Learn the basic of fragrance culture at Kyoto main shop
Text & photo Kenta Baba
What can I buy as a memory of my wonderful Kyoto trip?
Something with taste of Kyoto...
Well, why not try the fragrance of Kyoto, oko.
They last long, compact and light.
It is becoming more and more popular among the foreign tourists.
Here, I'm introducing an established fragrance shop, Kourouho Shoeido's Khoto main shop's program. You can buy fragrance items, as well as an experience.
Shoeido has been in business for over 300 hundred years. Many temples in Kyoto such as Kiyomizu, Nanzen, Toji and Manpuku are using their incense. They have 4 shops in Kyoto, as well as in Tokyo, Osaka and Sapporo. Plus they have a great online shopping page. Well, that means you can buy their product from anywhere.... BUT!
Fragrance class at Kyoto main shop
How much do you know about fragrance and incense? Me? Not very much. I actually realized that I hadn't a clue when I took a class here.
I will be bragging on the things I have learnt.
(Shoeido Kyoto main shop. Their business started here, and is still used as a manufacturing point)
My incense lessons at Shoeido
1. All ingredients are imported
The fragrance culture in Japan goes back 1400 years when it came from China with Buddhism. It became an essential part of the noble class by the Heian period (794-1192). Since then, Japan has cultivated original culture. Up until now, all the ingredients are imported.
There are many shapes like cane and swirl. Types that can enjoy fragrance in normal temperatur, ones needed to be heated and even ones to be put directly on skin.
2. Fragrance is to create the atmosphere
Room fragrance has become common now, but the fragrance most common to Japanese people are senko, incense burnt for Buddhist ceremonies such as funeral and visiting graves. But why so? The answer was that it is an offering for Buddha, and that it is meant to create a good atmosphere. It is for the teaching and prayers of Buddhism to spread wide with the smoke.
3. Enjoy the aroma
Another question: why is Shoeido's incense used by so many temples and how can such a popular be made?
The answer to creating a aroma was the blending balance that is based on the long history. The way in how the aroma stays in the air is also taken into consideration.
I had once compared the scent of lisn's incense. I thought I felt no difference in how it smelt when burning it, but never did I mind about how the aroma lasted in the air..
4. Chose incense by the aroma, not price
The price of incense depends on the ingredients so the expensive ones are not always the good ones. The taste in aroma differs among individual so smell them before buying.
... the best way to chose is to actually go to the store and burn one before buying them.
It is a pity to buy incense without choosing much, and end up thinking that they are all alike.
What is special about Shoeido Kyoto main shop
Visitors can try out all the products sold by Shoeido. Gift wrapping is also available.
Horikawa is recommended for beginners.
Yuki-yanagi is a whole different item with sweet and glamorous scent.
Niyoi bukuro, fragrance bag, using nishijinori-cloth is popular for souveniors.
Three types of fragrance bags.
Hanging banboo products to enjoy fragrance as interrior item.
>> Kaori Kago Hisagogata
Simple and stylish burners.
You are welcomed to ask any question to the staffs to learn about the fragrance here. You don't need to worry about having have to shop, but lets focus on learning about the culture. The more you are interested in them, the more special these products will become to you, for yourself and as a present.
Kourouho Shoeido Kyoto main shop
Address: Higashigawa, Nijo-agaru, Karasuma-dori, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto (map)
Hours: 9：00 - 19：00
(Saturday -18：00, Sunday and public holidays -17：00)