Four Florals: Shoyeido’s Ranka and Baika-ju, Baieido’s Kokonoe Floral and Izumi (by Nancy)

There is a long tradition of floral scents in Japanese incense making, especially variations on Plum Blossom. Like the crane and the fan, the plum blossom is one of the most important symbols identified with asian cultures and is considered to be auspicious for many reasons. Being very frost-hearty, the plum is one of the only plants that will bloom even in severe winter snowstorms, usually flowering in January-February, in the earliest part of Spring. Because of this, the plum is a metaphor for rebirth as well as resilience and perseverance in the face of adversity. It is also a protective charm against evil and misfortune. Click here for more information on some of the other associations.

Shoyeido / Baika-ju (Plum Blossom) This is the floral incense that I burn most regularity. It is akin to one of my top 10 favorites, Shino-nome (First Light) from Shoyeido’s Aesthetic Series. Like Shino-nome it is definitely a sandalwood base. There is a distinctive floral note but it is very light, not overpowering or synthetic smelling at all. The aroma is delicate and airy, just like the beautiful plum blossom, and reminds me of a combination of hyacinth and cinnamon. Very nice! This is a totally different experience than your typical florals, most of which are charcoal dipped in synthetic oils and come with unpleasant side-effects like headaches, a testament to their chemical origins. Baika-ju is a fantastic deal, coming in at under $12 for a box of 150 sticks! It is also available as a gift set, in an gold organza pouch accompanied by a cute ceramic boat-shaped celadon burner. This is one of the lightest florals I know of, with a proportionate balance of sandalwood, making it a great introduction into this category for those who favor the herbals or woods.

Shoyeido / Ranka (Orchid) Compared to Baika-ju, Ranka has a more pungent floral aroma. The sticks are a beautiful shade of antique rose and come in a gorgeous watercolor box. They are thinner than average, presumably due to their potency. The smell is stunning, like a combination of jasmine and lilac, with undertones of sandalwood. At under $6 for 300 sticks, this incense is definitely a deal! It will satisfy your craving for floral incense without being too thick or cloying. A fine example of Shoyeido’s mastery of perfume.

Baieido / Kokonoe Floral (Imperial Palace Floral) Stated as a combination of aloeswood and flowers from Indonesia. Definitely more woodsy compared to the Shoyeido florals, thought I find this to be true when comparing these two lines in general. The aroma of this incense is more like rose, typically captured in Indian incenses, making this an unusual floral for a Japanese company. There is also a sharp note in the last second of the inhalation that hits me in the back of my throat that has almost a soapy taste. I do not detect the aloeswood. I think it must get lost beneath the perfume, which is kind of incredible considering how potent aloeswood can be even in small amounts. I actually had to put this stick out in the midst of writing this review because I was starting to get a frontal headache. I usually prefer herbal- or wood-predominant incenses anyway, and this floral seems a bit too strong for me.

Baieido / Izumi (Garden Springs) Described as the essence of many flowers blowing in the spring wind. Such a description conjures for me an image of a blooming meadow in full sun. The smell of even this unburned stick, however, inspires associations with detergent soap. After lighting the stick it is no different. I am afraid that this incense is just not for me. I truly love Baieido’s traditional blends and admit a personal preference against florals, but this one is by far one of the most synthetic florals I have sampled. I couldn’t even burn a whole stick. My sincere apologies, Baieido.

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9 Comments

  1. G. Lavergne said,

    February 6, 2012 at 8:09 pm

    Based on this review, I decided to try Baika-ju and Ranka.

    Baika-ju is nice, but just a bit too sweet for me.

    I was very surprised by Ranka. I immediately felt like I had smelled it before, but couldn’t place it.

    In my early incense days I tried several varieties of Gonesh, and to me, Ranka is very reminiscent of Gonesh’s #6, Perfumes of Ancient Times. It was a scent that I liked, but was far too potent, which I find with almost all Indian, bamboo cored incense. Ranka is a better, milder version.

    Am I crazy? Or has someone else tried both of these and found them similar? If so, what is in there? Shoyeido only lists sandalwood and cinnamon as ingredients, but there is obviously much more going on.

    • Mike said,

      February 7, 2012 at 2:22 pm

      Hey, thanks for stopping by. My experience with Shoyeido products is you’re getting all of the most obvious ingredients in the list and the ones they don’t tell you about are part of the “secret recipe.” It can be really difficult to tell what’s in the latter.

      I’d also mention that I believe Gonesh is actually made in the US, even if the style hails from India.

  2. Beverly said,

    March 26, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    What a great review! I think all of the reviews here are written well but I’m especially attracted to how Nancy injects a little bit of interesting information about the culture or background of the incense she is reviewing.

