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.