Seijudo / Kohshu, Shogetsu, Nichigetsu, Kyara Horen

The first time I tried Seijudo’s Enju, one of three new Seijudo imports Ross reviewed here, I actually thought I was trying a sample form of Shoyeido’s Shokaku. Like that venerable and expensive incense, it was a black stick drenched in extremely high quality kyara oils and it was hard not be impressed. And in many ways the Shoyeido premium line is the easiest line to compare all of the Seijudo imports including the four I’m going to discuss today, because the Seijudos are very pricy incenses and they’re all aromas with very high quality aloeswood oils in front. Unlike the Shoyeido line, however, all seven of the current Seijudo imports are all black sticks and they all seem more shades of one personality than having the distinct and individual scents of the Shoyeido Premium line, where Ga Ho is as different from Nan Ku as two incenses could possibly be.

So in the first wave of Seijudo imports, courtesy of the venerable Kohshi, we witnessed what appeared to be the top three scents in the line, only for this newer quartet to slot right between the two Kyaras, Enju and Seiran, and the (surprisingly) most inexpensive scent Shiragiku. All seven scents come in two different sizes here, a very small, compact six stick “sampler” in a tiny little cardboard foldout virtually incapable of protecting the sticks from breaking without being really careful, and the more standard tube within a box that carries 24 sticks in 4 1/2 inch length.

I have to admit to having great difficulty with these incenses, because while they all use what’s obviously the most incredible aloeswood oils and seem to be as high quality as what you’d hope for given these prices, I also find them fairly difficult to tell apart from one another. I’m not sure if the heavy oil bases in the samples I worked from had faded some, or if this is just the nature of these scents, but over several sessions I noticed that even one of the small sticks could deaden my sensory perceptions quite fast to the point that subsequent evaluations of the others in line were made more difficult. I think it’s worth noting Ross’ quote in the above mentioned previous write up, “When I first smelled [Shiragiku] I assumed it was Kyara based.” I agree with this observation, and when you add in this new foursome, the whole line starts to look more like shades of a common theme than seven distinct incenses, it’s almost as if from Shiraguku to Enju, there’s just an incremental improvement in aloeswood quality along with variations in spices and other perfumes that only barely modify the central woodiness of the incenses.

Kohshu (Fleet of Scents) fills the tier just about Shiragiku and if Shiragiku played around with kyara like tendencies, Kohshu is more distinctly an aloeswood oil that one might think would fill this price range, with the bitter (pleasantly so I might add) end notes one might find in Tennendo’s Shorin, except executed as an oil scent rather than deriving its nature from the ground wood. The mix of spices in this one also tend to the greener, almost medicinal variety, which also sets itself apart from the Shiragiku. It’s such a potent, damp and intense oil scent that I found it overwhelmed by sense of smell for a while after, leading me to have to stagger subsequent evaluation sessions as it played havoc with the next scent.

Shogetsu (Pine Moon) seems almost a variation on Kohshu and as I just mentioned, it was very difficult to evaluate this scent on that incense’s heels. After time, I have to admit that I was finding it difficult to suss out Shogetsu’s personality, of all the incenses in this line it’s probably the woodiest. It’s missing the bitter afternotes of the Kohshu and doesn’t go for the damp, green spice mix, leaving the scent almost pure wood and slightly lacquerish, as if someone just added finish to a small table made of aloeswood. It’s description gives “deep and spicy scents” and I have no argument to make over the deep part, except that it might take a while to really get that part of the incense. I think that there’s perhaps so much aloeswood in this incense that it’s almost overwhelming. Of all these incenses, the jury remains out on Shogetsu.

By price, Nichigetsu (Daily Moon) is the highest of the three non kyaras in this line and seems to fill the spot most analagous to Ga Ho in the Shoyeido premium line. Like Ga Ho, this also plays with a much more drier aloeswood scent, almost anticipating the switch to the decadent sweetness of the kyaras. Like Shogetsu the strength of wood oils here is so intense that it gives the scent an almost lacquer or turpentine like finish to it, and even more so this has the scent of newly finished furniture glossed with polish. Again, it really seems like the potency of the wood oils had the tendency of blocking my impressions and I was left with the feeling that this seemd more like a slightly more deluxe version of Shogetsu. Undoubtedly without further evaluation I’d say one would probably need only one or the other at first.

If Nichitgetsu was Seijudo’s Ga Ho, than Kyara Horen (Lotus Treasure) must be its Go-Un and the analogy seems to work in that kyara seems more a part of the bouquet than the dominant force it is in Seiran or Enju. And as such it does seem to strike the middle ground between Nichigetsu and Seiran, having some of the drier qualities of the former and only a touch of the sweetness of the latter. However, where I felt a bit overwhelmed by the extreme woodiness inherent to Shogetsu and Nichigetsu, the balance here allowed the finer qualities to come through a bit more and there’s a definite floral oil in the mix that helps to give the scent a little more personality. I suspect this is part of where lotus comes into it, but I would think the delicacies of the lotus scent, which is often approximated, are somewhat cancelled out by the heavy wood oil.

