In April 595, a piece of driftwood washed up on the shore of Awaji Island. It is mentioned in the Nihon-Shoki (Japan’s oldest chronicle) as the first fragrant wood to be brought to Japan. Even now, that piece of fragrant wood is enshrined in Kareki-Jinja Shrine as a sacred object, and it marked the beginning of the deep relationship between Awaji Island and incense that continues to this day. These historical facts tell us that the island has been on a long and fragrant journey with a cultural background that has placed a unique value on aroma.
The story goes back to 1850 when incense making got substantially underway in Awaji Island. Blessed with good natural harbors, the Island was bustling with shipping agents. However, during winter, the ports were closed and many of the residents suffered from poverty. Under these conditions, incense making was introduced to cope with the slack winter season. It turned out that the strong seasonal wind from the sea was ideal for the drying process, which was essential in incense production. In the early days, the industry was supported by many women who carried out the work at home.
Now, incense production has developed into Awaji Island’s local industry. It is a major producer of incense sticks, having developed its own unique techniques, passing them down from generation to generation. If you walk around the town, you will detect wafts of incense that seem to come from nowhere in particular. This is something we’ve inherited with pride from our ancestors, who told us that the incense industry developed thanks to the island’s unique climate.
We sometimes compete, and at other times, we work together, studying and researching to improve, and this has kept reviving the industry. Consequently, one out of four locals is engaged in some part of the incense making process. Our small-scale manufacturing has grown in our small locality and has drawn attention since its humble beginnings for its ethical practices, and it is well known as the leading center of incense culture.
From Awaji Island, we now offer not only conventional incense sticks for Buddhist rituals but also new ones for other purposes, such as your signature home fragrance. Aside from making our own original products, we also collaborate with big-name brands, both domestically and overseas, and disseminate the timeless attraction of incense. We keep innovating and developing; that’s how the incense industry in Awaji Island has remained and thrived. Our endeavor will be carried further through the name of Awaji Encens.