A single line of 
Fragrant smoke
From incense stick
Trails off without a trace:
Where does it go?


According to legend, agarwood (aloeswood) first came to Japan when a log of incense wood drifted ashore on Awaji-shima island in the third year of Empress Suiko’s reign (595 CE). People who found the incense wood noticed that the wood smelled marvelous when they put it near a fire. Then they presented the wood to local officials.

Japan was the eastern end of the Silk Road. Incense was brought from China over Korea and developed over 1,000 years. The history starts in the 6th century CE when Buddhism arrived during the Asuka period. Agarwood is known to have come along with the supplies to build a temple in 538 CE. A ritual known as sonaekō became established. Koboku fragrant wood combined with herbs and other aromatic substances was burned to provide a fragrant incense for religious purposes. The custom of burning incense was further developed and blossomed amongst the court nobility with the pastime of takimono, a powdered mixture of aromatic substances.  Fragrant scents played a vital role at court life during the Heian period, robes and even fans were perfumed and poems written about them, it also featured prominently in the epic The Tale of Genji in the 11th century.

Samurai warriors would prepare for battle by purifying their minds and bodies with the incense of koboku. They also developed an appreciation for its fragrances. In the late Muromachi period in the 16th century, this aesthetic awareness would develop into the accomplishment known as kōdō, which is the art of enjoying the incense of smoldering koboku. The present style of kōdōhas largely retained the structure and manner of the Muromachi period, in which time the tea ceremony and the ikebana style of flower arrangement developed as well.


“About 300 years ago (in 1705), Moriyoshi Rokuzaemon HATA, who headed the Tanba-Sasayama district of the present Kyoto prefecture, created a store called “SASAYA.” Rokubei Moritsune HATA, who represented the third generation of the Hata family to be involved in making incense, began incorporating methods of creating incense he learned while working at the Imperial Palace in Kyoto. He applied the court’s secret traditions of blending incense that had been previously enjoyed exclusively by royalty. After nearly three hundred years, the Hata family continues the legacy of their innovative ancestors, offering a wide variety of unique, hand-blended incense. Today, Shoyeido is considered the highest quality, most natural incense available in the world.”


This incense shop is cozy and one of the reasons why we love it is because the owner came up with the most creative idea by creating Kanari Damas, which are colorful balls that are filled with fragrant incense. These incense balls are great in keeping the clothes in your drawers smelling great the whole time. Besides Kanari Dama that keep your clothes fragrant, there are also incense balls that help keep those pesky insects away and they are known for being very effective!

Address: 201 Nishinomachi, Shinmonzen-dori Yamatooji-dori-higashi-iru, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto (京都府京都市東山区新門前通大和大路東入西之町 201)
Hours: 8am-7pm

Yamada Matsu 

Yamada Matsu began around 1790 and is a purveyor of very fine incense and implements used in the burning and appreciation of Japanese incense.

Yamada Matsu is located on Muromachi-dori street a short walk to the west from Kyoto Gosho Imperial Palace.



Kyukyodo started in 1663 as an apothecary, the business soon expanded to incense and painted and calligraphic stationary. Kyukyodo is a one-stop shop for all manner of traditional tools and art objects related to calligraphy and painting, incense, tea ceremony, fans, washi paper and so on. Many beautiful and seasonal illustrated postcards, stationary sets, calendars and so on are also available.‎ (Japanese only)