Shunkohdo / Ka Cho Fu Getsu, Kyara Seikan, Kyara – Aioi No Matsu

I would be the first to admit to an almost slavish love of kyara, so my opinion here is not exactly unbiased. Also, I really like what Shunkohdo does which their blends. To me they seem to be one of the best around and their Incense Master is very skilled.

I had gotten the Kyara – Aioi no Matsu about two months ago and the Ka Cho Fu Getsu about one month later and have really grown to love them. As a matter of fact I happened to walk into Japan Incense the day after the shipment arrived and was (I think) the first person they got to unleash it on. (It was rough, but someone had to do it :)), Kotaro presenting a new, and what he is pretty sure is going to be a winning incense, is much like a magician with a great new trick. Showmanship and a love of turning people onto good things, plus a level of excitement that it very infectious.

Kyara Seikan I must admit the first time I smelled the Kyara Seikan it seemed a lot dryer and sharper, and in the end I walked out with the Aioi no Matsu. However, right now, I noticed that there is a great depth and play going on between all its components. All that being said this time what struck me right away was a lot of similarities to the high end Shoyeidos. That dry, yet at the same time somehow sweet play on spices (in this case a touch of star anise and maybe a tiny bit of cassia, which hints of other things (musk?) that is going to take some time to get a handle on. You know right away there is some great kyara in the blend. It is right there and happy to meet you. It is not as intense as the Shoyeidos. It’s also hundreds of dollars less, but wait…It just hit me what this is about, Ranjatai with kyara.

Kyara – Aioi no MatsuThis has become one of my favorite kyaras. It as if they took something along the lines of Reiryo koh (aloeswood) but based it on kyara and added a touch of what, at times, seems to remind me of that Shoyeido Myo-Ho scent. Again, not as intense as the Shoyeidos, but still holding its own and oh so good. One thing I just noticed is that the Aioi no Matsu is about a third again as thick as the Kyara Seikan. This could account for the price difference, because at this point to me, they are equally as good and also different enough to own both. One other thing to point out here. Many times when you open a box of incense you get the initial hit of the oils, this is not the case here. There is a bit, but not much. This would seem to say that the woods and spices are playing the major rolls in these incenses.

Ka Cho Fu Getsu This may turn out to be one of the great incense deals around. $32.00 for about 200 sticks. It uses a mix of solid, middle grade aloeswoods with a great array of spices. Think Baieido, that style that is known as Han or Chinese medicinal. There is a touch of borneol camphor (not as much as you usually find in this style) and a whole lot more. It clean, fresh, just the right amount of spice and smells great. After the first stick I remember opening the box again, seeing all the sticks left and smiling. I love to light this when I wake up. Then again, I also find myself using it many times though out the day.




  1. August 17, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    […] Shunkodo / Kyara Aioi no Matsu – I’m so enamored with Kyara Seikan that it occludes my view on the Aioi no Matsu. The other issue is the AnM suffers pretty hard with aromatic fatigue, given that so much of its majesty is in the very top spice notes. But when you get everything, it’s truly extraordinary with a dozen or so different aspects going on. A tremendously complicated blend. […]

  2. August 12, 2010 at 9:28 am

    […] Shunkohdo / Kyara Seikan – I would feel weird leaving Shunkohdo off of a top 10 list given how much I use their products, many of them are virtual regulars around my place (Yae No Hana in particular nearly makes every monthly list). This kyara blend is always amazing to me due to how penetrating, sharp and sweet the aroma is. Like Baieido, no matter what Shunkohdo do, they never drown out the central wood notes. And I’m finding this one is complex enough to notice different things about it than I did when I first got a box. […]

  3. clairsight said,

    January 15, 2009 at 10:55 pm

    hello Dana
    Shunkodoh is a really great company and pretty respected in Japan apparently. They seem to have a big presence in the Koh burning cicles. They just make wonderful incense at a pretty good price point. If you get a chance try the Ranjatai. It is very similar to Seikan, without the kyara, but then again you get about four times the number of sticks. Its a great deal. Oh yes, if you like the chocolate taste, then Houshou is a great bargain. It is really apparent in this one. Think high grade Mexican chocolate in a incense stick form 🙂
    It’s great to hear that the article worked for you, thanks for the feed back!

