How to make Japanese incense, the traditional way

The Tokyo store teaches customers how to “listen” to fragrances instead of smelling them.

Ever since incense arrived in Japan in the 6th century, around the same time as Buddhism, the “incense path“, Where “kodo” has become more and more refined. It’s a fascinating aspect of local culture that’s often overlooked by foreign visitors, but now there’s a store in Tokyo that unveils the secrets of craftsmanship for more people to enjoywith hands-on experience that allows you to make your own incense in just one hourr.

▼ The store is called “Juttoku”. (yes, with the dot at the end), and it’s located in Kagurazaka.

The store is beautifully sleek and modern, but the incense-making experience will transport you back to the Heian period (794-1185), as attendees learn how to make “inko“, a molded incense made by kneading raw materials together.

The store states on its website:

“As the nobles of the Heian period liked to mix their own incense, the time of working on creating a fragrance that is not visible can also be a time of pure relaxation.

Please take this time to discover your inner self by blending your own incense.

The experience begins with a short introduction to the history of the incense and the ingredients used, all of which are made from natural materials such as tree leaves, roots and resin. The staff will then guide you to bring a conscious approach to the smell of the ingredients, or to be more specific, “audience“the ingredients, like the verb”kiku” (“listen”) is used instead of “kagu“(“smell”) as a more elegant term in the world of incense.

▼ Nine types of aromatic ingredients, including sandalwood, cinnamon, star anise and cloves are the centerpiece of the experience.

These finely ground powers are too potent when used alone, but by mixing them together you can create a harmonious scent perfectly suited to your taste. A registration sheet and spoons of three different sizes are prepared for each participant, so you can adjust the balance according to your preferences.

▼ Ingredients listed on top and measurements on the side.

The act of carefully considering each fragrance before mixing them in different measures truly becomes “a moment of pure relaxation”, and it’s exciting to watch your creation begin to take shape.

Once you’ve mixed your ingredients together and bound them with water and binder powder, it’s time to place the mixture into molds to give it more shape.

There are a variety of molds to choose from, including water bottles, turtlesand goldfish, so you can create an entire tray of beautifully shaped incense. The final requirement to complete the experience is to name your handmade incense, and we named ours “Inori no Kaori(“Fragrance of prayer”).

Participants can take the incense home in the paulownia wood tray, and after a few days of drying at home, the incense can be used.

Burning incense that you have made yourself from raw materials is a unique and rewarding experience that everyone should try, and it’s much easier than expected. The incense-making class costs 3,000 yen (US$22.51) per person and class sizes are limited to two to four people at a time, making it a fun and intimate way to learn the way of incense in the heart of Tokyo.

Reference source: Juttoku.
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