Gyokushodo Saimei koh & Umeshoin

Japan Incense/Kohshi recently brought in two more additions to the Gyokushodo line. Gyokushodo is very well thought of in Japan and is only recently getting the recognition it deserves here. You can refer to the other write ups we have done on the company here, here, and here.

Saimei koh comes in a thin square cut stick with a orangeish brown color that reminds me of Turmeric. Unlit the scents of  Borneo Camphor and a large helping of herbs, spices and a back round note of oils are evident. When lighted the Borneo Camphor is not noticed but the quality of the woods present becomes the dominate back round note (aloeswood andsSandalwood) with, in typical  Gyokushodo style, the spices and oils intermixed. There is a definite spicy punch here, the Turmeric mentioned above comes to mind, with the oil note sort of rounding out and smoothing things together. This sort of reminds me of Tennendo’s Karafune sticks, the Silver or Gold. [NOTE: Link changed to point to new packaging, incense may be different from review. – Mike]

This does not seem like the other offerings that Gyokushodo has had here before. This one is much more about the spice/herb notes mixed in with excellent woods rather then the oils that have predominated before. Nice contemplative scent and also works well as something to use before a dinner or gathering. I think this would be a great addition to ones collection at a good price for what you are getting.

Umeshoin also comes in the thin, square cut stick, this time with a medium green color and also with the Borneo Camphor scent as well as an assortment of spice notes. When lighted the Borneo Camphor once again sinks below what my nose can sense (your results may very  ). The overall impression here is that the wood notes are being showcased more then the spice or oil notes. There seems to be a great helping of the woods in the mix and the other scents are there to sort of shape the scent rather then play a major part. This one reminds me of a really good, expensive and elegant men’s cologne(somewhat spicy citrus or Chypre) from long ago. It’s like it was applied some time ago and just the barest hint is still there. I find this one needs to be studied and tuned into, some time taken with it.  Good for meditation or reflection, probably not something you would use to scent a room. Many of the higher end Japanese sticks have this quality, they use great woods and a minimal amount of “colorant”  so that they become much more of a personal moment rather then a crowd pleaser. Then again many go the other route, so much for trying to put incenses into neat little niches! [NOTE: Link changed to point to new packaging, incense may be different from review. – Mike]



  1. greg said,

    September 11, 2011 at 7:51 am

    Ross is right on the money with his assessment of Japanese mfrs. pricing structure. With the very high end kyaras, their is a bit more labor that goes into making the blend as well as the more expensive packaging (usually paulownia boxes signal the company’s higher end products). Unfortunately at the suppliers end of this process, the price of aloes wood, daphne, eagle wood, agar wood – whatever you want to call your sought-after raw material, the price reflects demand and not necessarily quality.

  2. June 24, 2010 at 8:26 pm

    […] Incense, Japan, Uncategorized) You can see the first two sections about this entire grouping here and […]

  3. June 9, 2010 at 9:36 pm

    […] and herbs/spices without the addition of oils, at least to my nose. The first two to come in were Saimei koh and Umeshoin. I personally find them to be very well done as well as very traditional style scents. They are not […]

  4. Ross urrere said,

    January 19, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    The price structure of incense is pretty interesting. It would seem that the cost of raw materials is what decides the price of the finished product, unlike most other luxury or high end items, where price is based much more on image or branding. This seems to hold true from the $5 roll all the way through the insanly expensive NK uber high end Kyara’s at $2000. It is a very interesting way to sell what amounts to high art.m Its also very up frount in its way but at the same time many lesser priced incenses get ignored or missed just because they do not cost a bundle. Your comment Pinji “Keiunko is a great product at its price” is very true at many levels, thanks.

    • Pinjie said,

      January 20, 2010 at 3:34 pm

      Well said, Ross! It’s a sad truth sometimes. These two Gyokushodos are definitely works of art, and well worth the money!

      • Janet said,

        January 20, 2010 at 3:43 pm

        And the point is well made about lower-end incenses not necessarily getting the attention, although they may be very fine for what they are, simply because they are lower-end….but not every incense can be kyara, and there is a certain amount of pleasure that comes from being able to burn something decent without feeling like you have to intensely focus or sit under a blanket (didn’t Steve say something about that?) because of the cost and the fear that you will miss something!

        • Janet said,

          January 20, 2010 at 3:45 pm

          No, wait….Steve was the bathroom.
          Or maybe under a blanket in the bathroom?
          Which was it, Esteban?

          • Steve said,

            January 20, 2010 at 3:58 pm

            OMG – you got me laughing so hard, Janet! At first I thought “Oh hell, what did I post???” Then I remembered sampling some premium incenses one at at time, using a small guest bathroom as a controlled space to contain the aroma for full impact! I DO remember posting about that! 😀

            • Janet said,

              January 20, 2010 at 5:12 pm

              Obviously it made an impression!

  5. Janet said,

    January 19, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    From the little taste I’ve had so far, these are fabulous…and the review definitely gives a good sense of them…I just wish I had looked at the prices first :-/
    I did pick up a prounounced camphor note while burning, particularly in the Umeshoin.
    Thanks, Ross!

  6. Pinjie said,

    January 19, 2010 at 11:48 am

    Thanks for the great review, Ross! I love Gyokushodo incense, and this particular series is so interesting that I hope someday Japan Incense will import the rest of it. Even the bottom rung, Keiunko is a great product at its price. I’m sure the rest four in this series are also wonderful, and the fact that they are more affordable than these top two wonders is very appealing.


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