Kodo -- The Japanese Incense Ceremony


The art of incense burning has been perfected over many centuries in Japan.


Soradaki means "burning for pleasure" Before incense sticks were popular in Japan, incense was burned on charcoal buried in the ash. Sometimes an incense called Awaseko was used, and other times resinous woods like Sandalwood and Aloeswood were heated instead.


Kodo is a variation of Soradaki where a Mica plate is placed on top of the ash above the charcoal, and the incense woods are smoldered at a lower temperature. Kodo is a smokeless way of enjoying incense.

The ultimate in the incense experience is Koh-doh . It dates back to the Muromachi period (1336-1573) It became known as "The Art of Incense."

Koh-doh was established around the time of the shogun Shogun Yoshimasa Ashikaga (1443-1490) who asked Sanetaka Sanjonishi (a scholar and poet) to evaluate and classify all of the incense that they used. Sanjonishi is considered to be the father of the Japanese incense schools and the "Way of Incense." (Kodo)

Today, there are two main schools remaining in Japan. They are Oiye-ryu, Shino-ryu. The Shino school is in the tradition of the Samurai and Soushin Shino, and the Oie school in the tradition of the poet Sanetaka Sanjonishi.

Prior to Kodo becoming a formal ceremony there were the Incense Contests of the 11th century where compounds of incense called neriko were used.

Lady Murasaki (lavender) Shikibu in her epic novel "The Tale of Genji," writes about incense and incense making contests by the nobles of the Heian courts.

Later, informal games called Koh Awase were played in Japanese homes. It was from these games Kodo takes its true origination.

Kodo Links in Japanese

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