or powdery as most Western chypres do, retaining the discretion and natural feel that Japanese audiences appreciate more.

The composition of Koto is based on a two-pole magnetic compass that points to instantly perceived charisma: On one side the starchness and dryness of a classic chypre accord smelling green but not too earthy. On the other side, a floral chord of crystalline (but not too high-pitched) and "clean" notes of lily of the valley (muguet) with a smidge of rose and gardenia. The two elements produce a dry yet expansive and fresh wave which envelops the body lightly. A hint of leathery, resinous touch at the base with indefinable woody notes is underscoring the green mossy stages. Lovers of the original Vent Vert and the more soapy Ivoire by Balmain might take note, as would those who like Y by Saint Laurent, Jacomo Silences, Chanel Cristalle and Paco Rabanne Calandre. Koto is certainly less agressively green than vintage Vent Vert or Silences (no galbanum or quinolines here) and less oakmoss-rich than the original Y, but it falls within the group's characteristics nonetheless and can be nicely shared among the two sexes.

Koto by Shiseido circulates in an Eau de Cologne Pure Mist version (which is satisfyingly sufficient if you're not demanding of your scent to stick around into the night) and is a Japan exclusive. Yet it makes some appearences on online auctions from time to time. It's definitely approachable enough in both scent and price point to grace more collections than it does at the present time.

For our readers, a good-size decant of the fragrance will be given to the lucky reader among those who state their interest in the comments. The draw will be open till Saturday 30th May midnight.





The song is "Itsuki No Komoriuta", from the CD compilation "The Koto- Japanese Healing Music" uploaded by Starfires.
Painting Green Teapot and Japanese Bowl by Helene Druvert.

104 comments:

  1. Anonymous15:18

    Being a lover of Cristalle, I would love to try this - please do enter me into the draw. It sounds beautiful, but maybe that's just the wonderful way you have of describing fragrances!

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  2. Another gem to be discovered by visiting your blog. :)
    I'd like to try my hand in possibly winning the draw.

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  3. Lovely review. Thanks for taking the time to pull me/us through this particular musical door...and then to arrive at such an interesting fragrance.

    Of course, I'm particularly open to the idea of it, at least; love chypres, and often find happiness in many of the other notes you mention (including woods, and yes, the occasional "clean").

    I really want to try it, because in the list of fragrances you give for locating Koto, I am hugely fond of some, and have trouble with others. (Fan list includes Vent Vert, Silences, and "Y," with Calandre being one I've gone back and forth with.) So, if you don't mind, toss me in the draw...but I'll keep an eye out for other opportunities as well.

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  4. Ooh, enter me, lease. I love Vent Vert more than anything, almost, and anything oakmoss intrigues as well. I am very interested in how the crystalline floral accord works over the top of this composition. Thanks for this; I'm gonna have to get myself a sample of this somehow, and soon!

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  5. gautami16:50

    I am a lover of the green group you have mentioned, and I am also very fond of sweet japanese incense.
    Your description above ("notes of lily of the valley (muguet) with a smidge of rose and gardenia") also reminded me of Chant d'Aromes without the aldehydes.
    I would like an opportunity to try this one out, so please enter me in the draw.

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  6. I love to try it. Please enter me in the draw.

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  7. Anon,

    you're too kind. It's different enough and yet it shares that vibrant and cool feel...You're in so maybe you will find out for yourself :-)

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  8. Ines,

    hey there, how are you? Watching the Euro "competition" in the weekend? ;-)
    Thanks for the lovely comment and best of luck!

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  9. S,

    you're welcome, it's my pleasure to combine elements from other arts as often as I can. I love the delicate nature of Japanese music, the harmonies which rely on the "natural" physics of sound often remind me a bit of ancient Greek harmonics which is an intriguing comparison to say the very least!! :D

    I think this is easy to like, easy to wear. It doesn't make great demands, but it smells polished all the same. Great find and I am wondering why more people haven't tuned into it. I predict I will be wearing it a lot this summer.

    Of course you're included!

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  10. LBV,

    best of luck! Hope you win.
    It's a green floral chypre, with all that entails. It's breezy, but not agressive and it smells young like Vent Vert used to. I think you'll like it. It's lighter though as it's an EDC.

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  11. Gautami,

    perfect analogy actually as although not the same both fragrances (CdA and Koto) produce the same feeling of tender contentment in me! CdA is a bit peachier and somwhat milky in the drydown but I can definitely see the correlation.

    HOpe you win!

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  12. Torooo,

    of course I am including you. Best of luck!

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  13. Oh Yes! I'd love to try it.

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  14. You can never have enough chypres. And I have no excuse for not knowing this one, since I live in San Francisco which is one of the few places that has a large Japantown where you can find Shiseido.

