DI SER‘s Hikaru Daichi takes you on a trip to Japan’s mountain forests from the clean, crisp air at the peak to the green-tinged earthy forest floors below, complete with aromatic, fragrant pine cones strewn all over. The only things that remove you from the naturalism of this tableau are church-style frankincense and immensely resinous, tarry, leathery oud.
Hikaru Daichi is a pure parfum that was created by Yasuyuki Shinohara and released in 2022. DI SER’s description and note list are as follows:
Hikaru daichi is a perfume that represents the scents of the sky, trees, and earth. The mountains and trees illuminated by the morning sun, with their scents rising with the steam, are represented by agarwood, lime, red pine, and hinoki.
Fresh with slight incense
Clean wood, warm-floral
Lasting with bitter-woody, balsamic
The note list is:
Agarwood, lime, geranium, todo pine, oakmoss, hinoki [Japanese cedar], vetiver, red pine, frankincense.
Hikaru Daichi opens on my skin with brisk, effervescent, slightly astringent lime juice and its aromatic, fragrant zest, both generously strewn over a multi-faceted forest tableau: soft oakmoss; aromatic pine; earthy vetiver; lemony fresh cedar; fuzzy, green, bitter-smelling geranium leaves; a lightly spiced, minutely musky and smoky wood that hints at being oud; and armfuls of dark loamy earth. Filaments of pale, lemony, clean frankincense tie everything together.
Hikaru Daichi shifts within minutes. The lime zest and juice dissolve into the woods, serving merely to amplify the lemony facets that some of them manifest innately. (In fact, the lemony cedar wood fuses with the incense in a way that strongly mimics elemi wood.) At the same time, the tree and related green accords turn blurry, overlap, and lose individual characteristics. Everything swirls together recreate a broad tableau of a forest whose bouquet is brisk, crisp, zingy, refreshing, airy, aromatic, mossy, leafy, woody, earthy, minutely spicy, and infinitely fresh and clean in a wonderfully naturalistic way. The cumulative effect evokes a day hiking in the great outdoors.
It’s a feeling and mood more than a set of perfume notes. For example, I can’t pick out the oakmoss, vetiver, or various woods in any clear, individual way. They serve merely to paint in the picture, adding broad swathes of green to the woody scenery.
One exception, however, is the frankincense which, 10 minutes in, grows much stronger, wafting pure, clean, white plumes similar to those of Omani silver frankincense and to what you’d experience in a church mass.
20 to 25 minutes in, Hikaru Daichi enters into its second stage with a bouquet dominated by a quartet of notes. The first three consist of: brisk, refreshing citrus (that now smells of lemon, not lime) generously strewn over pure, clean, silvery incense and a plethora of aromatic, fresh, green-tinged, and occasionally little sappy, woods. The latter smell mostly cedar-ish but a quiet note of fragrant conifers and their pine cones is starting to swirl around as well. Running under everything is a quiet earthiness that serves to accentuate the verisimilitude of the tableau.
Though it is painted in broad, sometimes impressionistic, brushstrokes, it is effectively evocative. One can almost see or feel the tall conifers; the outgrowth of leafy or mossy greens; the crisp zip of mountain air imbued with citrus and nature’s aromatics; and the blue skies above filled with silvery (frankincense) clouds.
The fourth member of the quartet of central accords is a new arrival, the oud, the only note to suggest that what I’m wearing is man-made perfume, not the bottled essence of some Japanese forest. Wafting a tarry smokiness, the oud’s first puffs emerged at the 20-minute mark, steadily growing stronger until, ten minutes later, it triples in strength. The result adds thick plumes of tarry, resinous, slightly leathery black smoke to the otherwise crisp, clean, brisk, and airy outdoors.
75 minutes in, Hikaru Daichi realigns its notes and a third stage begins. The bouquet is now a blurry haze of tarry black leather and deeply resinous oud wood layered with medicinal camphor, a eucalyptus-like note, aromatic pine sap, zingy lemon, woody conifers, Christmas-y balsam pine cones, silvered church frankincense, and charred woods with their burnt wood smoke.
