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September 27, 2019 2 min read

Japanese Incense or 'Koh'


Japan is one of the oldest and most valued incense producing countries in the world. The art of making incense has been one of the best kept secrets in Japan for centuries. Wood type Incense was recorded in Japan as early as (595); the current reign was that of the Empress Suiko. 


The Japanese word for incense is 'Koh' and the aesthetic practice of 'Koh-do', literally the 'way of the incense' or the Incense Ceremony is now part of Japanese culture. Incense can be enjoyed in highly formalized settings or ceremonies or simply at home or the workplace. Its use now is affordable, accessible and transcends cultural and religious boundaries. 


Incense has existed throughout human history, with familiar reference made in the Bible; where two of the three gifts from the Three Kings to the Christ Child were aromatics - Frankincense and Myrrh.


Japanese Incensehas played significant roles in the cultural, social and religious lives of the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and throughout the Orient. In particular, the first record of incense in Japan comes from 595 CE and is coincidental with the arrival of Buddhism there. From ancient to modern times incense has had a direct relationship with peaceful images and more relaxing life.

Incense Benefits:


The Japanese attribute the '10 Virtues of Koh' - which describe the benefits to be gained by using incense - to a Zen Buddhist priest from the 16th Century, who noted the virtues as follows:

  • It brings communication with the transcendent

  • It purifies the mind and body
  • It removes uncleanliness
  • It keeps one alert
  • It can be a companion in the midst of solitude
  • In the midst of busy affairs, it brings moments of peace
  • When it is plentiful, one never tires of it
  • When there is little, still one is satisfied
  • Age does not change its efficacy
  • Used everyday, it does no harm

Much time has passed and our lives are different from when this was written - but these virtues still hold true today.

Most of the ingredients that is used in Japanese incense comes from India and South-East Asia and are best chosen for their medicinal nature according to the Traditional Chinese Medicine. As times changes, Japanese incense manufacturers are continually striving to develop new fragrances that fits today’s new lifestyle changes in Japan; in the process, they are really creating a new chapter in incense history.

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