On Saturday afternoon we decided to walk into Kamakura.

It was a chilly day, with strange light.

It was also extraordinarily bustling, with people everywhere in festive mood, even though to my knowledge it was not a national holiday or local festival. There was, however, a wedding at the Hachimangu Shrine, which probably accounted for the large number of people out in formal wear.

In full public view, the couple staged their nuptials in the central shrine, as onlookers took pictures. I was thinking to myself how strange it was to want to have one’s private ceremony seen by so many strangers.

Then I suddenly remembered that we also once went to a Shinto wedding at Hachimangu ; many years ago…..just one shrine along in the complex – closed off. I remember waiting in the inner tatami-floored chamber before entering into the room of the wedding ritual feeling a little apprehensive about whether we would make any mistakes. Fortunately the priests and the staff were unfailingly polite and it all went very smoothly.

After strolling the grounds of Hachimangu, we went along to my favourite incense place down Komachidōri to re-experience some perfumes by incense maker Koju on display in the space at the back.

The seven perfumes in the Juemon series are all nuanced, warm and atmospheric, the majority soft and woody with just the right amount of austerity. Standouts for me included Kou (‘Lord’ , or ‘Emperor’) which is a fine byakudan sandalwood that I would consider getting for myself as sometimes I feel precisely like that Japanese incense iteration of the wood : to me it had a feeling of authenticity.

‘Hana’ – one of three florals – was a jinchoge soliflore, a convincing rendition of the bright smelling daphne odora flowers that blossom here in the middle of winter. Perhaps a little too enthusiastic, I still found it cheering for its specificity.

If I enjoyed these two, I fell in love with the striking outlier in the collection. — Tou (‘transparent’).

There is a peculiar uniqueness to a lot of Japanese incense : the poignant contrast between the crushed powder of the balsamic bases of the sachets slipped inside kimonos to release perfume quietly, and the sharp, dark crystalline medicinality of the shōnō, or camphor, with its sting of the foreboding ancient to which I have always had a deep and puzzling attraction.

In this singular and delightful scent, a penetrative top note of Japanese hakka mint is entwined with a grave apothecary camphor, spiked warmly with dried chōjū clove buds – over a soft ambered, vanillic fade-out lingering sensuously on skin. Unusual as a perfume, this is an absolute must-buy for me and I will be going back again next week to get a bottle: I can imagine it being very distinctive on a cold winter’s night around New Year wrapped up in a long coat. Kamakura is a beautiful place, filled with historical savour, and this perfume definitely captures something of its quintessential atmosphere.


Filed under Flowers


  1. Tara C

    Wow! Love the photos, especially all the kimonos and the wedding photos. Those perfumes sound wonderful, I am a big fan of incense, especially Japanese incense. Did a quick google, only got one reference to them on Parfumo, I’m guessing they are not distributed outside Japan.

  2. rosestrang

    Really lovely photos, hope I can visit Kamakura some day!

  3. Exquisite photos! I would love to be there in person and see such a beautiful temple complex. The wedding video was lovely as well.
    I adore incense, Japanese especially, and would probably adore these. Sadly, they do not seem to be available outside of Japan. So sad.

  4. OnWingsofSaffron

    Unfailingly lovely!

  5. Robin

    I was taken there by your photos and as usual, I wish I really could have been there.

    That store fascinates me. I could spend hours . . . and I swooned a bit when you mentioned Hana. I worship the smell of daphne when those tiny blooms make their appearance here in late winter. It’s such an optimistic scent, for us the sign of the last of a cool and rainy reason that always seems to go on for a few weeks too long.

Leave a Reply to brielle87 Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s