  4. koinu7 said,

    January 15, 2009 at 7:13 pm

    I just received my first box of Seikan and KCFG and couldn’t be happier. I too, have a love for kyara. For some reason, the strongest scent I seem to pick up with every stick is chocolate! There’s that dark, sultry note that also reminds me of caramel, and at times, pepper (think reiryo root). I love when an incense keeps me guessing so much. I love exploring the depth of the stick. As for KCFG, I initially wasn’t that impressed. To me, it smelled a lot like Baieido’s Syukohkoku. Now, I find myself burning this one a lot. Like most of Shunkohdo’s incenses, I get a light, refreshing and very pleasing feel. It seems clean and bright. I love the strong hint of cinnamon and clove, with a balanced sweetness. It is a great deal for the amount of sticks that come in that box. Both the kyaras are very affordable as well. Now, I can’t wait to get my hands (and nose) on the Aioi.


  5. December 15, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    […] Shunkohdo/Kyara Seikan – An incredibly potent stick for being so thin, this is kyara that cuts like a razor, every bit of aroma like fragrant euphoria. Sweet, pungent and totally memorable, it’s also one of the most affordable and genuine kyara incenses on the market. An ascendant version of Shunkohdo’s Ranjatai and one of 2008’s finest newcomers to these shores. (Mike) […]

  6. November 19, 2008 at 11:03 am

    […] incenses so subtle and amazing that only with experience does one learn how great they are. We’ve covered their high ends, their not so high ends, and some mid to high ends in the past. Like with Baieido, if I was to […]

  7. September 30, 2008 at 10:35 am

    […] Shunkohdo / Kyara Seikan – Seikan sticks are thin enough to look like they’d break in a strong wind, but their aromatic power for such a size is always startling, even if one does have to quiet down to “hear” it. In many ways this is the kyara incense that really focuses on the wood and while there are obvious ingredients that bolster the aroma, the sweet, sultry smell of the wood is central. A superlatively brilliant incense that I can barely get enough of. […]

  8. June 24, 2008 at 9:02 am

    […] Shunkohdo / Kyara Seikan – Was a real close call between the one and the two this month, but I’ll give newness an edge. The quality of wood in this stick is really impressive, an occasionally green or menthol edge to the kyara. It’s a thin stick and kind of delicate, but the aroma, as the blurb says, is quite sharp. This one’s been a real addiction this month, I have to exercise discipline not to keep going in the box. […]

  9. Mike said,

    June 16, 2008 at 7:50 am

    I burned a little Aioi yesterday and have to admit it is very mutable for a stick, always different when you pull it out. It’s definitely unlike any other kyara with its extra ingredients. Seikan’s the montly favorite now. This is one incense in particular I’d love to know if there are any extra ingredients as it almost seems as close to pure kyara.

    • Steve said,

      November 11, 2009 at 8:25 am

      Having spent more time with Aioi No Matsu, I want to parallel Ross’s comment below (Seikan is like Ranjatai with kyara – Ranjatai “deluxe” as Mike put it). Aioi No Matsu is like deluxe Heian Koh/Asuka (both by Kunmeido).

      If you like Heian Koh or Asuka then you will looooove Aioi! The bad news: Aioi No Matsu is $4.00 per stick. Heian Koh and Asuka are around $1.00.

      Aioi is probably a bit steep for daily, or even frequent, burning but if you’re feeling a bit decadent and love the 2 Kunmeidos I mentioned, then through a box in with your next order and prepare yourself for a really nice treat 🙂

      – Steve

      • Steve said,

        November 11, 2009 at 8:38 am

        …then *throw* a box in with your next order… 😳

      • Ross said,

        November 11, 2009 at 11:02 am

        Hey Steve
        I think the price difference is in the woods used, which to me now translates into depth and smoothness. I recently showed a professional perfumer Ranjatel and Seikan and she immediately mentioned this to me. Made sense.
        I am trying to figure out what the herb/spice is that produces that scent quality in Aioi No Matsu and Asuka. There are a number of sticks that use it and it seems to be a nitch or style in Japanese incense.

