The origins and development of Incense in Japan
In the year 538 c.e. Buddhism was first introduced into Japan. Along with it across the ocean came statues of Buddhas, ancient Sutras, as well as incense. From that moment on, incense has been an inseparable part of Japanese history. Incense holds an invaluable role in Buddhist ceremonies and rites as well as in those of the Shinto shrines. Purifying the surroundings, it is reputed to be a method of bringing forth the Buddhist Alamkaraka (Realm of Adornment). It's use spread throughout the country for its purifying as well as medicinal properties.
During the Asuka, Nara, and Heian eras of Japan, the frequency of foreign exchange missions traveling between T'ang China and Japan became increasingly frequent. Bringing with them Buddhism, Medicine, Art, and of course, Incense. Among the most prominent of them was the Chinese Buddhist Master Ganjin who established Toshodai-ji Temple in Nara during the year 759.
From more than one thousand years ago to our own modern era, incense has developed a deeply profound link bound closely to our everyday life. This is readily visible in the great popularity it held in ancient Chang-an (China), where the secular uses of incense came into great favor with the royal class. The mixing of various ingredients together and then kneading them together with plum meat or honey came to be widely used in rooms, placed in the sleeves of a garment, and even used to imbue clothes with. The development of such a love for incense in Japan is vividly detailed in the Tale of Genji, in which you can catch a glimpse of the stylish aristocracy of the Heian era working so diligently to mix their very own original aromas.
From these simple beginnings it underwent a transformation into a mutual competition between each other's mixtures, referred to as "Takimono-awase" (Fragrance Mixing). Before long, it developed into the burning of natural raw incense ingredients, which was called "Ko-awase" (Incense Mixing). These elegant games later became the source of the Kodo ceremony (Way of Incense).
During the Feudal period (Sengoku jidai, 1490 - 1573) of Japan there arose a necessity for a simple as well as practical form of incense. Chinese of the Ming Dynasty transmitted the techniques of creating incense sticks. It was simple form of powdered incense rolled into a stick that was easy to carry and more affordable for the common people. This was the epoch of incense popularity. It flourished in acceptance with all classes, rich and poor. In the center of this limelight, was the city of Sakai. This popularity was mainly due to establishment of Sakai as a major port for foreign trade from China, Spain, and Portugal.
Baieido dates back to the Muromachi period (1338-1573) in Japanese history. During this period, the founder of Baieido, Kakuuemon Yamatoya, became a wholesaler of medicinal herbs in Sakai city. Sakai was a well-known trading port in ancient Japan in which incense trading was in high demand. In 1657, the founder named himself "Jinkoya Sakubei" and specialized in selling incense ingredients and incense sticks. "Jinkoya" (Aloes wood trader) was a name peculiar to Sakai, only medicinal wholesalers who specialized in incense were authorized to use this name.
The creation of Incense is an extraordinarily delicate process. In the time-honored traditions of Jinkoya Sakubei, Baieido has dedicated itself to making incense for over 300 years. The method and recipes have been handed down from generation to generation in an unbroken secret oral tradition.
We at Baieido continue to protect the secret formulas of our ancestral forefather Jinkoya Sakube. It is the ardent desire of Baieido to provide the true sacred aromas of only the purest high quality incense to our customers through the methods treasured since our establishment in the year 1657.
Copyright 2000-2007 Kyozaburo Nakata