By  on April 6, 2010

PARIS — Flavors and fragrances supplier Takasago International invited Souhitsu Issiken Hachiya, master of The Shino Incense School of Kyoto, here to discuss the history of Kodo, the Japanese incense ceremony. He also demonstrated an incense game.

Hachiya, whose father is the grandmaster of Shino Incense School, comes from the 500-year-old Souyu dynasty and is the 21st generation of the family’s sons connected to the school.

Kodo is an elegant tradition involving classical literary references and calligraphy, among other arts. It takes decades to learn, immense concentration and involves “hearing” incense. All five senses are needed to appreciate incense, added Hachiya.

For the game, Hachiya introduced attending journalists to four different incenses that they were meant to memorize. A protocol was followed in passing around the incenses, including cupping the incense-holders in a particular way, inhaling each incense exactly three times and exhaling while turning one’s head to the left.

Hachiya then scrambled the order of the incenses to be passed around without identifying which was which. The idea was to name them in correct order. (Each person wrote guesses inside meticulously folded papers.) However, in the end, no one got everything right — or even close — giving credence to the fact that Kodo takes vast practice and discipline.

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