Incense burning on a pack of sticks on a red background.
Photo: Andrew Zuckerman

The Best Japanese Incense Sticks Around

By Aileen Kwun
February 1, 2020
1 minute read

The earliest recorded uses of incense in Japan date back to 595 A.D., around the same time Buddhism arrived to the country, when a piece of fragrant driftwood landed upon the shores of Awaji Island. To the delight of locals, it smelled wonderful when burned. One of the country’s oldest purveyors of quality scents, the Kyoto-based company Shoyeido has been making traditional Japanese stick incense since 1705—though you wouldn’t be able to tell from the impeccable packaging. We’re particularly fans of the multi-colored Horin assortment packs that are nearly as compact as a matchbox, and as visually pleasing as a fresh set of pastels. It’s the small details that make it a treat for the eyes as well as the nose, and contribute to what the Japanese call mon-koh, a multisensory and ceremonial appreciation that translates to “listening to incense.”