Overall this is a very tough line to evaluate. There’s no question that some very fine wood oils are being used here across the spectrum and not only that but they’re based in the most fragile of stick sizes as if the creators were fully aware of the potency of aromatics going into the making of these. The fortunate side of all this, of course, is the small mini samplers, which should allow those who reach the price range to sample most or all of the range. In many ways I think these perhaps are the type of incenses that might be evaluated best on their own, that is, to pick one scent and keep with it. Indeed my favorite in the line might actually be the most inexpensive, Shiragiku, which also happens to be the one I’ve lived with the most. So this is probably yet again an example of a series of incenses that I might be even more favorable with a year or two for now. They’re all certainly good enough that I’ll probably eventually try the full tubes, but on the other hand if you’re looking at your pocketbook and wanting to know what to try at these prices, I might very well suggest something else … first.

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7 Comments

  1. hisham said,

    April 14, 2014 at 4:28 pm

    Sorry for the delayed posting, but I am not aware that Seijudo’s Enju uses any Kyara Oil as Mike mentioned above. I am not sure if there is such a thing as Kayar oil in existence or that is in use in Incense sticks. can you please clarify that issue? Thanks.

    • greggking said,

      April 15, 2014 at 11:22 am

      Um, well, no, as you so correctly state, there are no non-synthetic Kyara oils, and where I suspect the confusion comes in is in the marketing of “green oil Kyara” which is proper, and is also the scent released when burning these sticks. Most (99.9%) of the incense users out there would not understand and would probably be bored to death by an extended discourse on whether a depleted resource such as Kyara should even be used as an ingredient or just enjoyed on its own. Very few sticks are still made with a discernable level of Kyara, although Kyukyodo’s Musashino still jumps out as a star, mostly wood and little else.

  2. Greg said,

    February 21, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    i have most of the Seijudo line up – (btw, in Japan they sell a longer stick version, approx. 40 sticks to a silk covered thin rectangular box) and must say that it really is difficult to differentiate the various blends.

    it seems that in regard to the non-kyara blends, the higher you go in terms of price you tend to get a more well balanced fragrance that skillfully plays with a woody dryness and softer “lacquer-like” undertones. there is also a reduction in bitterness as you move up the line culminating with the nichi getsu. with the 3 top kyara blends the scent profile moves in the opposite direction with slightly more bitterness the higher you go in terms of price. i attribute this to the fact that the highest qualities of kyara do have a sharp bitterness to them. the only thing i don’t like is the fact that they have reduced the number of sticks of the Shiragiku to 15 sticks per tube for the same price. the number of sticks and prices of all the other tubes seems to have remained the same. it seems to suggest that there really is little quality difference between Shiragiku and the other non-kyara blends.

  3. janet said,

    April 4, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    They might be hard to evaluate, I understand the difficulty although I have only sampled Shiragiku, Nichigetsu, Seiran, and Enju….
    but you really did great with a hard job, Mike, and between your description and Tio’s, I think I am going to go for a sampler of Kohshu next!

    • Mike said,

      April 6, 2010 at 8:52 am

      Kohshu would probably be the one I’d initially pick from that four, although with that said I liked the ones in the batch Ross reviewed better. I dunno I think there might be something in the oils they use that just zaps my sinuses.

  4. Ross Urrere said,

    March 30, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    My personal favorite is the Kyara Horen, mostly because to my nose there is a resemblance to Myo-ho.
    I am thinking that doing the first review was easier. There is a greater definition between the two Kyara’s there and the Shiragiku. So it seemed clearer as to what was happening with each one. For sure none of these are the kind of incense to just blast away with. They really are top notch and very potent, with a very deep and entertaining learning curve 🙂
    I notice in my wanderings that this line is extremely well thought of in incense shops in Japan. Some shops put them at the pinnacle above even Shoyeido. Tough call there, do not think my nose is at those levels. I do believe Shiragiku is probably one of the best deals in incense, it really delivers and at a remarkably low price point.
    I love the small sampler packs and think that they are a great way to check out the various possibilities. Doing a review on a grouping like this one is hard, they are all great and loaded with the kinds of quality and scent profiles that we all tend to go for. I also know from personal experience that they smell different on different days or moods. Plus trying to describe these kinds of scents is not straight forward or simple. -Ross

  5. Tio said,

    March 29, 2010 at 11:26 pm

    Kohshu was a gift, one which my wife and I instantly fell in love with. I find it a very friendly and approachable fragrance, one that lingers an unusually long time, making it perfect for scenting a space in anticipation of guests.

    Last week we did just that, burning a stick of Kohshu in our living room before guests arrived. Two of our guests complimented our “air freshener”, one fairly swooning over it. My wife promised to forward a link to a little Japanese shop in San Francisco. 🙂

    Kohshu brings to my mind concentrated fresh cut wood, camphor-like at the base with rich, complex green notes on top, and the medicine spice Mike mentions balancing it out.


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