Genji / Otome, Momiji-Noga, Mio-Tsukushi
Genji / Enishi
It has been a while since we took a look at the rather sizeable Genji series that Shoyeido started to solidify in their US catalogs about a year ago. Partially this is because they’re almost as much gift sets as incense boxes, with all the various sets packaged in unique and striking containers that all bear the motifs of the famous Japanese Book of Genji. To get a better introduction to what this is all about I’d suggest taking a look back at Nancy’s fine write-up in the link to Enishi above. This book is often the inspiration for incense aromas and themes, even beyond Shoyeido and acts as fascinating context for culture and aroma. These are all very pricy sets and in many ways seem to me to be a further experimentation in the short stick style that has flourished within Shoyeido’s catalogs from the Horin series to the 12 Months, Angelscents, Floral World and many others.
The four in question here include two sets that feature one aroma and two others that feature two different aromas. All boxes range at 20 sticks in total, although Shoyeido has also imported Hanachiru-Satu in a much larger box set, in fact it was the first to come over. Hanachiru-Satu means Field of Blossoms and is a distinct, light and pleasant floral incense that will appeal to those with modern tastes. It’s distinctly fruity-floral, but given the stick type and format it ends up being a lot more complex and pleasant than most florals of its type. The scent evokes apples, daisies, gentle flower and a spiring breeze, with a very upbeat and freshening vibe. However for the type of incense, it strikes me as awfully expensive, especially when you consider many similarly prices Genji scents seem quite a bit more deluxe with the addition of aloeswood or fine sandalwood (whether these are oils or woods themselves). Hanachiru-Sato is certainly a pleasant incense and very pretty, but as many of these aromas go they’ll often tend to appeal more to the casual user, definitely more populist than traditional.
To my nose, the second floral here, Yamazoto (Mountain Valley), is much more successful and attractive. Where Hanachiru-Sato might invoke feelings of nostalgia and familiarity in the western user, Yamazoto is definitely far more exotic with the exotic perfume oils topping off a mix of aloeswood, sandalwood and spikenard to great effect. Like many of these short sticks, it will be evocative of any number of incenses in other ranges such as the 12 Months or Angelscents series, but even with the slight wood in the background this still is dominantly floral, sultry and bewitching. I found it quite fortunate that this happened to be a one-scent Genji box as this is a scent I could easily see myself restocking, it’s exotic, complex and won me over with a stick.
The Kikoushi (Young Nobleman) set splits its 20 sticks into two different aromas, with pink/purple and green sticks. As is true for many Genji scents, both these sticks have noticeable aloeswood contents mixed in with hard to identify floral characteristics and a nice helping of quality sandalwood. The former stick (the one with the pinkish purple color) also has a musk scent to go along with its brash, intense woody scent as well as some slight violet hints. This combination of purple characteristics with aloeswood seems fairly common in many of these short stick lines and always strikes me as youthful and aggressive, fulfulling part of the box’s theme memorably. It’s like a combination of elan with class and sophistication and the mix of florals and a slight berry hint with the heavy woods is quite nice.
The green stick is also sharp and aggressive, maybe even more so with a distinct and pungent aloeswood hit. I mentioned a commonality with purple aloeswoods along the short stick line, similarly there’s also a common thread among the green sticks, which often mix and match notes of evergreen, patchouli and mint in the mix. There’s so many of these I’m wondering if a comparison among them would be of better use, as I’m naturally sympathetic to this kind of blend. Nevertheless this too reflects the duality of the young nobleman, with a stick both elegant and impulsive. And it completes what’s another excellent Genji set.
The other two-scent set here is called Ukifune or Rowboat. The first stick, which has a carnation color to it is a very woody, aloeswood imbued stick that might be the most overtly high end incense among all these varying Genji sets. The wood tones are mixed with a very soft and subtle florals and the scent, like many of Shoyeido’s short sticks, has fleeting similarities to both the Horin Muro-Machi and Ten-Pyo sticks (in fact this aroma even leans towards some quasi-kyara like scents in the mix). I might guess at this being something of a carnation/aloeswood mix, and what might be interpreted as a marriage of feminine and masculine qualities reflects nicely the description of “… a young couple who enjoy an intimate time on a rowboat under bright moonlight night.”
The purple colored companion stick, on the other hand, is much mellower and only features aloeswood as a slight part of the bouquet. Compared to the heavier Genjis, this is very airy, with a touch of lavender or violet in the bouquet or at least the aroma holds similarities to the Xiang-Do versions of either scent. It’s even, perhaps, slightly wine or grape-like in an unusual way. It’s superbly balanced although it is so faint and subtle one wonders if a full appraisal can be made before the 10 sticks in the box run out.
As always, the Genji series seems to be made of excellent incense, although one will need to decide if the $16-$20+ asking prices (meaning each short stick is about a dollar a piece) is worth the fancy packaging. Indeed it at least does seem to be a place to go for the aloeswood lover who’s already gone through the Premiums and Horins, although I’m always careful not to fall too far for any of these scents as very few of them can be restocked in any sort of bulk form to make them worthwhile. On the other hand they do look like they’d make fantastic gifts, although the string, paper and carton packaging can be slightly frustrating in putting it all back together.