        • Steve said,

          November 11, 2009 at 12:33 pm

          Hey Ross – you’re right about that Aioi No Matsu/Asuka camp. There’s a Ranjatai/Enkuu (and I assume Seikan – haven’t tried it yet) camp, too, I think. There are actually a lot of camps – or families – of various manufacturers’ offerings that closely resemble each other.

          I have thought about how one could present “families” or camps of incense on a multi-dimensional chart. Present groups of similar smelling incense visually to highlight their similarity/difference against some spectrum of aroma variables. For instance, one axis measuring woodiness, another measuring spiciness, yet another indicating oil-intensity. Maybe this is impossible, or doesn’t make sense, but I think that’s how my mind seems to want to arrange things. I have actually seen a chart like this for, of all things, hair wax – the company mapped out it’s various waxes against variables like “hold strength” and “flexibility” and “texture” and it made it so clear how their products compared to each other and what would best fit your need.

          What a great idea – asking a professional perfumer for input. If I had access to one, I bet they could help me unravel and identify the components I’m smelling but don’t yet understand or know of. I wonder if perfumists have elaborate charts indicating how different perfumes or essential oils map out against the many facets of smell? I may Google that when I have a minute…

          – Steve

          • Mike said,

            November 17, 2009 at 8:44 am

            I’ve thought about this too Steve, perhaps at some point revisiting old incenses except clustering them by similar scent rather than company offerings. I’ve got a couple coming up like this in the Indian family tree, one a survey of several nag champas and another a survery of flora incenses like Sai Flora. It’s easier to tell the differences among them when you burn them right next to each other.

          • janet said,

            November 28, 2009 at 11:27 pm

            Hey, Steve….
            Check this out!
            go to her store, then her workbooks…and there you have a perfume wheel, which may be kinda sorta what you are looking for?
            I’ve actually dabbled a bit in perfumery over the years, had a little instruction, and I know a big component of that is learning how to do just what you were talking about – unravel, identify, and describe, too – no mean feat. I kept a scent diary forever, which wasn’t just about what an oil smelled like, but how it made me feel, what it brought to mind, how it blended with other materials, and so on.
            Maybe because of that, I do just what it seems you do – I group incenses by scent type, and then compare compare compare. It’s amazing how much I learn, and how much I pick up that I missed!
            I don’t play with you big boys – I’ve only gotten a whiff or two of the really good stuff – but I started with the old mountain sandalwood sticks, and have gone from there….I also have done the same with anything I have found that has that reiryo-koh thing going on, even a little bit!


            • Ross Urrere said,

              November 28, 2009 at 11:51 pm

              I have that wheel and it can come in very handy. I am actually going to be taking a class with her early next year in perfume making. I figure some day I will a mass enough info to present classes on making incense.

              • janet said,

                November 29, 2009 at 12:00 am

                you guys are out there where everything happens….
                me and Steve are stuck out here in NC!
                I guess we will have to live vicariously through you.

                Let me know far enough in advance when you do your incense making classes, and I will save all my incense money for a plane ticket!

                • Steve said,

                  November 29, 2009 at 8:27 am

                  I sure understand that locale-envy, Janet! I always picture Ross and Mike walking into cool incense shops stocked floor to ceiling with all these amazing Japanese and Tibetan incenses. They hang out a while in the shop, sampling this and that, making friends with the store proprietors who have fascinating tales of aloeswood gathering in exotic locations. They leave with bags full of their purchases and handfuls of samples. Then they go to the latest incense-appreciation group or Koh Doh ceremony to learn, share and enjoy new scents. How cool does that seem?!

                  But WE have pit-cooked pork BBQ 😉

                  • Ross said,

                    November 29, 2009 at 2:42 pm

                    I am with you in the spirit of “Q”

                    • janet said,

                      November 29, 2009 at 3:15 pm

                      Only if it’s the VINEGAR type!
                      that…other…kind is like the synthetic-fragrance-dipped-charcoal-punk of the NC ‘cue world.

                      Hey – WE’VE got *culture*!

                    • Steve said,

                      November 30, 2009 at 8:00 pm

                      Ross – one of my favorite smells is that of hickory wood smoke typically surrounding the finer BBQ joints here. I think there would be a market for Q-Doh, made from a base of the finest hickory wood and essential Q spices 😀 I think Fred Soll should make it!

