A Rendezvous with Incense Ceremony

“Incense was traditionally used as perfume for silk kimono that were almost impossible to wash.”

Our host for the incense ceremony is from the “Samurai lineage” where incense, rather than used for scenting kimonos like for the nobles, was used to scent the samurai headgear, and to get the warrior mentally and emotionally focused for their battles and missions.

After laying out the tools, unpacking the incense from the square wooden box and placing them neatly across the tray, our host proceeded to preparing the incense.

Even the same incense can express itself differently depending on how the practitioner handles it.

Perhaps it’s like with brewing coffee — 10 baristas may use the same tools, same beans, same water for a brew— yet all 10 cups would vary in taste depending on the barista’s experience and intuitive sense.


First up was Agarwood, a scent representative of the samurai lineage. Atop a mound of ashes with burning coal underneath sits the incense and a square of quartz.

Photo © Karen Tsui

We were instructed to hold the pot in the left hand thus, and create a little chimney with the right hand clasped onto the left thumb.

It was also interesting to note that the scent can be “listened to” rather than smelled — which I surmise encourages one to experience the scent via all the senses.
Photo © Karen Tsui

Each guest breathed the scent thrice, and in-between subtly turned their head aside to breathe out, making sure to do so away from the main guest (the first guest of the ceremony).

The Agarwood was my favorite. Sandalwood, representative of the noble lineage, and a modern incense produced as a collaboration with a French perfumery were also served.


To round out our afternoon, beautiful and hand-made wagashi flown in from Hakodate, Hokkaido and yummy matcha from Kyoto served in ceramic pieces from Waka Artisans is hard to beat.

Photos © Cecilia Wu. The gold leaf adds a little extra somethin to the matcha.

In case you’d like to try the wagashi — you’re in luck, coz is available regularly at Shari Shari Kakigori House. Not overly-sweet, it goes well with a hot cuppa fresh-brewed tea. Apparently the shaved-iced dessert house serves the best Japanese shaved-iced desserts in town also!

Shari Shari
14 Haven Street
Causeway Bay
Hong Kong


Photo courtesy of Waka Artisans

Waka Artisans
S303 PMQ
35 Aberdeen Street
Central, Hong Kong


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