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  15. I will bow out of the drawing since I was so lucky as to win the one for the raw materials (which thrilled me - I can't wait to play with them!).

    Just wanted to say that Koto sounds lovely. I'm a big fan of Silences and Ivoire, and liked Vent Vert but did not love it. I have a sample of Y I haven't tried, and still have not gotten my paws on unruined Calandre since the disappointment of the turned mini bottle, but this is a corner of the fragrance world I'm very comfortable in, among the green floral chypres.

    The artwork is such a peaceful, aqueous image, with those rounded shapes and the strength of the bamboo limb.

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  16. Zazie17:55

    Oh, it sounds wonderful, and right up my alley!
    I cross my fingers and jump in the draw!
    ;)
    Thanks for the opportunity!

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  17. Deja Vu,,I just drug out my vintage Vent Vert parfum,,and remembered how I love green. I'm a Cristalle lover,,and Chanel 19,,so this is right up my alley:) Wonderful reviews,,much better English than mine!! You're lucky to have 2+ worlds to converse in. Please enter me in the drawing. Thanks!!!

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  18. Yes, I am really interested in this drawing because I had no opportunity to use Shiseido scents till now. I hope I could win though.:-)) Thanks
    lubaska dot k at gmail dot com

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  19. I love your blog! It's a feast for the senses! Perhaps you can help me find a long lost perfume by Shishedo. I purchased it in 1973. The scent was very fresh, light, grass, rain, with undertones of moss, green woods, earth, orchids, maybe even pine. It is hard to describe a scent that was so rare and elusive, so many years ago. I was only 17 when I wore it, but I have never forgotten it. I'd love to find it again. Sorry I don't have more inforamtion.

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  20. Oh, this sounds lovely! I adore chypres, and would love to have some of this.

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  21. I'd love to be entered in this drawing...Thank you!

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  22. I want haz!
    I'm a Shiseido freak, you know. Haven't had a chance to put my paws on this one, though.

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  23. Anonymous21:00

    Dear E,

    I love chypres and would love to try this. It sounds beautiful, but no galbanum!? Bummer :)

    Natalia

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  24. Nancy C.21:08

    I love Cristalle so this sounds like something I would much appreciate winning. Thanks.

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  25. I do love a green chypre. Y and Calandre are two of my favorite fragrances. Please enter me in your drawing--I would love to try Koto, and I have a great deal of respect for Shiseido. Thanks!

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  26. Ooh! That sounds very japanese. After what I have learned about the japanese culture.
    Thank you for a nice review, setting light on a perfume that I've never heard about before. I'll remember it when I go to japan (sometime, hopefully)

    I don't want to be in the draw.

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  27. Jennifer22:26

    I'm getting into fragrance and just recived my order of minis of Ivoire and Mitsuoko,Y is onthe way!I would love to try another chypre!

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  28. Would love to try this! Thanks!

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  29. An easy to wear green? I'd love to try it. For some reason many greens go "nuclear" on me, but I'm still on the look for one I can wear, as my husband loves that style of perfume. The closest thing I've found thus far is Calyx, although it's not a straight-up green.

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  30. Sounds lovely! I'm in!

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  31. Anonymous00:44

    oooh, me, me, me, me! sounds lovely, and i was going to say how the heck did i miss a CHYPRE at the shiseido counter until you mentioned that it was a japan exclusif! bring it thisaway, shiseido! can't have too many chypres!

    ha!
    minette

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  32. Please enter me into this draw. The fragrance sounds so good!

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  33. sigh... this means I need to start looking for Koto online as well... =P and yes while I'm on the hunt I'd love a sample~

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  34. You had me at 'cool mossiness' (mossyness? I forget. I read it and my mind just blew!)

    would love to try this! here's hoping! (fingers, toes and eyes all crossed! :-)

    lovely review, btw!

    xoA

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  35. maureenC04:17

    I have worn Cristalle in the past, and would love to give this one a try. Please enter me for the draw. Thanks

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  36. I would love to be entered into your drawing. I am a fan of chypres. My classic favorite is Mitsouko. I would love to smell the "eastern" less perfumed version of the chypre. Koto sounds interesting.

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  37. Helg, I'm enjoying here the first days of summer and today I'm cheering for Croatia to enter the Eurosong finals - with luck, I'll be cheering on this weekend! :)

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  38. Beautiful review! Koto sounds lovely and I would love to try it...

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  39. What a beautiful review, as usual. Please include me in the draw. Thank you!

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  40. What a beautiful review, as usual. :-)

    Would love to be included in the draw, thanks!

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  41. I would really love to try this, it sounds like it might be just what I've been looking for, as I've been in a bit of a perfume slump, probably having trouble making a seasonal transition or something.