At the end of the 3rd hour and the start of the 4th, Hikaru Daichi turns even blurrier. There are broad, impressionistic swathes of cool, crisp citrus splattered over pine cones, medicinal eucalyptus, and dry, smoky, woody, oud-y resins, all woven together with frankincense. Any leathery, tarry blackness that remains is more of an abstraction or mental feel than a concrete, obvious note. The oud itself is less woody and more like black treacle, as if one had scrapped out the black layers within a piece of agarwood then smeared them over lemon-infused pine cones, smoked cedar chips, and eucalyptus muscle rub.
4.5 hours in, Hikaru Daichi shifts again. The scent is now primarily coniferous woods, medicinal camphor, and lemony frankincense, all woven together with resinous, tarry wood smoke. The most important change at this time, however, is a textural one: the bouquet takes on a textural creaminess and plushness, like suede. It’s undoubtedly the oud which has transitioned away from tar-laden black leather into something softer and gentler, despite the ongoing tar residue that stains everything.
At the start of the 6th hour, a new note arrives on scene. It’s fresh, green mint. My skin consistently turns vetiver into peppermint or winter mint but oud can also emit a minty aroma, so it’s impossible for me to ascertain the source. Wherever it comes from, the “mint” gradually and incrementally grows stronger in the hours that follow.
Hikaru Daichi enters its exceptionally long drydown phase about 6.5 hours in, or in the middle of the 7th hour. The bouquet is now a simple one: camphorous, smoky, minty vetiver-ish, incense-y, resinous, woody, and suede-like plushness. By the end of the 11th hour and start of the 12th, Hikaru Daichi is largely the same but the greenness subsumed within the woody velvetiness now smells both of mint and of actual rooty, mossy, slightly earthy vetiver. When the 16th hour rolls around, all that’s left is vetiver-ish woody creaminess with a suede-like texture. Hikaru Daichi remains that way until it dies away hours later.
Hikaru Daichi had moderate to low sillage and exceptional longevity. With 2-3 smears equal to 2 good sprays from a bottle, the parfum opened with about 4 inches of sillage that expanded to about 7-8 after the oud kicked in at the 20-minute mark. The opening bouquet was weightless in body and feel. The Japanese fragrance culture and aesthetic opts for light, sheer, and rather quiet scents les one intrude or impose into another’s personal space – and Hikaru Daichi initially follows that trend. However, once the oud appears on scene, the bouquet gains some richness and heaviness, at least relative to its gauzy opening. I would not say, though, that Hikaru Daichi was a heavy scent like many Middle Eastern oud-based extraits when taken as a whole. It’s in the middle to middle-lower end of the scale in that regard in terms of body and weight.
Hikaru Daichi’s sillage drops quite rapidly on me after its initial blossoming. About 75 minutes in, the scent extends about 2.5 inches from my skin. However, an odd thing happens in the hours that follow: sometimes there is a clear scent trail without me moving my body or my arm. It’s as though the fragrance suddenly decides to burst on scene before returning to something more intimate that requires me bringing my nose near my arm. That cycle continues until the 5.5-hour mark or the middle of the 6th hour when Hikaru Daichi hovers about 1.5 inches above my skin.
The fragrance turns into a skin scent on me a few hours into the drydown, roughly 8.75 hours in or late in the 9th hour. It was easy to detect, however, without much effort if I brought my nose to my arm. It required effort after the 15th hour. To my astonishment, though, Hikaru Daichi lingered on as a smear of minty, vetiver-ish cream for quite a while: until just before the 19th hour when it finally died away.
I have mixed feelings about Hikaru Daichi. Without question, it is a smooth, well-blended composition centered on good quality raw materials. And I love the opening 30-75 minutes. However, I wish the notes hadn’t turned blurry and impressionistic quite so soon, so perhaps Hikaru Daichi is actually a little too well blended? I mean, parts of the scent began to lose shape on my skin within mere minutes of its start.
Separately, I wanted much more of the wonderful, intensely evocative, forest-y, and coniferous accords, despite their blurry nature, and also for them to last much longer. Though I’m not exactly a meditative person and while Catholic High Mass frankincense is not my personal thing, I thought there was something incredibly soulful, tranquil, centering, and delicately emotional about the short-lived phase where bright, zippy, zesty citrus fell over a tableau of verdant conifers, pine cones, cedar, and tinkling, intensely silvered, pure, clean frankincense.