                      Janet – I have never met BBQ I didn’t like, but you are clearly a woman of refined taste and aesthetics and I agree with you 100% – you can’t beat vinegar base!!!

                    • Mike said,

                      December 1, 2009 at 9:14 am

                      Steve, Incienso do Santa Fe have a Hickory brick (not to mention Mesquite) you might find nice:


                      The Red Cedar’s really great too.

                  • janet said,

                    November 29, 2009 at 3:19 pm

                    Don’t forget fried twinkies, snickers, coca-cola, and butter!!!

                  • Mike said,

                    December 1, 2009 at 9:03 am

                    Never been in an incense shop myself, being in Sacramento I’m at least a good two hours from them and usually when I make the drive out to the bay area it’s for a concert and thus never have the time to drop by. Some day though….

            • Steve said,

              November 29, 2009 at 8:17 am

              Thanks for the link Janet – yeah, that perfume wheel is awesome! Imagine all of our discussed incense here organized on a wheel like that – I just think that would be hugely helpful and insightful! I don’t have the nose yet to pull apart aromas enough to try to put them on an incense wheel, but I predict someone will take the challenge on before long. Might be easiest to have separate wheels for Indian and Tibetan and Japanese (?) and you might have to alter the various descriptors in a wheel to allow refined differentiation among wood-like and spice-like smells.

              Then, whatever incense landed in the same wheel-spokes as Holy Land, Reiryo Koh and Enkuu, I would have to snatch up in large quantities 😀

  10. Steve said,

    June 16, 2008 at 5:44 am

    Hey again, Ross. Meant to say how awesome that is you can just hang out at Japan Incense!!! Wish you could post pics here! You must feel like a kid in a toy store there – I sure would. Is the picture of the shop they have on their site pretty much all there is or is the store a lot larger than that? Wish these shops would post more photos of their places so I could visit virtually. Nothing like this exists around where I live in North Carolina.


  11. Steve said,

    June 16, 2008 at 5:38 am

    Hey Ross – when I first noticed that this heavy box was only a few grams of incense and a pound (not literally) of that cardboard inner assembly, I thought either more incense was to be found inside (I knew I only ordered 40 sticks, so should have known better) or this was an inner box of some sort of treasure with prize value – like you used to get in cereal! I tried to pull it out of the box, but it wasn’t gonna budge. I still wonder if there is a secret prize in it – when I’m done with the incense, I’ll have to bandsaw it open 🙂

    Boy, do I understand incense impatience in terms of acquiring the next new scent. A very addicting pastime! Fortunately, stuff from Essence of the Ages usually gets here about 2 days after I order. It’s always like waiting for a box from Santa to arrive 😀


  12. clairsight said,

    June 15, 2008 at 9:29 pm

    hey Steve:
    Yes the packaging is really weird. When Kotaro and Jay at Japan Incenses first held one you could see the thoughts going through their heads “Hey, whats with this? We are paying a lot more in shipping for this” I would guess this packaging will not last long.
    I have actually used this incense to turn people onto kyara (at a reasonable price level). I think it is great and seems to taste a little different each time I use a stick. Wonderful stuff!
    As soon as payday hits I am getting a box of the Seikan. Until then, well I’m not feeling very patient about the lack actually, I want my incense now!


  13. Steve said,

    June 15, 2008 at 8:13 am

    Am slowly tuning in to the Aioi No Matsu. Strange packaging – the box would lead you to believe that there are more than the 40 or so sticks in there and the bulk of the box volume is actually taken up by what appears to be a surprisingly heavy cardboard weight/platform that the sticks rest upon. This really is an amazing incense. I can see where Ross detects Reiryo Koh. I get an ever-shifting aroma from pepper (Reiryo Koh) to star anise to even chocolate. Each is subtle, but there are definitely multiple personalities here – WOW! I’ve already raved about Ka-Cho-Fu-Getsu – I guess now I need to try the Seikan. This looks like a real Shunkodo trifecta. An aroma hat trick 🙂


  14. Mike said,

    June 10, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    Managing to avoid leaping around my place with all remaining 35 sticks of Kyara Seikan burning at once, it occured to me that like Baieido Koh Shi Boku that the kyara here is similarly the fabled “green kyara.” Or at least at times I was getting the occasional similar almost green/camphor/menthol-ish waft from it I only seem to remember from the KSB. Or perhaps this incense is just activating my imagination more than usual? Definitely over the moon with this one!