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  42. HUGE Shiseido fan here, and just now starting an exploration of vintage green chypres. This sounds beyond perfect to me. Please enter me in the draw!

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  43. Fernando13:46

    Please enter me. I love your description of how this one is well-mannered and perhaps old-fashioned. Would that we had more such old-fashioned people and perfumes!

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  44. Helg - I'm always about trying something new and just tried vintage Diorissimo and Diorella for the first time this week. Diorissimo is LOTV, right? Is that the same as muguet? I have only worn it once so far, and it had moments of austere beauty (along with moments of just plan ol' austerity, without the beauty) on my skin. I think being mixed with rose would help the LOTV a lot. Please enter me for the Koto!

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  45. I do not even bother about the Fifi giveaways, but Koto got me interested. I love all things Japanese, and I also love my Cristalle and Tiare (Ormonde Jayne). I need to try Koto.
    Thanks!

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  46. Love the music in the video, and the perfume sounds just what I'm searching now. Vintage Vent vert are like magic words for me. Do you think it could do well on a man? Anyway I'd like to give it a try. Please include me in the draw and thanks for this fascinating reviews, as always.

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  47. Anonymous17:20

    Please count me in for the draw. I just found one of the incense makers over in japan who has a line of "perfumes" based on traditional incense or period scents. Details later.

    Ross
    http://olfactoryrescueservice.wordpress.com/

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  48. Anonymous17:54

    Please, enter me, too! I would love to try it.
    Thank you!
    Lavinia

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  49. Clarisse18:03

    I love the chypres! Have been addicted to Cristalle, Vent Vert and Y for ages and a great fan of Shiseido would adore to try Koto after reading your review and watched the video!
    Please include me in the draw! thanks!

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  50. You made Koto sound so green and refined... I'd love to smell this. It sounds like it would be a great summer-in-the-shade scent.

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  51. Marte21:03

    This sounds wonderful, please enter me in the draw!

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  52. This would be a great addition to my collection, I currently have no chypres.
    orchidfae at gmail dot com

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  53. James,

    maybe now is your chance! I'd love to see the SF Japantown!

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  54. Mals,

    very gracious of you and hope you get hours of enjoyment out of the sampler when it reaches you.

    I think you will like (if not necessarily love) Koto as it's so easy (and more evocative of Ivoire than Silences or Vent Vert).

    Love these zen pictures, especially when they're in unfussy compositions.

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  55. Zazie,

    most welcome and best of luck!

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  56. Lynne,

    LOL, what a coincidence eh?

    Duh...you make me blush. I do a lot of typos and the odd grammatical error out of haste (and thinking in different launguages all day long) all too often to claim such a claim! But you're very sweet!

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  57. L'u,

    thanks for stopping by and participating and good luck!

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  58. Kansasrose,

    thank you!! I'm honoured you're saying so.

    Your deascription reminds me somewhat of Inoui (a discontinued Shiseido fragrance that was beautiful), but the year introduced I believe was 1976. Are you absolutely sure on date?

    Of course you're in for the drawing!

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  59. Laurie,

    you're in, good luck!

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  60. L,

    I know!! It's quite an elegant brand in regards to perfumes and I can't blame you. Koto is subdued in contrast to some others, but very refined. I think you could spritz on freely for summer and enjoy! (will be sure to send you some to try anyway, do remind me)

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  61. Natalia,

    thanks for being a loyal reader, hope everything's fine.

    Nothing agressive about this one, but green and crisp all the same :-)

    Best of luck, honey!

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  62. Nancy,

    thanks for participating, hope you win!

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  63. QC,

    then you're almost bound to like it! You're in!

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  64. Jorid,

    yes, do try it out when you're next East. It's an unknown delight.

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  65. Jennifer,

    great picks and very different chypres from one another, so lots of fun trying them. Do know that Mitsouko is best when tried in its vintage format, even early to mid 80s is great!

    You're in!

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  66. Dionne,

    yup, I think so! It's delicate, fresh and carefree. Not perfumey, serious or agressive.
    I like the sort of frame of mind of your husband. My SO also appreciates greens and chypres, so I know what you're talking about. Calyx is pretty good, it has that fresh, juicy but tart grapefruit opening and lots of greenery.
    Do try Coriandre and Jean Louis Scherrer (the original) if you can! ;-)

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  67. Minette,

    perfectly said, hope they're listening!

    It's delightfully easy and crisp. Hope you win!

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  68. Pauline,

    you're in, hope the machine picks you!

