From the Ancient Japanese Courtly Life to Modern-day Ko-Do – The Way of Incense
The oldest written record of incense in Japan states that a heavy piece of wood had drifted to the shore of Awaji Island (located roughly 500km south-west of Tokyo, between Honshu and Shikoku) in 595 AD. The villagers burnt the wood and smelt the beautiful fragrance, so they put out the fire and dedicated this wood to the Empress Suiko. By the 11th century, the Japanese aristocracy adopted the use of incense for personal pleasure. The Tale of Genji, the famous classical work of Japanese literature published in 1,021 AD, describes how the aristocracy at that time made special efforts to create exotic scents. They particularly adored perfuming the layers of kimono by burning incense.
Ko-Do (the Way of Incense) matured towards the end of the 15th century reflecting the fact that the samurai, who held all the political power, preferred simplicity and refinement as a way of life. The samurai developed Ko-Do in line with these aesthetics. The trend of mixing different ingredients changed emphasis to the appreciation of a single ingredient. Ko-Do is still practiced today. In Ko-Do, it is said that one “listens” to the scent of incense (rather than “smelling” it). This is to distinguish the fact of truly taking the scent to your heart and feeling it as opposed to just recognising (or registering) it.
The traditional incense that Sakura Murasaki stocks is created from the blends of pure and high quality ingredients reviving the luxurious and sophisticated scents of the Heian Era (794 AD – 1185 AD). Jewel of the Flower and Karin Select reflect this harmony of composition and are the most popular incenses we stock.
For those who seek something more robust with strong presence and character, we recommend Floating Pavilion, Japanese Story, Waves of Providence and Sapphire. These four types all have a common ingredient called aloeswood (or agar wood, also known as eaglewood) that gives a distinctively unique aroma unmatched by any other incense.