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What is Kodo? Part 1

What is Kodo?

Kodo (koh do) is in practice a number of things; a social gathering, a game, a sharpening of the senses, theatre, art, mindfulness practice, and a celebration of, and inquiry into, one of the world's most treasured aromatics; agarwood (aloeswood).

Kodo is a Japanese incense ceremony created around the 14th or 15th Century C.E. It was greatly influenced by the tea ceremony and incense making contests of the time. In fact, one of the first games of Kodo was called "the game of ten" and is nearly identical to the tea ceremony of the same name.

Kodo is translated into English as "the way of incense" or "incense appreciation." Ko means incense and do means "the way of" or "appreciation of." It is also written as koh doh, koh dou or koh do.

In Japan, they have created hundreds of different games which can be played during a Kodo ceremony. These games are called Kumiko and are often based on seasonal themes, poetry, and travel.

Typically the ceremony takes place in a room where six to fifteen people may gather comfortably, sitting in a sort of square, with the teishu (talker), scorekeeper, and komoto (incense presenter) at the front. Each participant has a score sheet to record his or her impressions or observations of the woods to come.

The komoto prepares a cup of rice ash in which is buried a piece of hot bamboo charcoal. A small mica plate is placed over the ash covered charcoal and a tiny piece of aromatic wood is laid on the mica. The wood's fragrance is released without combustion; that is, Kodo is a smokeless manner of heating incense to release its purest aroma.

When the cup is properly prepared the komoto enjoys a couple of inhalations of the heated aromatic wood and passes it to the left with a bow. Any honored guest sits to the left of the komoto and is the first recipient of the Kodo cup. The cup makes its way around the room, each person enjoying the wood's aroma and noting any distinctive characteristics on their score sheets. Thus the cup comes back to the komoto, who has prepared a second cup and wood for comparison.

Scoring sheets record each person's identification of the woods and the results can be interpreted in a story of travel, reading of poetry, or any number of ways. The number of cups/woods sampled depends on the particular kumiko game being played.

What is Kodo? (Page 2)