Zak Zakka has started selling Japanese incense. Amongst a number of incense makers in Japan, we chose to deal in products from a Kyoto-based company, Kousaido. Here, we would like to introduce the profound Japanese incense culture and Kousaido.
Japanese Incense Culture
Incense culture was introduced and spread to Japan from China as the “fragrance for prayer” along with Buddhism. The “fragrance for prayer” was shifted to be treated as the “fragrance for life and culture,” then later, the “fragrance for elegance and sophistication” during the Heian period (710-1192 A.D.) by the aristocrats. They began to enjoy the scents itself by burning incense to perfume the room or their clothes (Sora-daki), as well as offered the incense to Buddha.
It was not until the Edo period (1600-1868 A.D.) that the culture of fragrance spread to the ordinary people. In those days, the number of people who practiced Koudo, the art of fragrance, was much larger than it is today. Especially, as for feudal lords, possession of famous incense was a status symbol. So, they competed with each other in buying the finest fragrant woods when Dutch trading vessels loaded with rare items arrived at Dejima in Nagasaki.
As the Meiji Era began in the mid-19th century, the old Japanese way of cherishing the scent had become in a period of extreme decline, along with the abolition of Buddhism and the rapid modernisation. However, even in those difficult times, Koudo has been firmly preserved and handed down by people of taste.
Today, the true value of Koudo, a Japan’s traditional incense culture, is being re-evaluated and the younger generation living in Japan is increasingly interested in the art of Koudo, which is becoming more integrated into daily life as a part of a wide variety of cultures in Japan together with kimonos, traditional Japanese garments and Japanese architecture.
“Koudo,” the art of fragrance
as one of the three major Japanese traditional cultures along with “Sado,” the tea ceremony and “Kado,” the art of flower arrangement.
In the tradition of Koudo, the scent is described as something we “listen to,” rather than we “smell.” Koudo has inherited the Heian aristocrats’ conception of the scent as an elegant lifestyle culture. With being deeply connected with the Japanese sensitivity to the changing seasons, Japanese literature and poetry, Koudo has been smartly systematized and sophisticated to be the one and only art form.
During the Heian period, aristocrats regarded fragrance as the embodiment of elegance and sophistication, and then Koudo has been passed on to the generations and elaborated to be the art of fragrance.
The Kyoto-based incense manufacturer, Kousaido is relatively a new company in the market.
There are several incense makers with a long history in Kyoto. Yet, what makes Kousaido stands out amongst the others is that they have developed a wide range of products that are not only of high quality, but also of modern and lovely scents with the image of the West and the East, which satisfies people living in the information-rich society of today. Moreover, they produce products such as paper soap, room spray, fume fragrance and kneaded perfume, to enjoy the scent in the comfort of everyday life.
Normally, on making incense, tree bark powders such as Tabu (Machilus thunbergia) powder and Shina powder are used as flavouring agents. Kousaido, on the other hand, uses Byakudan (Sandalwood) powder in addition to these, which gives the incense a Japanese flavour and a pleasant, sweet smell.
Since ancient times, the scent of incense has been said to have a positive effect on anxiety, anger, tension and nervousness in the human mind.
Why not heal yourself with Japanese incense that has been inherited from generation to generation?