The six grades of Jinko (Aloeswood, Agarwood).

The Six grades of Jinko (Aloeswood, Agarwood)

In Japan Aloeswood is the most prized fragrant wood incense of all. The amazing quality of its incense is only just being discovered in the West.

In Japan, valuable kimonos were scented with smoke from burning Aloeswood. This is the traditional wood for the incense ceremony of Kodo, and in Japan it is purchased in six different qualities. The best wood, Kyara, is differentiated by colour and quality.

Aloeswood, along with santal and clove, is sacred to the Buddhist religion. The living and dead tree is attacked by a fungus, and over time, preferably centuries, nature provides an incense material worth more than its weight in gold.

Aloeswood is a psychoactive substance, and is used in oriental medicines for nervous disorders, colic and as a heart tonic.

The six grades of Jinko are as follows:-

Kyara (The Aristocrat)                                                                                     the-lady-maisumi-of-daimonji-ya-md
Connoisseurs regard this as top-grade material. It is divided according to quality, based on colour (green, black, purple and dark brown-grey).

Rakoku (The Samurai)the-actor-band-mitsugor-ii-md

Reminiscent of the warrior, the aroma of Rakoku is considered relatively pungent and bitter. This type originally hailed from Thailand.

Sasora (The Monk)

Of priestly demeanor, the aroma is considered delicate, cool and sour. Sasora may have originated from the western shores of India, around Goa.


Sumotara (The Servant disguised as a noble)


The aroma has the makings of Kyara, but with the lack of subtlety in-depth. It is an impersonator, hence the name. Described as a sour smell, Sumotara has a somewhat distasteful demeanor. Sumotara originally came from the island of Sumatra in the east Indian archipelago.

Manaka (The fickle one of changing moods)


Delicate and ever-changing, the tastes of sweet, sour bitter, hot and salty are not easily detectable, and if they are it is a fleeting impression. Manaka hailed from the strait of Malacca between Indonesia and Malaya.


Manaban ( The coarse peasant)

Sweet. unrefined and coarse, with a grittiness that distinguishes it from high quality material. Manaban came from the Malabar coast of southern India.


syukohkoku                 white cloud



Mike & Nikki

Thank you to The library of Congress for the images

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Kodo-Listening to the incense


Kōdō ( “Way of Incense”) is the Japanese art of appreciating incense, and involves using incense within a structure of ritual. Kōdō is much  like the tea ceremony, is valued as high art — to activities such the incense-comparing games kumikō and shirakawa-koh . Kōdō is counted as one of the three classical Japanese arts of refinement (kadō, or ikebana for flower arrangement, kōdō for incense, and chadō for tea and the tea ceremony), but it is relatively unknown among modern Japanese people.

In this video is the famous Yamada Matsu Incense boutique in Kyoto. Please visit their official website at

Video courtesy by ShiniseMallChannel.


The journey of incense Shoyeido-Nijo (Avenue of the Villa Nijo)


First Steps

I started my journey with Nijo very much at a head level but with plenty of curiosity. I was wondering what would be the difference between coils and stick incense and thinking was the incense worth the price. Nijo gives you ten coils of incense and comes with a porcelain incense holder for the price of £26.75 ,which I would consider this the top of my budget for what I would pay for incense. Each coil burns between 2 and 2 1/2hrs. First steps   I lit Nijo and sat back and waited to see what I would sense. At first there were gentle waves of flora notes fill the air, it was pleasing like smelling the aroma of freshly cut flowers in the space. At this point I wanted more (it’s worth noting I can be impatient at times). I need not worry as later the incense  gave me so much more than I was expecting. Image

The middle

As time passed the intensity of the fragrance grew and it reveled definite notes of sandalwood along with a greater concentration of the flora notes. I felt as though the incense was taking me to a fragrant temple made up of exotic woods and flowers which filled me full of delight and joy as each moment  different elements of essence showed itself. During the experience I noticed I stopped trying to identify each ingredient and just sat back to connect with the experience.