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  69. Womo,

    definitely a sample would come handy. Luckily for you this isn't too expensive to get on fleaby, probably because so few people knew about it to begin with. (Oops, guess I ruined that now)

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  70. Musette/A,

    I wrote mossiness but is it mossyness? I don't really know! (that's what happens when I go with the neologisms over established, real words)

    Thanks for the kind words and LOL about the crossing of body parts: Before you get into a pretzel let me wish you best of luck and if all fails a sample might find its way home anyway.

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  71. Maureen,

    this is less citrusy than the Chanel, but in the same crisp and easy spirit. Best of luck!

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  72. Melissa,

    you're in! Nothing like Mitsouko (don't let me raise your expectations to the mythical and demanding heights of that one) but a great green floral smell for summer all the same. You're in!

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  73. Ines,

    I would surmiss as much about the cheering! Hope you win both this draw and the contest. (I don't like our song!)

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  74. Thanks Fabrice, you're in, so good luck!

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  75. CC,

    awwwww...Now you're spoiling me rotten.

    Best of luck!

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  76. proximity,

    I think it's an excellent transitory scent, fit for year-round wearing. Hope you win!

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  77. Lauren

    hope you get to try this one, it's a great introduction to the genre without being difficult to get yourself around it.

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  78. Gator Grad,

    Diorissimo is sharp and heady lily of the valley with a civet undercurrent in the vintage, much less so in the current (very thinned and synthetic-smelling on the whole, even though of course LOTV is a synth note to begin with). Yes, muguet is French for LOTV. (I have linked an article on this issue in the review)
    Koto is less floral and less focused on lotv alone. It's greener and less sweet.
    You're in!

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  79. F,

    how can I refuse! I hope you get to find out for yourself how well-mannered it is.

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  80. COD,

    well, the Fifis aren't MY giveaways, which is probably why they're more generous in size but less interesting in rarity :-)

    Tiare is really something and I hope Koto proves to be a hit as well.

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  81. Anatole,

    isn't the music so very soothing and melodious? Love it, glad you liked it.
    I can see this easily on a man, it's not too feminine. You're welcome and best of luck!

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  82. Ross,

    how wonderful to see you stopping by and by all means I am including you, even though I feel like I should send you some to try anyway out of scientific curiosity (I want to see what your expert nose will pick on the Japanese incense feel!).
    I don't peg it as true Japanese incense smell, that would be Kyoto by Comme des Garcons. I trust you have tried that one?

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  83. Lavinia,

    welcome and you're in, of course!

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  84. Clarisse,

    ah, but then you're the perfect candidate. You're in!

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  85. Daniele,

    so perfectly said even if you haven't tried it. That image is so fitting. Best of luck in the draw!

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  86. Marte,

    thanks for stopping by and participating and good luck!

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  87. orchidfae,

    thanks for stopping by and hope you get to try this one!

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  88. Catching up on my reading this a.m. (woefully behind!) and read this beautiful entry! Wow! You had me at "cool mossiness". I've never even heard of this. I wore their Zen years (and years) ago and remembering loving it at the time. Haven't smelled that one in years though.

    So yes, please enter me in the draw. Have a wonderful weekend. ~Donna

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  89. oh, my! this sounds amazing! i immediately got to searching for it but here in argentina no one sells it :( i'd love to be entered in the draw, if possible! :)
    thank you for your generosity and your always-wonderful blog!!

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  90. ^oh, you said it was a japanese exclusive. no wonder then ;P i guess i had hope because i had thought shiseido zen (white) was also an exclusive, but a friend of mine found it for me in the US :)

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  91. Helg, I tossed a few Shiseido samples to the package I was sending, including something very rare and exquisite....

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  92. Well, shoot! I can't believe I missed this one! I am a total chypre fanatic! I will just have to look for this one on eBay. Great article, thank you!

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  93. Have you announced the winner of this draw? Did I miss it somehow?

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  94. D,

    thanks honey and you're in!

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  95. Melina,

    thanks for stopping by!

    The white Zen isn't an exclusive, so it should be available everywhere, theoretically.
    I believe this one makes appearances on Ebay from time to time, not very expensive either. At any rate if you have trouble finding it even there, I could send off a sample to Argentina, no problem. Just email me with an address :-)

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  96. Stelma,

    we'll have much more draws later on, so don't despair. I am sure you'll have better luck next time. Thanks for commenting anyway. :-)

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  97. QC,

    I am going to announce it today (check it out!). Thanks for posting though, always good to keep track of things.

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  98. Karolina,

    thank you!!

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  99. Karolina,

    thank you!!

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  100. Anonymous09:26

    Koto was released in 1967, not 1985. :)

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  101. Anon,

    it looks like you're right (why Anon, though?)

    Don't recall the provenance of the date used, it looks like there are no western ads from the 70s, but the Japanese issue is indeed 1967. Which explains a hell of a lot regarding the scent's profile!! Thank you. :-)

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