What is incense?

By the Edo Period, incense preparation and enjoyment had become a complex art form, enjoyed by the nobility and upper classes. Fragrant woods like sandalwood, spices such as cloves, and other substances like amber, were burned, blended, and matched  to create atmospheric moods, add scents to hair and clothing, and play games.

In one typical game, a small charcoal incense-heater warming a piece of wood or other materials was passed around. Players sampled a number of scents (sometimes up to 54 different materials), and then tried to identify which of these was the final “mystery” incense burned by the game-master.

Photo by Birdy