Returning home

Once the incense had been burnt the room was left with traces of the aroma from the incense which was still to be felt the next morning. I now realize what a beautiful and fascinating incense this is for me. I understood that Nijo is a special incense, to be lit only when there is time to fully enjoy it or for special occasions and not a daily incense. I am left looking forward to my next adventure with Nijo and I will choose a time when I can fully appreciate it. Dare I say it I think this incense is worth every penny and I now fully appreciate the mastery of ingredients that Shoyeido have shown in producing such a beautiful incense.

Namaste Nikki Image

A little bit of Japanese Hanami in Sunny Somerset


The beautiful cherry trees are in full bloom in this little part of Somerset and it really does uplift the spirits as we have been through such a wet winter. As I was looking at the stunning blossom along our cherry tree avenue I did enjoy nature showing me such inspirational beauty among the business of our small town .  I later thought how I could understand the Japanese’s admiration for the wonder of the cherry blossom and plum blossom.


Hanami is the Japanese traditional custom of enjoying the transient beauty of flowers, “flower” in this case almost always meaning cherry blossoms (sakura) or plum blossoms (ume).

Blossom and Symbolism

In Japan the Plum Blossom (ume) is known as “The Flower of Peace” and has a very important place in Japanese literature and symbolism.

The cherry blossom (sakura) is a well-known symbol of the end of the winter and the new being of life in the season of spring. Which signifies a great time to start new fresh ventures and appreciate the end of any difficult period .

The blossom of the cherry and plum is extremely fragile and last for such a short time, for the Japanese this signifies the transience condition of existence. This concept ties in very deeply with the important wisdom of Buddhism which often reflects on the temporary nature of life.

Incense and Blossom

Baieido and Shoyeido are two of the best known and long established brands of incense in Japan. Baieido incense established in 1657 and Shoyeido has a long connection with trained incense masters and artisans. Both Incense brands have crafted their interpretation of cherry blossom and plum blossom.

Baieido have created Kobunboku and Kokonoe both in their own way mirror the spring blossom. Kokonoe is definitely the incense if you wish to experience a incense which has a flora undertone. Kobunboku has a certain spicy characteristics and was the first Japanese incense I started with so I have a particular attachment to.

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Shoyeido has produced  Kyo-Zakura (Kyoto Cherry blossom) which I have found to have a tart uplifting quality to it and is one of Mikes (the over half of preferences .





Japanese Incense-Shoyeido Moss Garden/Nokiba


Shoyeido- Moss Garden/Nokiba


Like a child waiting for Christmas


I’m always the same when I am waiting for the order of incense. I’m like a kid at Christmas waiting for the day to come or in my case waiting for the delivery, especially if there is something new or a Japanese incense I have personally run out of. This brings me to my review of Shoyeido’s Moss Garden/Nokiba which I was expecting a delivery of.


I’m not going to pretend


I love Moss Garden and I can’t pretend I don’t , there are other incenses in the Shoyeido range that I’m not so keen on, as personally I am more of a Baieido incense girl. I will try and stay impartial and not go too overboard for this review but it may be worth taking into account my passion for quality Japanese incense


What do I say?


Moss garden has a seductive, feminine and floral scent to it without being to flowery or sickly. I feel Moss Garden has warm and earthy under tones to it but if you’re looking for the strong earthy feel of Sandalwood or Agarwood then in my opinion this isn’t the Japanese incense for you and you would be better with Baieido -Tokusen (Excellent) Kobunboku,


I have heard others describe Moss Garden of being reminiscence of Geishas and Japanese tea ceremonies, which evocate strong images of mystery and sensuality which I can compare to Moss Garden. Moss Garden invites you to take time and notice it’s delicate scent and enjoy it’s beautiful aroma.




What does Shoyeido say?


Moss Garden is one of Shoyeido’s oldest recipes and is said by Shoyeido to be mild and evocative of plum flowers blooming by the window. I have never had the pleasure to smell plum flowers blooming next to a window and I can’t really say it is an image to inspire my imagination. I can’t say this description of Moss garden does it for me but it may for you.


Your review, Your incense


This a review of one of the Japanese incense we sell but I would be really interested to hear from others what incenses you burn and what you enjoy about them.