Ryoko Hori | Apiece Apart Woman

Apiece Apart Woman: Ryoko Hori


“ Go with the flow. The universe knows.”

Berlin-based Ryoko Hori has cultivated a career based on attuning to the sensory details around her. Born in Osaka, Ryoko studied fashion design and lived in Tokyo and Paris before being drawn to something different, craving a connection to the physical self and training as a massage therapist in Australia. Flash forward to today, where she lives in Berlin and operates a beloved “senses salon,” which exists as part apothecary, part workshop space, part hub of a deliberate, subtle, and artful curation of her own articulation of wellbeing. It’s a study in thoughtful articulation, humble appreciation of the everyday, and intention in every sense. Read on for our visit to her studio. 

Photos by Silvia Conde

Apiece Apart RyokoApiece Apart Ryoko

Can you share more about your upbringing and background — what would someone new to you+your work be curious to know as context? What has contributed to the woman you are today?
I was born in Osaka — as the middle child of three,I was lucky enough to be raised by a mother who was very much into alternative medicine and organic food, who practiced yoga in the 80s. Back then I was embarrassed by the differences between our home and the other kids in my neighborhood...she didn’t use white industrial sugar for homemade cakes and didn’t give us supermarket chips...we ate all healthy foods. I was very attached to my grandmother and loved going to visit her in Kobe during the summer. She taught me all kinds of hands-on crafts: sewing, knitting, pressed flowers, and ceramics. I loved using my hands to create something.
After high school, I went to Tokyo and studied fashion design, after which I worked then for a fashion designer, and left Tokyo for Paris, where I spent three years. After that, I went back to Tokyo to work for the same designer; while working in fashion was very interesting and a true eye-opener, I realized that working in Japan was not what I wanted to do for the rest of life. I started to look for balance, and for the connection between body and mind. After three more years passed, I left again for Australia, this time to study remedial massage therapy. I remember the feeling of immediate fascination that came with working with my hands on a human body — it was a connection and an awakening, using a part of the brain that I had never used before. 
For the last six years I have been in Berlin, working in my studio that I call a "senses salon," where my partner and I work, sharing our beliefs and interests by inviting masters to lead hands-on workshops related to health and wellness, but also ritual and tradition. It focuses on refining the mind through a connection to our senses. We run also a little shop where we embody our philosophy that "luxury" is about time and attention. Through mindful rituals, we can deepen our connection and appreciation of our senses. In the shop we curate a collection of "tools" from natural incenses to Japanese tea, handmade ceramics to art pieces.

Apiece Apart Ryoko
Apiece Apart Ryoko

What can we learn from our connection to sensory experiences? How might we deepen that understanding? 
Our body systems activate through sensory experiences - for example, the digestive system starts when we smell or see foods. Or the parasympathetic nervous system activates when we are relaxed by comfortable touch. Our quality of life depends on sensory experiences, and we can develop the senses through a range of experience and variety. There's no short cut, it's just engaging with the sense as often as possible with awareness. 
Sight is the most dominating sense (and I think it often can be overstimulating). We often make decisions with sight alone. To cultivate the senses I would recommend starting by just closing your eyes, cutting off your sight as an experiment to develop your other senses. Take a deep breath.

Do you have any "rules for living"? 
Go with the flow. The universe knows.

Can you recommend an oil blend recipe or treatment we can implement for the seasonal transition?
To welcome the fall from the summer, I recommend a soothing blend of sesame (not only a warming oil in Ayurveda, but also great for moisturising and anti-aging) paired with uplifting jasmine and sweet orange. Grounding patchouli and sandalwood are also a nice treatment for body and mind. A personal favorite is osmanthus flower, which makes me happy — it is the symbol of the fall and is something you smell often in Japan! 
You can also burn oud incense, which I find is the perfect way to slow down your pace. 

Apiece Apart Ryoko

What has movement – physical or temporal – taught you about finding stillness?
I was always looking for something outside — I was on a schedule of moving to a new country every three years in my twenties! Thanks to these experiences I found that many of the things I was looking for were actually inside me. But I had to journey in order to find them. 
Living in Berlin is exciting — it's an international, very active city, but can leave you feeling lost. Here, I've found that my discipline makes me step back, and continue seeking balance. I am "home" in my rhythm and my breathing. If I can find those things, I can come back to myself wherever I go or live. 
What have been some recent sources of inspiration or personal connection?
For my recent perfume creation, Cuban-American artist Ana Mendieta’s early works inspired me and made me want to play with the idea of perception of time. I always like to let people daydream and lose themselves in experiences and and not be so dogmatic. Often I don't name any of the blends I create for this reason. 

Apiece Apart Ryoko
Apiece Apart Ryoko

What are some of your favorite books — ones you’ve either recently read or that you have perhaps given to others as gifts?
I like "The Book of Tea" by Okakura Kakuzō, or old books especially Japanese ones from Edo or Meiji era. 
What are some of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned?
Anything becomes your own precious experience. Even if it looks complicated or useless, it is necessary for learning.