History of Incense
It is said the origin of incense dates back to 3000 BC or even earlier. It may have originated in Egypt and handed down through the continent to India and then introduced to Japan. Its beauty and medicinal effects were indispensable to rituals.
In AD595, chunk of fragrance wood drifted ashore at Awaji Island by “Nihon Shoki”, one of the earliest written records of Japanese History. Awaji Island is the birth place of Japan by Japanese mythology and it has numerous myths.
Inhabitants of the island must have been amazed by the powerful new aroma, when they burned the chunk as a firewood for the first time. The locals presented this aromatic wood to imperial court. It is said that Shotoku Taishi who was appointed as regent (Sessho) by Empress Suiko carved a box and a stature of the Goddess of Kannon out of this wood at that time.
A human sized fragrance wood is enshrined as a sacred object in Kareki Shrine where sits on the shoreline at Awaji Island. It is said that Shizuka Gozen, one of the famous women in Japanese literature, who performed traditional dances at imperial court at Heian period (12th century), often visited Kareki shrine. Mr. Yoshii, our scent master, has maintained this small and picturesque shrine.
Buddhism was introduced to Japan in the 6th century as well as equipment for Buddhist alter and people offered incense to Buddha as rituals. It is considered that scent is a messenger of Buddha and it works both of body and mind. Fragrance wood burn themselves to dedicate its own existence to others, which shows us important meaning of “the way of life”. In Heian period (794-1185), incense colored flourishing culture of aristocracy. Time passed, warriors burned incense to their armor to prepare their mind at the age of Warring States, around 15th century.
Incense manufacturing had developed in 1850 (Kaei 3), in Edo period at Awaji Island. It is because the physical environment suited for producing incense and there were some other reasons as well as its historical background. It would be a mysterious fate that the birth place of fragrance wood in Japan has developed industry of incense. Ei area, flourishing place of incense manufacturing in Awaji Island, is filled with fragrance in entire town.