Exquisite Leaf-Shaped Incense, Made from Japanese Washi Paper
The Nihon Shoki, one of the oldest written records of Japanese history, traces the origins of incense in the nation to a single log of agarwood that washed onto the rocky coast of Awaji, an island southwest of Osaka, during the sixth century. The region became the epicenter of the aromatic substance’s artisanal production, and today manufactures around 70 percent of the country’s incense, primarily in the form of small, fragrant wood pieces that mimic that storied slice of timber, and sticks or cones, formed out of incense paste. In 2019, the fragrance masters at Kunjudo, a 128-year-old incense-maker based on the island, introduced another form of the sweet-smelling matter via Ha Ko, a brand that offers delicate, leaf-shaped incense made from Japanese washi paper.
Taking its name from the Japanese words for leaf (葉) and incense (香), Ha Ko’s collection features eight scents—each embodied in realistic leaf shapes, complete with veins and stems—including mellow sandalwood, smoky cinnamon, fresh citrus, and green grass, which evokes the mossy grounds of a forest temple. To use, place a leaf on a non-flammable plate, then light and extinguish the flame. (For those who can’t bear to burn the perfumed paper, it functions as potpourri for up to three months.) It will smolder for approximately seven minutes, while simultaneously cleansing and deodorizing its immediate surroundings. Consider carrying out the act as a ritual for creating a moment of pause: There’s tranquility to be found while experiencing each leaf’s slow burn, as breathing in its aroma can facilitate both a tradition-inspired time out and an olfactory-induced calm.