Fragrances used in the Asuka and Nara periods were those brought over from the Sui and Tang dynasties, and were largely associated with religion. However, the fact that the mixed incense "Ebikoh", which is stored in Shosoin, was used for scenting garments and Buddhist scriptures and protecting them from insects indicates that incense was also used in daily life at that time. In addition, the introduction of kneaded incense formed the basis of Japanese incense and led to the florescence of the incense culture in the Heian period.
Before the introduction of Buddhism, the natural woody fragrances of cedar, Japanese cypress, sakaki tree and other woods were used for religious rituals in Japan. Then, "incense" was imported to Japan together with Buddhism. With the smell richer and stronger than that of the previously-used woods, imported incense came to be used in Buddhist rituals.
There is a mention in Nihon Shoki (The Chronicles of Japan) that a fragrance wood drifted ashore on the Awaji Island in April 595. The residents of the island who burned the wood were surprised by its fragrance and presented it to the Imperial Court, and Prince Shotoku recognized it as Jinkoh (Aloeswood). This anecdote indicates that while the upper class of this period had knowledge about, and were familiar with, Incense wood, it was not yet spread among ordinary people.
Arrival of Ganjin in Japan was one of the important events in the country's relations with the Tang Dynasty. Ganjin is a Chinese monk who helped propagate Buddhism in Japan, and as he brought incense and medicine with him, the recipe for making kneaded incense was also introduced.
Until that time, incense was normally burned directly, but with the introduction of kneaded incense, indirect heating became common as well.