Kodo (incense smelling ceremony) was born by the spirit of Zen. Therefore, it places a high value on etiquette and culture. The origin of Kodo is enjoying the sent itself. In Kodo, smelling the incense isn’t called “smelling.” Instead, it is called “listening” because it is believed that an aromatic tree is a living entity that has a soul. Thus, it has to be revered and handled carefully. One must appreciate the blessings of nature and the earth and listen to what the tree has to say.

Kodo is said to have originated from a sacred tree with sacred smells that drifted to Awaji island. The culture of Kodo is made its way from ancient India via China to Japan with the introduction of Buddhism. It means that Kodo is related closely to Buddhist rituals, and therefore, involves a deep spiritual world. In the Heian period, people in the aristocracy listened to the smell as a form of entertainment in the court, which was separated from religious rituals.

This is how Kodo reached its completion in the Muromachiperiod as an art of extravagant luxury along with Chado, Kado, and Noh. Ieyasu Tokugawa, a shogun in the Edo period, also loved Kodo, and imported many aromatic trees including aloeswood.

Ko jittoku

It means ten virtues in regard to Kodo. It is about the percept and the utility of Ko which was noted by a poet of Song Dynasty, Ting Jian Huang, A Japanese Zen master, Ikkyu introduced it to Japan.

感格鬼神 is “to make one’s senses as sharp as those of an ogre or deity”.

清淨心身 is “to make both mind and body purify”.

能除汚穢 is “ to remove impurities”.

能覺睡眠 is “to make alert”.

静中成友 is “to remove a sense of isolation”.

塵裏偸閑 is “to make one’s mind calm even during a busy time”.

多而不厭 means “not to be disturbed even there are too much”.

寡而為足 means “to give off a strong fragrance even in small amounts”.

久蔵不朽 means “to prevent decay even if it is stored for a long time”.

常用無障 means “not to be harmed even by habitual use”.