Kyukyodo is really one of the premier Japanese companies in existence, their profile seemingly overshadowed by Nippon Kodo and Shoyeido. In hoping to try more of their lines in the future, I can say, for the most part, that just about every incense I’ve tried I’d call a great success. In fact I’ve covered several of their incenses in previous entries, which you can access by the Incense Reviews index page above. At the very least I’d say Sho-Ran-Ko, Azusa and Shiun are all musts for the incense appreciator.
I’ve had far more difficulty with the two incenses in question (third and sixth item on page), not because they aren’t good, but because, to my nose these are two green sandalwood incenses that are so close in scent they’re nearly identical. The style is very common among Japanese incense, from the best selling Nippon Kodo Mainichi-Koh to Eisenko, Kinjo Ko and others; however, I’d say these are among the best this inexpensive type of incense has to offer.
First, it’s probably a good idea to delinate the differences, as they’re even more slight than they appear. Ikaruga rolls are approximately 55 6 1/2 inch sticks for about $5. Shirohato rolls are approximately 80 7 inch sticks for about $10. The math brings Ikaruga to about $0.o139 an inch and Shirohato to $0.017 an inch, so even if you’re paying double the Ikaruga roll for Shirohato, the quality level is quite a bit closer.
The base on both of these incenses is sandalwood, but this note is almost completely subsumed on both lines by the top oil note. The effect on Ikaruga is a very sweet and even slightly fruity/floral oil note with some frankincense for depth. It may be the least woody incense of the type and actually seems to be slightly richer than the Shirohato. I think when Shirohato is being referred to as more refined, it’s a bit of a smoother scent, not quite as rich but definitely cleaner and I don’t detect the fruitier note. I’d probably identify one over the other by the strength of the Ikaruga aroma over Shirohato, but it would a tough call. For a first purchase I’d recommend starting with Ikaruga as the differences would probably be more noticeable than they would be reversed.