I was going to write ‘a beautiful new way to wear perfume’ at first here but then realized that people in Japan have of course been wearing purificational powdered incense before entering temples and shrines, or before meditating, for hundreds of years.

Despite being a longtime lover of Japanese incense, I have somehow overlooked the tradition of incense for the body, opting for stick or coil incense in the house; sometimes scenting draws and cupboards with boxes of this ghostly, spiritually exquisite craftsmanship for its softly lingering memories on fabric, but, not, until now, ever having directly encountered wearable powdered incense that can be directly applied to the skin.

My first reaction on taking the bottle of Zukoh out of its wooden box and applying it to the back of my hand was something like wonder: a panic that it would run out too quickly when I was keenly aware of its olfactory power to root me in the here in now – it couldn’t possibly be more Kamakura.

The powder is shaken out gently from the apothecary bottle almost as though you were putting some ground cinnamon or cloves onto confectionery; it feels odd, at first, to be putting a dry, pulverized perfume on your skin rather than a liquid- though if you have ever used talc at all then this sensation will be familiar – but what is unfamiliar here is the deeply redolent and austere atmosphere of Japanese temples that surrounds you all at once upon application. I felt immediately grounded, calmed down, tranquillized.

Beginning very spicily with camphor-tinged tones of solemnifed cinnamon and cloves, the simple, but beautifully synchronized blend of ryunou-giku (chrysanthemum japonica), fennel, and a touch of ylang ylang gently folded onto a sandalwood and balsamic, dreamy ansoku-koh (Sumatran benzoin) base, Zukoh is definitely a very private scent – with sufficient sillage to intrigue passersby if you were to put on enough – but essentially meditational, skin-close.

Lovers of Mark Buxton’s Comme Des Garcons by Comme Des Garcons perfume from 1994 (now horribly reformulated) will like this – the spice-averse surely won’t – , but for anyone who wants to step out of themselves or their surroundings for a moment and enter a different sphere, to just breathe a little, I can’t recommend this enough. I will be going up to the Hinoqi store in Shibuya to investigate the brand’s other natural perfumes at the earliest opportunity.


Filed under Flowers


  1. Nelleke Oepkes aka Booknose

    Sounds intriguing and quite relaxing. Almost vaut le voyage a Japon! Is it sold outside Japan?

  2. Nelleke Oepkes aka Booknose

    Sounds delightfull!
    Almost Vaut le voyage a Japon.
    Is it sold outside Japan?

  3. I know they sell it at a shop in Seattle. Probably because it is not liquid perfume it can be exported much more readily. I will look into it.

    I also want to find out more about powdered incense perfumes in general here. There are some INCREDIBLY refined incense institutions in Kyoto and the like.

    While others go for viler and viler petrolic woody niche, I shall be sashaying about like a spectral kimono

  4. OnWingsofSaffron

    So interesting! Victoria from Bois de Jasmin once wrote a post about Japanese incense/spice powder from Shoyeido. I remember thing that I really ought to get some. Reading your post now, I know I must!

  5. rosestrang

    That sounds beautiful!

  6. Robin

    I want to have this experience, N! Sounds quietly transporting. I like the idea of its subtlety and that sense of ritual. Thank you for telling us about it as evocatively as you always do.

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