Friday, August 15, 2008

Settled and Smelly

Well, our contractual issues are settled, for the time being, anyway. Our contract here as been extended to December 31, 2008. We've decided to stay at least that long. It's quite possible the contract may be extended further. In that case, we will also extend.

It's been raining for a week straight again and it's been hot and muggy. Everything has begun to smell musty. I can understand how Kodo (Art of Incense) evolved here, now. I just used up the last of some amazing (and expensive) incense we purchased in Osaka. With the heavy, humid air the fragance stays around but not overwhelmingly so and the house smells good in a subtle way (not like GLADE or PINE SOL arrggggh). Of course, Kodo is highly ritualized and I certainly don't practice it properly, with the stand and charcoal, whatnot, et cetera, but do try to put some thought into the fragrance I pick and even the incense holder. Kodo Light for Gaijin, I guess.

I use different incense at different times of the day or even of the year and in different parts of the house. Right now, I am using a very sensual-smelling incense in the bedroom (bow-chicka-bow-bow) with notes of fennel and olibanum, (better known as frankincense) among other things. It has a deep, chocolatey sort of smell and is incredible, lush with out being heavy and interesting without being overly complicated. It's smooth and deep and I can sometimes pick up similar notes in the port wine I occasionally drink.

Ideally for the bedroom I prefer something with notes of lavender, because the scent of lavender is soporific, but that's cancelled out by the fact that lavender seems to trigger an allergy response in the spouse, causing him to snore and cancel out any of the sleep-assisting benefits I get from the lavender.

While lavender is relaxing, citrusy notes are invigorating, I had incense with lime and pepper notes and I liked using it in the mornings on the weekend, when I would be working in the home office - updating blogs, uploading to flickr, making care packages to send. I need to order some more of that.

I use aloeswood downstairs in the living room quite often. One of my favorite scents is no longer made - it contained notes of blackberry and wasabi. That was good for the living room, too.

I rarely use any incense in the tatami room, as I like the smell of the reed mats on their own. I will occasionally use a bit of sandalwood to freshen the room - in the rainy season, sometimes the mats will start to smell a little sour.

While my asian friends complain if I use sandalwood (they say it smells like a temple and usually a buddhist one at that and buddhist rites are associated with funerals here), I use sandalwood a lot as it is calming and there are claims it is antiseptic, as well. I learned the hard way not to use cheap-ass sandalwood either. You can smell the difference!

One more unusual way I've used sandalwood incense is to "smoke" my Kendo armor before testing. On the advice of a hippy-dippy aquaintance, I figured I'd give my armor a good smoking not only to get the smell out but to also "purify" it before I tested for my blackbelt. Usually you can't beat kendo gear for sheer, powerful stank (with the possible exception of ice hockey gear), no matter how carefully you keep it. To my suprise, the sandalwood smoke did help both with the smell and my nerves.

Much later, I found out that samurai often used to do the same thing, so that if they were to die on the battlefield, they would smell good. I think the ritual aspect of the incense helped me more than anything, combined with the fact that I had to prep the armor prior to smoking it, so I knew my armor looked good and was in top condition prior to the test. That and the nice scent of the sandalwood calmed me a lot.

I burned some the other day called "Hane" - the stick itself was sort of a powder grey color and one of the notes I detected reminded of how down comforters smell. "Hane" is the word for "feather". =) it wasn't quite right for summer...but it will be perfect for late-fall-going-into-winter.

I have a couple of really pretty incense burners, purchased throughout Japan. The fanciest one I have was a gift from my Kimono Sensei, and is gold plated. I have one that looks like an eggplant and a handmade glass one that looks like a piece of candy.

I also lost one of the points off of my angled bob haircut last summer, trying to peek into one of the burners as I was lighting some incense. NO amount of incense will get rid of the of stench of burnt hair.

1 comment: said...

I'm really fascinated by your descriptions of the incense you've been using. Do you happen to know who makes them? I've been looking for a particular scent I used to get when I lived in Kyoto. I'm not even sure of the notes it contained, but if I smelled it again it would totally bring me back in time. I just ordered a bunch of samples from Shoyeido, so hopefully I'll find what I'm looking for. :-)