  15. Mike said,

    June 9, 2008 at 10:58 am

    All three of these are such great incenses, my appreciation grows for them all as I get used to them (I haven’t added KCFG to the HOF but I don’t think it will be long). But I’d say my favorite for the moment is the Seikan, which Ross just nails with the “Ranjatai with kyara” description. If you like the Ranjatai as much as I do, this is like Ranjatai deluxe and the kyara used here is picture perfect. The sticks are so skinny they almost look like they break via thought. The aroma is utterly glorious, I wanted another box after just one stick. These three make Shunkodo a major player in my book and to be honest $127 for a box with this much natural kyara purity to it is a steal. In fact I wouldn’t even consider Aioi no Matsu the more deluxe of the two, the sticks are just thicker with more ingredients.

  16. Mike said,

    June 5, 2008 at 1:55 am

    Quicky techy note for Ross. I was looking around to try and get the post to have an author name at the top, but apparently this is only specific to the type of theme being used and this one doesn’t do that. So I’d either have to change the design to one that does or come up with another method to it within the text.

  17. Steve said,

    June 5, 2008 at 1:32 am

    Geez, Ross – maybe I should burn the good stuff at night, too :O

    I believe I’ll go alphabetically this time and add the Aioi No Matsu to the next order. If Seikan filters up to the Hall of Fame, then I’ll chase it down, too.

    Thanks for the add’l comments!


  18. Ross said,

    June 5, 2008 at 1:09 am

    hello Steve:
    Its a tough call. I will be ordering a box of the Kyara Seikan real soon for myself (I had just about a half stick as a sample to test drive for this review). There are really some big differences between the two and it comes down to (well, for me), what does it for you in the moment. Last night when it suddenly hit me that the Kyara Seikan was really like Ranjatai but with Kyara it really changed my mind around. Of course, I also burn a stick of Ranjatai almost every night as I go to sleep, just in case I don’t wake up I want to know the last smell was a winner 🙂
    Hope the review helps.


  19. June 5, 2008 at 12:38 am

    Ross! VERY nice review and very insightful! I think you’re going to fit in very nicely here. : )

    There’s nothing more I can add. I too am hooked on these incenses.

    By the way, the Ka-Cho-Fu-Getsu should be back in stock in the next couple of weeks! I can hardly eait to get it back in. : )


  20. Mike said,

    June 4, 2008 at 10:37 pm

    Fantastic Ross! I’ve noticed that Shunkodo must use the Reiryo root pretty frequently as certain incenses of their’s do roughly resemble the Kunmeidos with the root. Shun Koh Sen for example is almost like Shunkodo’s Reiryo Koh except it’s greener and not quite as overtly spicy. Given the samples you sent of the Aioi no Matsu, I think it’s a big winner, probably won’t be long before I add it to the HoF list. Hey, all three of these could be there, especially with this Ranjatai with kyara description!

  21. Steve said,

    June 4, 2008 at 9:14 pm

    Great writeup, Ross! Is this your first? I actually read this earlier and just assumed it was Mike, but now just noticed that isn’t the case.

    Couldn’t agree with you more on the Ka-Cho-Fu-Getsu – especially the inner smile every time you open the box and see you still have many, many sticks left 🙂 Would you believe it’s currently out of stock at Essence of the Ages?!!

    You definitely have me interested in the 2 Kyara offerings. Aioi no Matsu or Seikan – which would you see as the better jumping in point?


  22. Kohdude said,

    June 4, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    I figured the Kyara would be great coming from Shunkohdo. The price is also.Kotaro told me he is not going to bring over the top Kyara from them because of price. I didn’t even ask how much it is.I am sure more than what I would want to pay.I have asked everyone to post a personal top ten of May on the top ten section. Thanks for the Shunkohdo review. Thank You……………Kohdude

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