The Fine Art of Japanese Incense

Monday, December 10, 2012
The fine art of Japanese Incense "Kodo," is one the most important facets of the Japanese culture. According to records Kanjin, Chinese scholar and monk, brought the culture of incense to Japan while visiting to propagate Buddhism during the Tang Dynasty. As a result of the constraints of the Japanese living standards and the environment, using incense was restricted to the worshipping of Buddha while in the temple, and occasionally scenting rooms and clothes. However, the incense culture hadn't yet extended into daily living.
Conversely, in the Japanese culture the history of Kodo began with the inflow of agarwood. It is believed that a piece of agarwood floated ashore and the natives of Awjishima Island mistook it for regular firewood. They were amazed at the scent that it produced while it was burning; this caused them to present it to the courtyard. Agarwood quickly became well-known under the adoption and promotion of scholars and nobles.
Customary Japanese Incense uses several types of rare bark and roots, such as agarwood, cypress, peony, sandalwood, camphor, and magnolia as ingredients. The presence of incense relaxes the body refreshes the mind, and clears and harmonizes energy. Japanese Incense also has an incomparable reputation for purity and quality. The ingredients in the incense are simple yet pure. The art of creating incense requires a considerable amount of skill. The traditional blend of ingredients is prepared to ensure proper quality and balance. These undisclosed formulations and skills have been handed down through oral tradition for centuries.

Japanese Incense Types
Sandalwood (Byakudan)
Sandalwood is derived from an evergreen tree that is cultivated in Indonesia, India, and Malaysia. Sandalwood's persistent forested, spicy scent makes it extensively utilized in many religious ceremonies. Customary Chinese medicines, wood carvings, and incense also use Sandalwood. Its incense is created by hand rolling the paste of sapwood onto bamboo skewers. Sandalwood oil / sandalwood incense scent is said to clarify the mind, awaken intelligence, and aid meditation. The scent also soothes nervous tension, stress, calms the mind, and uplifts one's mood. It is even said to invigorate purpose, courage, happiness, and strength.
Jinko (Aloeswood/Agarwood)
Only an uninterrupted rainy forest in tropical region over centuries can produce Agarwood. Agarwood is balm is produced inside of the Aquilaria tree. Its dark, resinous wood has a brilliant fragrance when it is burned. Agarwood, Jinko is considered the finest natural Japanese Incense and is used during religious, medicinal, and cultural purposed for ages. Agarwood is said to stimulate clarity of the mind, enlightenment, aid in meditation, refresh the body, mind, and spirit.
Kyara is the premier grade of Agarwood. Kyara has a deeper scented fragrance and is stickier than the typical Agarwood. Kyara is also costlier per oz. than the current value of gold.
Japanese Juda Tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum)
The Japanese Judas tree's bark is an odorless inert used as a binding agent in producing high-quality incense
Benzoin (Ansoku-Chou)
Benzoin is a sweet and balsamic balm is derived from a short-lived tree in the Styracaceae tree family. Benzoin is emitted in the tropical tree Sumatra and produces a mild, warm scent similar to an aroma of vanilla. Benzoin is said to be used medicinally as antiseptic treatment uses such as cracked skin and bronchitis. Benzoin is also said to stimulate the mind, giving one feelings of elation, relieve chills, congested lungs and assists depression.
Borneol Camphor (Ryu-no)
Borneol is derived from a camphor tree in the Dipterocarpaceae tree family. Borneol Camphor is a type of crystalline element, which accrues in the cracks of the tree's trunk. Borneol acts as a natural moth and insect repellent.
Cinnamon Bark (Keihi)
Cinnamon Bark is one of the oldest spices that are known to mankind. Cinnamon has been traded amongst China, India, and Egypt more than 4,000 yrs ago. Cinnamon was cited in Roman and Greek pharmacopoeia in addition to the Christian Bible. Cinnamon is created in Vietnam, China, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka. In order to prepare Cinnamon, the bark of a cinnamon tree is dried then rolled into quills, cinnamon sticks. Cinnamon is said to relieve diabetes, colds, and indigestion.
Frankincense (Olibanum)
Frankincense is a highly esteemed substance in the ancient world; it is said has been used in the ceremonies in several religions. Frankincense is created in the balm of Burseraceae tree family, which is grown in NE Africa on the shores of Somalia and the Arabian Sea. Traditionally frankincense has been utilized as a pain relieving agent in many herbal remedies.
Clove (Choji)
The clove is native of the Zanzibar and Molluques and Islands. Cloves are dehydrated flower sprouts of the Myrtacea evergreen tree. The cloves hot and spicy scent makes it one of the most well-known spices in the world. Clove buds are often used to create stimulating remedies to assist people suffering from the flu, a common cold, or bronchitis. While cloves are thought to be natural germ fighters, they are also used as a pain reliever for muscle and joint problems. Cloves have also been said to attract protection, wealth, and love.
Haiso-Koh (Agastaches radix)
Haiso-Koh is the dehydrated root of the plant that is commonly called a Korean Mint and Wrinkled Giant Hyssop. The haiso-Koh originates in India and Iran. The fragrant perennial, haiso-Koh, bears a pink to violet flower and is frequently utilized in traditional medicines. The haiso-Koh is said to assist in maintaining healthy digestive function and restore clarity of mind.
Incense is said to have 10 psychological and physical virtues or benefits:
1. It refines The art of Japanese one's senses
2. Cleanses the body and mind
3. Eliminates spiritual or mental pollutants (kegare)
4. Stimulates alertness
5. Restores feelings of isolation
6. Produces a feeling of peace under a great deal of tension or stress
7. Even in plenty, is not overpowering
8. Fulfills, even in small measures
9. Doesn't dwindling over time
10. Doesn't harm even if using daily
Although it may appear that the art of Japanese Incense solely refers the sense of smell, however the art of Japanese Incense is in listening. The partakers do not smell, kagu, the fragrance of the wood or incense, instead they, Kiku, listen to it as it opens their spirit and heart. Contemporary western therapists and psychologists understand the powers in the sense of smell. It is possible for a smell to suddenly transport a person to a place they may recall from growing up. In Japan, the prize of a rare fragrant wood and the burning of incense have transported people to different spiritual planes for millennia.


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