1. Kyukyodo / Yumemachi (4th down)- I really just can’t get enough of this incense. This company is just as old as some of the better known Japanese manufacturers, like Shoyeido, Baieido, and Nippon Kodo, but has a much smaller presence in the states. Intrigued by their pedigree I decided to purchase a small tube of Yumemachi from Essence of the Ages. Now that I have tried this incense I really wish I had more access to their catalog! There are so many companies that make a floral, a sandalwood, or a frankincense and it is interesting for sure to sample the many variations. However, I have yet to come across another incense like this one. Definitely a wood base but with what I believe is yuzu, or bitter orange, to round it out. This fruit is a cross between the sour mandarin orange and a specific type of asian lemon. Very interesting and delightful!
2. Baieido / Byakudan Kobunboku – I just keep coming back to this one. A very dry, complex wood, typical of Baieido’s signature style. This one brings me an immense sense of tranquility and I love to burn 4 or 5 sticks at a time all over the house, infusing the space with a peaceful stillness. Very layered and changeable, like a chameleon the scent morphs over time. Definitely one for contemplation. The Japanese word for enjoying incense literally translates as “listening to incense.” This one has much to say.
3. Shoyeido / Nokiba – One of the best incense bargains around! From Shoyeido’s Daily Incense line. I have a nostalgic love of this scent because it was one of the first Japanese-style incenses I every tried. I truly admire this company and have explored their line from top to bottom with many favorites picked up along the way. This one is a nice mossy wood, sweet and light. As the name states, this is a great Daily Incense.
4. Shoyeido / Kyo-no-ume – My first exploration into the traditional kneaded incenses. This style is made by combining plum pulp with ground herbs. The mixture is then placed in an earthen jar and buried, preferable along the moist bank of a river, and allowed to mature for a few years. When it is unearthed it is rolled into little balls that are burned on charcoal or warmed on a heater. This style of incense is very old and dates back hundreds, if not thousands of years. It has a definite time-transporting quality, with a thick creamy scent and a high note of aloeswood. This is a very traditional style of incense, much older than joss sticks or cones. A true artisan experience, presented in a beautiful porcelain container, hand painted with plum blossoms.
5. Shoyeido / Tokusen – This body powder has really expanded my appreciation of incense in it’s many forms. These were traditionally used to cleanse the aura before prayer or meditation. Wearing this 100% herbal powder not only brings me great olfactory enjoyment, it also provides a lovely tranquil cloud within which I can experience my day. A blend of spices with cinnamon, cloves, and camphor, yummy like chai tea! This is the highest grade of body powder that they offer and it is definitely worth the extra investment.
6. Shoyeido / Ten-pyo – One of the most complex incenses I have ever experienced. Thick aloeswood notes are intertwined with an endless multitude of herbs and spices, layered like and onion. These are some of Shoyeido’s short sticks, only 2 ¾ inches long, but powerful enough to deliver quite the experience. Wow! I really love the Horin line in general and vacillate especially between this and Muro-machi. I recommend checking out the sampler of this line – each of the 5 is a very interesting experience.
7. Tennendo / Kohrokan – One of the richest sandalwoods I know. I really love this wood and this variation is a sure tribute to its true scent. Sweet, resinous and deep with a meditative quality. What more can I say? A pure wood captured with perfection.
8. Shoyeido / Miyako-gusa – One of Shoyeido’s Aesthetic incenses, a line that is low-smoke, formulated especially for those with allergies and sensitivities. This offering straddles the line between fruit and floral, hence the name “Botanica.” Decidedly feminine in nature without being overpowering or perfumey. Like a ray of sunshine, this blend lifts the spirits and dispels negative energy. [3/4/09 – Called Shoyeido today. As it turns out this incense is packaged just like the Aesthetic Series and is featured on Shoyeido’s website on the same page but this and Shino-nome are officially NOT part of this series and are not 70% less smoke.]
9. Awaji-Baikundo / Byakudan – A lovely take on sandalwood. While Tennendo’s version stays true to the wood, this variation plays with it, blending it in a most interesting way with lemon. I really don’t know of any other company that has a sandalwood like this one. This company currently offers only 5 incenses in the US and everyone is worth checking out. Their formulations are unique, with a hydrangea tea base that lends a soft, lofty quality to the entire line. This plant is significant because it is used ceremonially to celebrate births, honor one’s ancestors, clear the mind of misfortune, relieve tension, promote a longer life, and grant you courage and happiness. Auspicious indeed!
10. Shoyeido / Ohjya-koh – A royal blend of aloeswood and camphor. One of the more affordable selections from Shoyeido’s Premium Incense line, which ranges in price from $15.95 all the way up to $599.00! There is something very regal and formal about this scent that keeps me coming back to it again and again. I love the way this incense pierces through and un-clouds my mind. I keep this one on hand at all times and really enjoy burning it at night when I go to sleep. I find that it empties and stills my mind in a lovely and gentle way.