Incense sticks from Nara’s temples offer relaxing aroma
Editor’s note: This series showcases “omiyage” (souvenirs) from around Japan. We introduce “must-buy” items available at prefecture-operated shops in Tokyo that promote local tourism products. The series appears on Saturdays.
After the ancient Japanese capital of Heijokyo was founded in 710 in present-day Nara Prefecture, local rulers and priests used advanced, imported technologies to build grand temples to commemorate the imported Buddhist religion.
The new knowledge and technologies, as well as the religion, came from the Korean Peninsula and China.
The ancient city of Nara still has the atmosphere of that period. It is also enveloped with the soothing scents of that bygone age. Those who crossed the sea to travel to Japan to share their knowledge and goods also brought incense with them.
In keeping with that tradition, Kofukuji temple, a part of the UNESCO World Heritage of Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara, offers Gandha incense sticks. The word means “incense” in Sanskrit.
Incense is not only used in Buddhist rituals but also enjoyed for its aroma. Todaiji, which is famous for its large Buddha statue, and other temples, also offer their own lines.
Kinpusenji, a prestigious temple in southern Nara Prefecture, is famous for its Zaoko incense made from agarwood.
The Japanese were mesmerized by the profundity of the aroma, and the use of incense eventually became widespread. It led to the establishment of “kodo,” or “way of incense,” the art of appreciating incense. It has become one of the three major traditional art forms denoting refinement in Japan along with “sado” (tea ceremony) and “kado” (flower arrangement).
Two types of incense with relaxing aroma can be purchased at Nara Mahoroba-kan.
Kofukuji’s Gandha sells for 1,544 yen ($14.40), with Kinpusenji’s Zaoko selling for about 1,000 yen.
Address: 1-6-2 Nihonbashi-Muromachi, Nihonbashi Muromachi 162 Bldg., 1st and 2nd floor, Chuo Ward, Tokyo.
Open seven days a week from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Closed from Dec. 31 to Jan. 3.
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