As its formalities came to be developed and shaped, Koh-Do started to be acknowledged as one of the "geido", refined arts that are supposed to be performed following certain rules and manners. In this respect, Japanese incense or koh is somewhat different from perfume in western countries. There, people expect nothing more than fragrance from perfume, but this is not the case with koh. No longer an innocent pastime, Koh-Do prevailed beyond the samurai and court class. As intellectual people such as writers, artists, affluent merchants and landowners started to adopt its formalities, incense exerted a great influence on calligraphy, literature and tea ceremony, occupying a precious position as an intangible and spiritual asset of the time.
Later, Koh-Do branched off into several schools, of which two leading schools survived: the Oie-ryu School and the Shino-ryu School. The former, established by Sanetaka Sanjonishi, shaped the manners and methods of Koh-Do performance, putting more emphasis on literal aspects of incense. Shino-ryu, the latter, is more systematically organized, putting considerable emphasis on manners and formality. Oie-ryu perpetuates incense as a form of game-playing passed down from court nobles in the Heian period. Shino-ryu, on the other hand, spread through the samurai and affluent merchant classes.
Having survived the long passage of time, these two now exist as the leading schools of Koh-Do today.
The system of classifying kohboku, which constitutes the basics of appreciating incense, is called Rikkoku-Gomi. This refers to the six ancient East Asian countries where kohboku woods originate, and the five elements used to describe their flavors. The names of countries (Kyara, Rakoku, Manaka, Manaban, Sumotara, Sasora) all represent a qualitative classification of kohboku wood, and five terms (hot, sweet, sour, bitter, salty) are used to describe the different essences.
A piece of kohboku wood can generate more than one fragrance when burned. Kohboku pieces often have a mixture of multiple fragrances, generating an indescribable blend, depending on the proportion and strength of each essence contained in a piece of wood.
Koh-do or the incense ceremony, Sa-do or the tea ceremony, Ka-do or flower arrangement... Why do Japanese people tend to dedicate themselves to such classical Japanese arts?
In a quiet room, a participant sniffs fragrances following certain rules of etiquette.
This is a chance to leave the bustle of everyday life behind, quieten the mind and practice introspection.
Improving the art is the same as improving the mentality.
Hosho = A sheet on which all answers of the participants are placed.
Incense burners of A, B and C are passed around with the names of fragrant wood chips within them made known to the participants. Have the participants memorize the characteristic of each fragrance.
Then one fragrant wood chip is chosen from among the three fragrant wood chips and the incense burner with the chosen chip inside is passed around with its name hidden. Now guess what fragrance it is ?
A, B or C.