So I wish it had taken much longer than 20 minutes for the oud to shift the wonderfully naturalistic, transportive sense of hiking up a Japanese mountain into something more like perfume and oud incense. Perhaps if the oud had been used in a fractionally less concentrated amount, it might have appeared a bit later and not engulfed the beautifully coniferous balsam trees, pine cones, earth, moss, and verdant cedar forest in its deluge of blackened tar, resins, and resinous smoke?
Another thing that I’m less than enthused about: the crazy length of the drydown phase on my skin. Anything that lasts that insanely long needs, I think, just an iota of oomph, layers, and/or nuance to keep my interest, and I’m afraid I got bored by the monotony of Hikaru Daichi by the start of the 11th hour. To be completely fair, however, I really am not a vetiver enthusiast, and I think a person who is one might absolutely adore hours of smoky, minty, woody, resinous vetiver-ish cream.
That’s the thing about extremely linear and simple bouquets: there is absolutely nothing wrong with them if you love the scent in question (and if the notes and quality of the materials justify the price in question). I’m not a fan of vetiver mostly because my skin turns it into mint and, really, how many hours of mint cream can any sane person take if they can’t abide the scent? It is a purely individualistic, subjective valuation based on note preferences, so you must keep that in mind when I say that I found Hikaru Daichi tedious and mundane in its later hours.
Personal skin chemistry might also be the reason for exactly why Hikaru Daichi’s more complex, interesting, layered early stages dissolved or turned abstract as rapidly as they did. That said, I don’t think my skin is purely to blame for Hikaru Daichi being – to quote young people today – a “party on top” followed by it rapidly dissolving into impressionism and then great abstraction. I think it’s a Japanese historical, aesthetic, cultural, and artistic thing.
When I wore Hikaru Daichi, it felt like a natural olfactory reflection of Japan’s centuries-old calligraphy art or its Zen gardens, two things where simplicity is viewed as a thing of beauty as well as a goal in and of itself. It’s difficult to explain, but the almost zen-purity and simplicity of DI SER’s impressionistic, sometimes broadly symbolic, approach to Hikaru Daichi felt deliberate, like an auteur‘s personal vision influenced by centuries of Japanese cultural aesthetics, art, style, and history.
As such, is it fair for me to want more than the Kōdō (香道, “Way of Fragrance”) that is DI SER’s explicit mission statement and aesthetic? (See, DI SER Kyara for more on that.)
No, it isn’t.
It comes down to personal aesthetics, preferences, and tastes. In my case, my tastes combined with the quirks of my personal skin chemistry left me wanting something more (and more interesting, to me) after Hikaru Daichi’s initial 3 or 4 hours.
I think DI SER is a brand worth exploring, though. and I admire what Mr. Shinohara is doing. After trying 4 of his fragrances thus far, it feels as though there is a vision being expressed and a language being spoken, both deeply artistic as well as personal. Plus, something about Mr. Shinohara’s aesthetic, his focus on the beauty of naturals, and his compositional style or approach makes me think of AbdesSalaam Attar of La Via de Profumo. That was one of the things which struck me when I tried two DI SER eau de parfums, Akenesasu and Kazehikaru.
Hmmph. When sillage turns so discreet after a *mere* 20 min. in one case & 35 min. in the other that it hovers just 1/2 an inch above my arm & I have to bring my nose to it to detect what's going on, then I'm not a happy camper. That's WAY too short a time, esp. at niche prices.
— Kafkaesque (@Kafkaesque_Blog) May 7, 2020
As the comment above indicates, the Japanese fragrance aesthetic regarding discreet scents that don’t intrude into another’s personal taste is not my own. So, if you’re looking for something with a bolder presence and if you have voracious, perfume-eating skin like my own, then you might want to skip the eau de parfums and try the parfums instead. Even then, don’t expect a huge scent cloud.
Though Hikaru Daichi is very reasonably priced as compared to the extravagant cost of Kyara, I think it is a fragrance that should be tested first. Don’t blind-buy a bottle. I know I say that constantly and about everything, but testing really would be wisest, especially if you’re uncertain how the Japanese scent aesthetic or approach aligns with your own tastes and if you’re accustomed to louder Western and Middle Eastern fragrances.
If you want to read about other experiences with or thoughts on Hikaru Daichi, you can turn to Fragrantica.
Disclosure: My sample was kindly provided by Luckyscent. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews and my opinions are my own.