As I always say, Japanese incense is unparalleled. And I sometimes like to venture beyond my daily, inexpensive incenses into pricier zones – particularly in Autumn and Winter when the smoke has more meaning.

In the mood for a more intense, severe smelling jinko (second grade agarwood), I went to my favourite incenserie in Fujisawa the other day and ended up choosing Yomei – described on the brand’s website as a ‘straightforward agarwood’. While appreciating its quality and concentration ( though I do like the afterlinger), in fact I am finding its almost sour austerity a little too stark.However, in tandem with the lovely, rose violet powdered oudh dreaminess that is Seicyo Kojurin (recommended), i feel quite contented.

The staff in the Buddhist altar shop are always welcoming, keeping a dignified distance – but very happy to ply me with samples (I think they are delighted to see a foreigner taking such an avid interest in one of the more arcane aspects of Japanese culture)- and some of thr free sample boxes that they casually popped in the bag are of quite a decent size : this Jinko Kojurin – a sandalwood/agarwood spiced delight that comes across almost like coffee and butterscotch – is another expertly blended incense I have bought in the past, and it is very pleasing to be using it again – this one is warming and soothing; full, and, bizarrely, according to the Gyokushodu website (worth taking a look at), is good for ‘those who like the occasional drink’.

Also among the exquisite freebies handed out by the incense people was an indescribable, almost pistachio like aromatic (in the light yellow box) that I can’t quite work out my reactions to, as well as a GORGEOUS floral balsamic musk – in the light blue box – just three sticks, that is described as being ‘elegant and fresh’, which I most certainly can- I will be definitely going back for this one as it is enigmatically erotic, as well as ( the owner went out to the back of the shop to look for this one) : a delightful sampler of incense by another kohmaker Kunjudo, whose strange Karin I use on a regular basis: with its beautiful presentation – a collection that reminds me of a brand new collection of coloured pencils, from childhood, when you went back to your school nervously after the summer holidays, there are two examples of each type, so that you can note to yourself which ones are your preferences and come back for more later.

While certainly luxurious, these purchases don’t break the bank, and just lighting a stick of esoterically uplifting incense and ‘listening’ to its unravelling story in the stillness of the afternoon is most definitely good for the soul – to just slow. With the obvious craftsmanship, artisanal excellence and centuries of tradition that are bound up in the aesthetic reactions intrinsic to each one of these products, the beauty of Japanese incense really speaks for itself.

What pleasure.


Filed under Flowers


  1. Nelleke Oepkes aka Booknose

    That’s an elegant way to seize the day! And so appropriate in style because
    I am going out with my good friend Juliko-san. She is thrice blessed with being of Indonesian, Japanese and Dutch descent. She helps me with organizing my house and is also a very good friend. I will show her this post as she likes to wrap up all kind of things.
    And I feel doubly cosseted with both of you around.

  2. Truly, nothing compares.
    In our new, sky-filled loft room, nothing could be more perfect.
    A neighbour was interested in seeing our converted attic, so I took her up there and she was immediately bewitched by the incense, having never come across the Japanese variety before. I gave her a couple of sticks and I have no doubt she will seek out more.

    • I love the idea of her walking upstairs and discovering an entirely new olfactory realm. I think in the UK we just associate incense with joss sticks whereas this is something entirely different.

      One of the most respected ( ancient ) incense makers in Kyoto does tours of its premises and factory during the creation process.

      The next time you come we must go.
      At this time of year it would probably be beyond exquisite x

  3. Incense pairs so well with the autumn nip in the air. Indian and Nepali incense is not so cosmetically elegant as the Japanese variety. It is a bit crude and crass in comparison. Nevertheless, I have 2 favorites I burn regularly at home and at my gallery. One is a Sai Baba’s “satya” (true) nag champa and the other is simply named Woods, a simple blend of Mysore sandalwood and vanilla. Both are excellent quality and guests love them so I sell them at my gallery too.

  4. Oh how I would love to purchase some of their incense. What is their website? Do you know if they post abroad? We adore incense, candles, Lampe Berger, and papier d’Armenie. Everything scented.

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