    I picked up a box of Baika-ju after reading this and I have to say that it reminds me a lot of other Shoyeidos, such as Hope, Amethyst, Abundance, Honoka and even Morning Zen. What is it that imparts the sweet element in all of these?

    While “floral” doesn’t come to my mind with Baika-ju I do find it to be sweet/creamy, subtle and pleasant, something that is slowly growing on me. I generally prefer incense with a bit more kick, so I’ve placed an order for Ranka and can’t wait to try it.

    • Scott said,

      February 13, 2012 at 2:49 pm

      Hi! I personally love Baika-Ju, it’s my favorite “sweet”; I don’t really think of it as a floral – but if someone ever smells a flower just like this, please tell me and I’ll plant a bush! Someone at Shoyeido once told me that it’s very similar to Amethyst, Abundance and Shino-Nome. It’s the benzoin that makes it so creamy sweet. I don’t really care for Ranka, just too flowery for me, but I love the incense called Wakyo (or Wayko) – it’s a bit like Ranka with the spice profile of Kyo-nishiki or Kin-kaku added, really my favorite floral.

  3. Sarasvati said,

    August 31, 2009 at 10:07 am

    I came across Ranka not so long ago, and immediately loved it. As a newbie with just a small hobby in incense, I’m wondering how the masters at Shoyeido have created such a sweet, floral, fresh scent out of the ingredients they have listed for Ranka. Sandalwood, cinnamon, patchouli, benzoin and ‘other herbs’ are said to be this scent’s ingredients. One should expect something more spicy here, I would say… πŸ˜€ Thumbs up for Shoyeido!

    PS. Can anyone tell me if Shoyeido also puts essential oils in their incenses?

  4. Sarah said,

    June 22, 2009 at 4:37 am

    Hi. I live in Sydney, Australia and have been trying to find Ranka Incense everywhere! Do you know where I could find it?
    Thank you.

    • Mike said,

      June 22, 2009 at 8:33 am

      Sarah are you looking for somewhere close to home or would you go overseas? I think Shoyeido probably have rules in place in terms of what they import or export. I don’t remember the names but I’m pretty sure I’ve run across an incense store or two in the Australia/NZ corner of the world, but perhaps you already know about them.

    • Nancy said,

      June 22, 2009 at 2:30 pm

      Hey Sara. I know you can find Ranka on Shoyeido’s website, http://www.shoyeido.com It’s not listed in any obvious location, you have to do a search. Look on the home page in the upper left for the box that says “Search by…” Click on the drop down menu and choose “Product name.” All’s you have to do from there is enter “Ranka” and it should come up. -Nancy

    • glennjf said,

      May 7, 2010 at 6:21 am

      “June 22, 2009 at 4:37 am

      Hi. I live in Sydney, Australia and have been trying to find Ranka Incense everywhere! Do you know where I could find it?
      Thank you.”
      – Sarah

      G’day Sarah,

      I’m not sure if you’re still about but if you are then some good news for you, Ranka is available in Australia.

      How do I know this?

      Yesterday after reading about Ranka here at OFS, I realised I’d seen a box (300 sticks) in a local shop.

      It’s Ranka alright but it’s being sold by the Australian importer under the name “Japanese Orchid” at least it’s called that on their website. It’s the same box seen everywhere else known as Shoyeido Ranka, same artwork, Ranka with the Shoyeido etc is written on the box, I can confirm all this.

      The only reference to it as being called “Japanese Orchid” is at their website, nowhere else… see the last item on this page, note that Ranka and/or Shoyeido are not mentioned…

      http://www.incenseworld.com.au/japanese-boxed.htm

      Same for all the incenses they wholesale, no company names mentioned on their website at all?

      They write about Ranka… “The soft, sweet fragrance of this beautiful incense is derived from an exquisite night – flowering Japanese Orchid.”

      Anyone know what that orchid might be? Botanic name?

      When their incenses are placed up for sale in a retailer and you get to examine them closeup it’s obvious immediately the incense differs in name especially, as in this instance.
      If you were able to order from the wholesaler directly I imagine you’d be expecting to find boxes labeled “Japanese Orchid” when you unpacked the order but what you’d find instead would be boxes labeled “Ranka” by Shoyeido, what a nice surprise πŸ™‚

      This company wholesales only but they’re easy enough to contact, see their contact link top right, same page reference above, ask them who might have stock of Ranka in your general area.

      About Shoyeido Ranka, I was offered a stick to sample by the shop owner yesterday. I lit it last night. I loved it straight up.

      As these things go… Since beginning writing this comment it has firmed in my mind that tomorrow I will head back to the shop, there to lay down some dollars, so to bring home with me the other 299 sticks πŸ™‚


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