Shoyeido Aesthetic Series: Kasumi, Oboro, Shino-nome, Miyako-gusa (by Nancy)

[As of 7/31/09, Shino-nome and Miyako-gusa have been discontinued. Kasumi and Oboro are still available. – Mike]

This series from Shoyeido was designed to produce 70% less smoke than their traditional incenses and definitely succeeds in doing so without sacrificing any olfactory enjoyment. Burning incense usually produces a lot of airborne particles which can irritate the respiratory system and eyes, making this series perfect for those with allergies or other sensitivities. Another unfortunate side effect of regular incense burning is the copious amounts of dust that is produced. Because this series burns cleaner, it also produces less dust by default. In general, the scents in this series not only burn lighter, but have more delicate aromas as well, almost ambient in quality. They tend toward the sweet and floral side of the spectrum more than the woodsy or spicy side. This line is very affordable for the quality making it a great introduction into the world of Japanese incense and each box of 40 sticks comes with it’s own ceramic burner tucked into a compartment under the top flap.

So far I have sampled four of the five selections offered in this line, including Gossamer, Illusions, First Light, and Botanica. Kasumi (Gossamer) is sweet like vanilla bean with a slight hint of cinnamon. Patchouli is also listed as an ingredient but I do not detect any of this herb’s distinct muskiness in the mix at all so it‘s probably more of a minor player. Described by Shoyeido as being “For any setting or occasion with a spirited and balanced nuance of fragrances,“ it is overall very enjoyable!  Oboro (Illusions) is the most resinous of all, with a definite aloeswood edge that lends an acrid or sour quality. It has a sweet note too, probably from the benzoin resin, and a high, almost imperceptible note of camphor. Compared to Kasumi, this blend is more complex, better for contemplation than atmosphere and perfect if you‘re in a more meditative state.

It is in Shino-Nome (First Light) that the sandalwood base common to all the blends in this series really comes out. Blended with cinnamon and benzoin, this incense has been one of my top ten picks for the past year. I even invested in the 10-bundle gift box! I burn this one at my acupuncture practice and everyone who walks through the door comments that they love it.  The scent is rich and uplifting and universally loved, making it a favorite of mine for gift giving. Recently, however, Miyako-gusa (Botanica) has eclipsed them all! Contrary to what you’d think based on the name, this blend is not strictly floral. It is by far the most complex of the four that I’ve sampled from this line, with distinct base, middle and top notes. There is a floral quality, but there is so much more! I also detect aloes wood, cloves and maybe even a citrus scent (orange peel?). This makes for a very unique and thoroughly enjoyable mix! Overall, a great series of incense, each blend distinct and light enough to be burned on a regular basis.



  1. clairsight said,

    November 5, 2008 at 11:18 pm

    Hello Nancy
    Just got a box each of the Gossamer and Illusions. Very nice, clean and great scents, will make great presents for some of my friends who like the smell of incense but can not deal with the smoke because of some health issues. Thanks for the tip!

  2. Nancy Hyton said,

    October 27, 2008 at 8:51 am

    Hey Bernd! Nice to hear from an incense lover all the way across the big pond. It’s kind of interesting what you are saying. I have noticed that in the US Shoyeido markets Shino-nome and Miyako-gusa two different ways. They include these scents as part of their Aesthetic Series and package them just like Honoka, Kasumi, and Oboro, in square black boxes with a ceramic burner under the flap. They also sell Shino-nome and Miyako-gusa as traditional rolls with Japanese art and text on the wrapper. Either way, the color of the sticks is always green, not black like the other three scents from the Aesthetic Series.

    Interestingly, in Shoyeido’s US wholesale catalog under Aesthetic Series they have a photo of a display that you can order which includes all 5 scents. Under the header, however, they only list Honoka, Kasumi, and Oboro individually. Shino-nome and Miyako-gusa are listed under the vague “Also Available” header along with with En-shin and Do-shin from the Heart Series! Furthermore, if you look on Shoyeido’s US website under Aesthetic Series Shino-nome and Miyako-gusa are both included. If you search by product name for these scents individually, however, they come up in the Aesthetic Series packaging and as traditional rolls. Very confusing!

    The only explanation for this inconsistency that I can think of is that Shoyeido is attempting to retrofit Shino-nome and Miyako-gusa in new packaging that is more accessible to the English-speaking market. Still, there definitely seems to be a bit of confusion on their part as to where these two incenses fit with the rest of their catalog. Either way, I love them!

  3. Bernd Sandner said,

    October 26, 2008 at 2:32 am

    Thank you for the review, Nancy.
    It is clear, detailed, and makes me want, to try these incenses.
    Generally, in the past, I was not in favor of the smokeless incenses too much.
    But i am willing to learn.

    Here in Germany, the sales policy of Shoyeido seems different, again.
    The catalogue includes Honoka, Kasumi, and Oboro as Aesthetic Series.
    But Shino-Nome, and Myako-Gusa are not in it, allthough I have got the catalogue of 2008.
    It would be interesting, to hear the explanation for this.

    Well, best to you, Nancy!

  4. Mike said,

    October 23, 2008 at 9:06 am

    Admin note for Nancy: I changed your status so there shouldn’t be a “review” hold up like on the first post. Sorry about that. 🙂

  5. Mike said,

    October 23, 2008 at 8:15 am

    Great to read your impressions on these Nancy, I recently just got in a second sampler of the Aesthetics series. It’s kind of unusual because both Miyako-Gusa and Shino-Nome are sort of crossover scents with their traditional line, coming in both rolls and the Aesthetics boxes. The sampler I got is the other three. It’s not really a surprise that these are among the best of the low smoke incenses, in fact they’re maybe the only low smoke incenses with aloeswood notes in them (I could be forgetting something, it’s early).

    Will have to consider adding First Light/Shino-Nome to our Hall of Fame since it seems to go over so well. I’d say Botanica and Honoka are probably my favorites, but I’ll have to go revisit with your comments in mind. 🙂

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