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History of Incenses
  • The introduction of Buddhism into Japan and incense wood drifting ashore
  • Nobles of the Heian period and their perfumes
  • Relocation the capital to Heian-kyo - The beginning of the society of nobles
  • From Takimono to Kouboku
  • The rise of Kodo
  • Incense today

Nobles of the Heian period and their perfumes

In the Heian period, incense flourished out of the religious context and as a form of recreation.
While takimono was the most popular type of incense, this period also saw the emergence of prototypes of scented sachet, such as Kusudama (a ball containing blended incense) which was used as a gift on Tango no Sekku (May 5), and Kariroku (Kashi: a bag shaped like a myrobalan fruit and containing the fruit inside) which was used as a charm against evil.
The incense culture developed greatly during this period and into the next.

Heian Period

794  Relocation the capital to Heian-kyo - The beginning of the society of nobles

Incense as a culture

Kneaded incense, which was introduced in the Nara period, developed as takimono in the Heian period and became popular among the nobles. They blended ingredients by themselves to create their own original incense and scented their room and garments with it. It is said that they could identify people by their distinctive fragrance, even without seeing them.
They all kept the recipe of their takimono to themselves or within their family. It was also a social skill.


Mukusa-no-takimono (Six kneaded incenses)

With its popularity among the nobles, takimono were categorized into six major themes, under which the creators of each takimono set a sub theme of their choice.
The six themes, collectively called Mukusa-no-takimono, are called Kurobou, Baika (plum flower), Kayou (lotus leaf), Kikka (chrysanthemum flower), Rakuyou (fallen leaves), and Jiju (chamberlain), respectively. Incenses categorized in the same theme still smelled differently, as they were blended with different settings or flavors in the minds of the respective creators.


Popularity of takimono-awase

The nobles began to compare their original takimono with one another, which eventually developed into takimono-awase. It is a contest where not only the fragrance but the setting of incenses were compared and evaluated. It was a very popular game among the nobles and is described in the chapter "Umegae" in The Tale of Genji.