Kodo Incense Appreciation Session with a Master Practitioner
Alongside the more well-known arts of tea ceremony and flower arrangement, incense appreciation, or kodo, is one of Japan’s most storied traditional art forms. At Jikido Ichifune, guests have the rare opportunity to experience an incense ceremony led by the head of the Kodo-Mishina-Ooe School, one of Japan’s oldest schools. Descended from Japan’s imperial family, Ryushi Mishina travels from his home in northern Japan to Kyoto, the ancient capital, especially for this experience.
・An intimate kodo incense appreciation session, led by the master of one of Japan’s oldest schools
・Set at Zikido Ichifune, a private dining venue at Kyoto’s Kosei-in Temple
・Private viewing of Kosei-in’s famous gardens
Min 2 person(s)
Please note that a minimum charge of ¥92,000 will apply for bookings with less than 2 persons.
A Garden Full of Fragrance
Kosei-in Garden lies by the source of the Takase River, near the Kyoto Imperial Palace. It was built as part of a residence by samurai Ijuin Kanetsune in the nineteenth century, and became a temple of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism in the 1950s.
After the Meiji Restoration abolished the samurai class in the late nineteenth century, Kanetsune became an active businessman, and was involved in the construction of the modern Imperial Palace alongside many other famous buildings. In particular, he oversaw the design of Kosei-in’s garden, which demonstrates a remarkable flow between the buildings of the residence and the water of the Takase River.
The long granite bridge that spans the pond is notable for its intricate carvings and harmony with the water’s surface. The garden as a whole has been designated a Place of Scenic Beauty by Kyoto City. While the garden is usually closed to the public, this experience includes a private tour of the grounds before the main kodo session.
After viewing the garden, guests proceed to Zikido Ichifune, a private venue with a counter looking out onto the garden. Large windows and liberal use of natural materials help both interior and exterior blend in with the surroundings. The paintings on the walls are the work of internationally acclaimed artist Kohei Nawa.
This kodo experience is offered exclusively to Wabunka guests, and is led by Ryushi Mishina, the head of the Kodo-Mishina-Ooe School. Kodo-Mishina-Ooe School is descended from the Oie School, one of the two major schools of incense appreciation, and the oldest in Japan. Strongly associated with Japan’s aristocracy, it was founded 600 years ago by Oie Ryuoho, who was also highly skilled in poetry, tea ceremony, and flower arrangement.
A core aspect of kodo is that ‘the gods play with us.’ A purification bell is rung to open the ceremony and call the gods to attention. Since all are equal before deities, surnames are temporarily forgotten and seating is determined by drawing lots, rather than by seniority. Each card also contains the name of a poet, which is combined with the holder’s own name for the duration of the ceremony.
Aristocratic Appreciation in Everyday Life
Ryushi Mishina traces his family line back to Japan’s twelfth emperor. He joined the Oie School and trained for 25 years under Kinosa Sanyonishi, who had led efforts to revive the school in the postwar era. Mishina rose through the ranks, and now serves as iemoto, or head of the school.
Mishina aims to use kodo as a gateway to better understand Japanese culture, and as a way for us to become more free, elegant, and refined in our own expressions and actions. Through kodo, we can bring such elegance into our everyday life and make every day more beautiful.
This exclusive plan was made possible through Mishina’s desire to open up this storied, and sometimes opaque, cultural practice to visitors and newcomers. As Kyoto is the birthplace of kodo, he insists on holding the experience in the historic capital, and travels from his home in the northern Tohoku region in order to lead it.
Even for experienced practitioners, it is a rare treat to enjoy kodo with the head of Japan’s oldest school. First, he will explain the theme of the day, which follows the 24 traditional seasonal divisions. Each theme (for example, shigure, early winter rain) inspires the host’s choice of decoration, and the waka poem that is read and discussed at the start of the session.
‘Listening’ to Fragrance
Before the main Honkou session, in which participants try to identify a certain fragrance, guests are offered three different types of incense, each linked to the day’s theme. In Japanese, appreciating a fragrance in kodo is called ‘listening’, rather than ‘smelling’. As each is passed around, guests are invited to quieten their mind and try to commit the fragrance and its meaning to memory.
When each of the three fragrances have been suitably ‘heard’, the Honkou begins. The host presents a fourth fragrance, and guests attempt to match it to one of the original three. The scent can differ even if the original wood is the same, so correctly matching two can be a challenge for beginners. While ostensibly a competition, the purpose of this section is to enjoy the depth and complexity of the fragrance and try to consider each element in isolation, while discussing it with the other participants.
From Scent to Poetry
The three fragrances aren’t simply presented as smells — each is associated with a word, and after the Honkou, participants usually compete to write a waka poem using the word linked to their favorite fragrance. In this experience, instead of composing a waka poem, guests will guess the corresponding fragrance of each associated word. Finally, guests are invited to give their verdict, and the winner (who has guessed correctly) is awarded the koki, the recorded minutes of the session.
When the session is over, guests can relax and unwind with freshly-brewed matcha tea and seasonal confectionery. The tea is sourced from Yamamoto Jinjiro, centuries-old tea shop in Uji, near Kyoto. The tea is grown using the honzu method, which has endured for about 400 years and requires each leaf to be picked by hand. Honzu tea is characterised by its strong flavour and lack of bitterness.
Participants can enjoy the afterglow of the session over tea as they share their impressions of the fragrances and each other’s poems. Guests are also welcome to return to the garden for another stroll.
The natural fragrances of the garden may become more apparent after one has honed their sense of smell. It is one example of the way in which Ryushi Mishina hopes to use kodo to make everyday life more enjoyable. Through such careful concentration on one sense, the flow of time can be interrupted, then perhaps restarted with greater intentionality than before.
Zikido Ichifune/ Kodo-Mishina-Ooe School
Zikido Ichifune/ Kodo-Mishina-Ooe School
Located in the grounds of Kosei-in Garden, this unique dining and entertainment venue is open to the public for the first time. Created using natural materials and refined traditional techniques, it overlooks the famous work of landscape gardener Ijuin Kanetsune.
In 2000, Ryushi Mishina founded the Ooe School, originally descended from the Oie School, with the aim of reviving its traditional practices. Ooe School and Oie School are one of Japan’s oldest kodo schools, and are strongly associated with Japan’s ancient aristocracy.
Ryushi Mishina, iemoto (head) of the Kodo-Mishina-Ooe School, has over four decades of experience in fragrance appreciation, and studied in the Oie school for 25 years. He is committed to the modern appreciation of kodo and its continued use as a way of understanding traditional and continuing Japanese culture.
The experience was great. Very unique and interesting. Provided us with a glimpse into a special Japanese cultural tradition.
S.G. United States
538-1 Ichinofunairicho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto
Meeting place may be slightly different from the location of the venue. For the exact meeting point, please check email from Wabunka.