Japanese Incense: Culture and Buying Guide!

Incense is considered one of the types of traditional Japanese culture that has existed for more than 500 years. However, compared with other types of culture such as tea ceremony, calligraphy, or flower arrangement art, the incense ceremony is little known, even the Japanese. In this article, let’s learn about Japanese incense products with Janbox and how to buy them.

1. What is the incense ceremony?

An incense ceremony is a form of enjoying the scent burned up from the fragrant wood branch. This is the Japanese art of enjoying frankincense, and also the art that is highly appreciated for the elegance, and patience of the enjoyment. Not everyone has enough qualities to feel the way of incense because it requires a delicate sense of smell, high concentration as well as analytical ability, and sharp memory.

2. The origin of Japanese incense

Since ancient times, incense has been made with ingredients with natural aromas such as bamboo bark and herbs, so that when burned, they emit smoke with fragrances that spread throughout the space. In Japanese, incense is called Ko(香) – which also means scent(香り) or fragrances.

Incense ceremony actually originated in China and was introduced to Japan in 552 and immediately became popular with the people here. Therefore, the production of incense also gradually developed. The artisans have spent a lot of effort and enthusiasm to prepare incense with its own distinctive aroma and scent.

Today, by combining traditional techniques with modern machinery, a fragrance industry has been born and developed to create high-quality products that make full use of natural ingredients.

3. How to produce Japanese incense

The main raw materials for making Japanese incense are sandalwood, frankincense, resin, or essential oils. In particular, the highest proportion is agarwood or sandalwood because they secrete a resin that can extract high-value aromatic oils.

After mixing the ingredients with water, we have a paste, like clay – called makko. This is also the stage to show the skillful ability of the craftsmen when they have to form thin incense sticks or coiled cones. During the shaping process, they should not be exposed to water, but must be placed in a cool, dry place.

Incense will be strictly controlled by weather, humidity, and temperature factors in the factory before being packaged and sold on the market. It takes experienced craftsmen and artisans to understand the process of making incense, from mixing ingredients with the right proportions to distilling and preserving products.

4. How to use incense

Incense is originally used in temples, pagodas, and sacred places with the use of purify space, bringing a sense of peace and serenity to those who come to pray. Unlike some other countries, Japanese incense is also used for many other purposes and uses. 

In the past, Japanese people burned incense to disinfect indoor spaces or as insect repellent. From priests to samurai warriors used incense to purify the mind and body. Today, incense is also used as fragrant essential oil, purifying the surrounding space and helping people feel more relaxed with a light fragrance when burned.

5. Types of Japanese incense

There are two main types of incense produced and used in Japan:


Kunko is a form of heating or smoldering pieces of wood that have a natural fragrance such as sandalwood or frankincense. With this type of incense, we do not need to burn incense directly but heat them up by placing pieces of charcoal below. That’s why the thin smoke, faintly fragrant of nature, spreads throughout the space, creating a feeling of relaxation and comfort for people to enjoy.


Shoko is a more common and easily encountered form of incense, users will directly burn them in the form of a stick or a pre-made dome. Therefore, the smoke when burned will be thicker, have a stronger aroma, and can cover a larger space than Kunko.

In addition, visitors can easily enjoy incense in its raw form without having to burn or heat them directly. Incense powder will be finely ground – called zu-ku, they are packaged in fragrant bags without losing the natural scent, on the contrary, are convenient to use and move.

5. How to buy incense from Japan

About 70% of Japanese incense is produced on Awaji Island – a small island in Hyogo Prefecture. The methods used are mainly traditional crafts passed down through generations. However, there are also many large incense manufacturers with a large scale and organization, the distribution of products across many countries. Some of the famous places are Nippon Kodo, Kungyodo, Baieido, and Shoyeido.

Besides, you can refer to the Zozotown online shopping to search for your favorite Japanese incense. With just a few simple steps, you can order, pay, and soon own this item.


Discovering the beauties and features of that traditional art has partly helped us have a deeper look and understand more about the traditional culture and customs of Japan. This is also a very meaningful gift for relatives, family, or friends so that everyone can enjoy and feel more deeply about the art of Japanese incense.

If you have any questions or need more information about placing an order, please contact Janbox immediately, our team will assist you as quickly as possible.

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