The Black Narcissus



There is no doubt in my mind that Japanese incense, an ancient tradition that continues unabated to this day, is of a quality and beauty that surpasses all others. We are not talking ‘joss sticks’, of the inexpensive sandalwood incense used in Chinese temples, or the ‘Lotus Love’, thickly pasted cheap Indian incense on sale at music festivals. No. We are talking here about mysterious, beautiful, almost eerily emotive incense that rises up, beguilingly, in austere, religious smoke: in temples, from houses; a curious, ghostly vapour that is both spiritually calming and sensual: kyara/jinko (agarwood), sandalwood, cloves, benzoin,  cinnamon, rose, camphor, patchouli, osmanthus, hinoki…..all in various combinations, proportions and recipes, boxes of incense arranged in Buddhist shops for the peruser’s inspection. Usually, one is forced to lift up the box, and mess with the carefully wrapped boxes (which can cost up to 20, 000 yen (200 dollars), in order to…

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  1. Chase

    Hi. Just started reading your blog. Love your writing.

    I’m a litte confused by the re-posts… but does this post mean you’re going incense shopping again? If so, that’s great and congratulations.

    I’d love to be able to buy some good incense from here (U.S.) but I stand no chance of ever going to Japan.

    Is there any way to turn this post into a resource of notable Makers, specific products and online sales sites?

    I gleaned some information from comment posts in your earlier incense post, but places to buy have elluded me so far : (

    Anyway, enjoy Japan if you’re going again and keep up the great writing.

    **** If any readers want to comment with suggestions for specific incense or sources, that would be great too : ) ****

    • I will have to do more on incense, in more detail at some point (I live here, am not visiting, so can definitely do that).

      The reposts……yes they are a bit odd I suppose, but sometimes I just feel like putting older posts up, especially from when I first started the blog and pieces were under-read. I kind of think of The Black Narcissus as an olfactive, mood juke box – I suddenly just feel like different posts again. Also I wanted to distance myself from the post on Kenji Goto as I find it all too upsetting.

      • Chase

        Thanks for your reply… I see from Rafael’s note that this post is only attracting quality comments lol. I’m just as glad that he had no recomendations for me.

        How fortunate you are; living there. I’ve studied and taught Aikido and spent some time in a Zen Buddhist Monastery here in the States; studied a little Ikebana and Sumi-e. I’d love to have the opportunity to spend some time viewing the older traditional gardens in Kyoto.

        Thanks for explaining the re-post thing. I’m a little better grounded now tn what’s going on. I was feeling a bit confused…

        I read your post about Kenji Goto. I’m not very political and don’t read the newspaper, but I knew the name and what you were referring to. It is simply an aweful situation.

        I wish you the best and will continue to enjoy your writing. Hope the incense thing makes it to the top of your list one day. I’d love to be able to find some to buy.

        Best Regards

  2. Rafael

    I want an incense that smells like the pissoir in a Turkish Hammam that’s been overun with soldiers. What would you suggest?

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