Oie-ryu Kodo, Sanjonishi Gyosui Enjoying the aroma

Oie-ryu Kodo, Sanjonishi Gyosui
Enjoying the aroma

Kodo is to enjoy the aroma

In the art of ”kodo” or incense burning, smelling is referred to as “hearing”. You do not sniff. And the word “hear ”conveys the ”enjoyment” that is associated. ”Kodo” dates back to about the year 600, when Emperor Suiko burned incense to enjoy its aroma. The art itself was established during the Muromachi period. Oie-ryu is the oldest school, founded by Sanjonishi Sanetaka. We interviewed the Grand Master of Oie-ryu, Sanjonishi Gyosui.
“Oie-ryu was originally a school for the court nobles. Not that all court nobles practiced Oie-ryu. Samurai were allowed to practice Oie-ryu, and some court nobles practiced other schools as well. The essence of our teachings is to just enjoy fragrance.”

To begin

Sanjonishi burned incense so Nakata appreciate the fragrance. This is referred to as “kanshoko” where you appreciate the opportunity to enjoy the incense. There is also a game called “kumiko” where you guess the scents, similar to what you may do with Japanese ”sake”, ”kikisake”. According to Sanjonishi, there are 1000 variations to this game. The season, and the number and make-up of the attendees determines how the game is played. For beginners, easier games are chosen so everyone can enjoy themselves.
Before kanshoko, Sanjonishi prepared the ashes. The ashes of wisteria and water chestnut are mounded, and he draws lines in it. He told us that there are a variety of patterns that are used. Then, thinly cut pieces of incense were brought in, and the incense is prepared before our eyes.

Start by Relaxing

With our kanshoko experience, we expected the it would start off with the words, “We shall start.” However, Sanjonishi’s first words were “Goanzani…”, a phrase we were not familiar wit. “It means please relax. You’d be tired sitting with your knees folded in the formal style for a long time.” This is another act of consideration so that we can ”enjoy” the experience. All around the room, there were items to enhance the ambience. The ”koro” to place the ashes, the tray to place the incense, ”kakejiku” with calligraphy on the wall, and the flowers. ”Kodo” is meant to enjoy the fragrance, but we saw that there was also joy to be found in observing the ambience and tools that Sanjonishi uses.

You must experience it to appreciate it

The incense Sanjonishi burned was placed before us. He covered it with his left hand, as though to gather the scent. We were able to “hear” 4 different types of scents. Each was distinctly different, and every time a new scnet was introduced, it soothed our nerves. “When I talk about ”kodo” with my friends, everyone says it sounds interesting.“ Nakata said after the experience.
“Yes, it’s difficult to communicte scent via media. You can gather information about it, but then at the end of the day, the question would be, “What does it smell like?” You have to experience it for yourself. Maybe that’s why people are curious,” Sanjonishi said. “I love how “enjoying” is the focal point rather than being told “study this” or “learn this”.” When Nakata commented “Yes, and you’re allowed to sit in a relaxed position!”, Sanjonishi laughed.


Oie-ryu Kodo, Sanjonishi Gyosui
URL http://oieryu-kodo-soke.cocolog-nifty.com/gyosuis_blog/