What day is it today? April 18 is “Incense day” What drifted ashore on Awajishima Island
Hi, I’m Yoko from the SUNCHI editorial desk.
On Japanese calendar, each day of the year is assigned to some anniversary. It is ranging from the official ones like national holidays and traditional annual events to something personal like birthday and wedding anniversary. On this “What day is it today?” we will introduce anniversaries for goods among hundreds of anniversaries. Well, what day is it today?
April 18 is “Incense day”.
“Oko-no-hi” or Incense day was established in 1992 by Japan Incense Association. The reason for settling on April 18 goes way further back. In “Nihonshoki” or “Chronicles of Japan”, there is a description that a big “Jinsui” or scented wood drifted ashore on Awajishima Island” in April of 595 in the reign of Emperor Suiko. “Jinsui” was the old name of “jinko” which is one of representative scented woods. Jinsui is what the resin is formed under various factors and matured during ages. It has pure and elegant sent. It was called “jinsui” (sink in the water) at that time since it sank under the weight of the resin contained.
A tree of over 2 meters’ long was drifted ashore and the islander lit the tree. Then, it gave off such a nice fragrance.
He hurriedly pulled it out of the fire and devoted it to the Court. Prince Shotoku who was striving for the spread of Buddhism made a Buddhist statue from the tree, they said. This sent tree has been worshipped as a sacred object in Kareki Shrine in Awajishima Island until now.
The said association decided the incense day because it arrived first in April and Chinese character “Ko” meaning incense will be dissolved to “the day of 18th” in Chinese numeral.
Japanese oldest incense provider boasting a history of 420 years
“Kungyokudo” started business as an apothecary in 1594 in front of Nishi-Honganji Temple in Kyoto. In their recipe book which has been passed down for generations, there are numerous descriptions about plants used for Chinese herbal medicine including the scent tree which had been naturally aged during the long time. While maintaining the long tradition as an old establishment in Kyoto, they have been making new fragrances not only for ceremonies but also the daily use accordingly to the times.
Some might form an image of Buddhist event from the incense, but nowadays there are many casual incenses for relax and change of pace. The marriage of natural perfumery based on the traditional recipe and the modern scent makes a wide range of variations. The rich tones are realized by artisans’ work of over months.
Plants grown blessed with gifts from the land have the healing and energizing power inside. It makes sense that the incense with the natural power has been continued from the ancient to the present. It would be nice to add a scent to life as season changes.＜取材協力＞
Address: Nishi Honganjimae, Horikawa Dori, Kakyo-ku, Kyoto City
http://www.kungyokudo.co.jp Writer: Yoko Sugiura
Photographer: Mitsuyuki Nakajima, Yoko Sugiura