David Oller: In Memoriam

David Oller, consultant to Esoterics LLC and long time Baieido Wholesale Representative in the United States, passed away this weekend after a long and courageous battle with liver disease.

David had a profound reverence for Buddhism. It inspired and guided his studies and devotional practices, and was intimately connected with his long-standing and ardent love of incense.

A small glimpse of David’s knowledge can be found on Alice’s Incense Blog, in articles posted on Esoteric’s website, and at japanese-incense. com (http://www.japanese-incense.com/contents.htm). For a long time this site was one of the only sources to offer historical, literary, and practical information about incense, and kodo in particular, to Western incense lovers. Information on the site has been copied again and again, rarely citing David as its source. His studiously-researched knowledge was extensive and I hope that someday David’s writings, and the source materials he collected, will be made public.

I will miss David’s enthusiasm and reverence for the art of Japanese incense, and I feel very fortunate that he went out of his way to share his knowledge and passion with those of us with common interests. A friend to whom I mentioned David’s death lit an incense stick “in remembrance and honor of him”. I am sure that would make David very happy, and I hope that others who read this memoriam will do the same.


  1. mermadearts said,

    February 25, 2016 at 2:36 pm

    The level of service he gave freely to the world of incense lovers is immeasurable. Alice’s was for so long the only link to information, I hope that the info was preserved. Deepest sympathy to his family and friends.

    • Marian said,

      February 25, 2016 at 7:15 pm

      The growth and flourishing of creative incense artists like Mermade Magickal Arts no doubt brought David much joy.

  2. Kotaro and Jay said,

    February 25, 2016 at 1:35 pm

    Both Kotaro and I will greatly miss David Oller, not only for his friendship, but also for the many times he gave us assistance and advice. We would like to share some of the nice things David did for us:

    Back in 2007, when we were beginning our online incense business, we were invited by David to visit him in Albuquerque. He was the official North American distributor for Baieido, and he offered to share a lot of his knowledge about the history of incense, its many ingredients, and the concept of listening to incense. We spent nearly the entire day with him trying out many different samples as he explained the subtle differences between each of them and what we should be looking for in an excellent incense.

    At the end of the day he even baked some of his famous bread for us, which we enjoyed as we helped him set up his brand-new computer to manage his inventory and orders. During that brief period, we grew to respect both his friendship and his willingness to share business information to help us get started.

    Without David’s help our business would’ve had a rocky start. Our company’s first exhibition booth setup at the New York International Gift Fair was aided greatly by David’s help in following the correct procedures and knowing the right contacts to get in (David had already been exhibiting in the Baieido booth for years).

    A few years later, David even flew to San Francisco to visit us and take us to dinner with the President of Baieido Incense, something we will always remember.

    Over the following years we saw him travel around the country, lecturing and continually providing support to the entire incense community, imparting his knowledge and insight to the world of Koh.

    Thank you David; we will always remember your kindness and contributions.

    Jay Cowan and Kotaro Sugimoto,
    Japan Incense and Kohshi.

    • Marian said,

      February 25, 2016 at 7:01 pm

      That David never mentioned his help with the establishment of Japan Incense’s online business is a testimony to his modesty. Thank you so much for sharing these very meaningful and personal reminiscences.

  3. Mike said,

    February 25, 2016 at 11:30 am

    Marian, thanks for this, so beautifully written. Very sad news.

    • Marian said,

      February 25, 2016 at 1:16 pm

      Thanks, Mike. I’m sure the many Baieido reviews that Ross posted on ORS particularly please him.

  4. chamekke said,

    February 25, 2016 at 1:08 am

    I’m deeply saddened to hear about David’s passing. He was extremely kind to me when I was first learning about Japanese incense (and Koudou in particular), and provided all kinds of wonderful advice. He was always willing to share his profound love and knowledge of incense with anyone who was interested. That combination of open-heartedness and expertise is rare and precious indeed, and I am very grateful to have benefited from it – as I’m sure many here have done.

    I didn’t realize David was involved in Buddhist practice, although given some of his writings I should have guessed! I’ll certainly be saying prayers and dedicating merit for him for the next 49 days – it’s the least I can do for this lovely gentleman.

    Thank you so much for sharing the news, sad though it is.

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