Footnotes for In Ghostly Japan

By David Oller

1. Wafers, etc. probably refers to the kneaded incense Neriko. For more on the subject of Neriko, see article on Soradaki

2. It is believed, the famous piece of aloeswood called Ranjatai was presented by Komyo Emperor for Todaiji Temple in Nara, Japan, in the year 756(1244 years ago). Ranjatai was kept in the Shosoin warehouse of Todaiji Temple. Today, Ranjatai belongs to the Royal family of Japan. Every autumn, many treasures of Shosoin are exhibited in National Museum in Nara, titled  Shosoin Ten (Exhibition). Ranjatai can be seen there every 10 or 15 years. Because there are many treasures in Shosoin, every year, they change the object of exhibition. The last exhibition of Ranjatai was four years ago, it may be ten years before we see Ranjatai again. Ranjatai has been now been identified as coming from Laos or Vietnam of Indochina by Japan's leading expert on Aloeswood, Dr. Yoneda from Osaka University.

3. Ashikaga Yoshimasa (1443-1490) collection refers to samples of Aloes wood. The classifications are shown below. See Ashikaga Yoshimasa for more information on this Shogun.

4. Annam, historic region (c.58,000 sq mi/150,200 sq km) and former state, in central Vietnam, SE Asia. The capital was Hue. The region extended nearly 800 mi (1,290 km) along the South China Sea between Tonkin on the north and Cochin China on the south.

5. dZuko probably either refers to a dry incense powder called Zuko today which is rubbed on the hands or body for religious ceremonies. It is likely this evolved from the Chinese and Indian "Incense Waters" (see Bedini - Trail of Time - pg. 26) Incense waters were herbs and powders mixed with water for cleaning and cooling the body. Sandalwood paste and Vetiver paste still used in parts of India today are examples.

6. Makko literally translates to Incense Powder, of which there are many forms, includings Zui Kun, (Chipped Incense) Zuko, (Rubbing Incense) Sanko, (Spreading Incense) Shou kou (Burning Incense). There is also Makkos which are used as bases for burning in incense bowls for religious ceremonies similar to using charcoal, where it is used as a burning agent for burning Shou kou. Some of these are: Hinoki, (Japanese Cypress) Shikibi or Shikimi, (Japanese Anise) and Tabu no ki. Today, Tabu no ki is the most popular because it has less aroma and is more available. Hinoki is rare and protected. All of these would be considered Makko.


Baieido Ltd.
Silvio A. Bedini - The Trail of Time, pg. 46-47

7. Sila is one of the Paramitas (perfection's). Sometimes called Precepts, they are interpreted differently by different traditions. One could say "Right Action or Right Activity" Literally it means "Cool & Peaceful" It comprises a set of moral codes like "not killing," "not speaking falsely" etc. It is one of the three principle disciplines of Buddhism: Dhyana (Meditation) Prajna (Transcendental Wisdom) and Sila. the Zen patriarch Hui neng illustrated, these are not indeed separate activity--all are interdependent.

8. This, and several other texts mentioned, I have found difficult to find. I will keep looking and hope to include them in later notations.

9. The Ashikaga Shogunate(1338-1567)

10. "The Tokugawa shogunate was the longest period of uninterrupted peace Japan ever enjoyed. The brilliant and ruthless administration of the Tokugawa military administration combined with the rigid seclusion of the country allowed for the flowering of Japanese culture in an unprecedented way. " (1603-1868) See: Tokugawa Japan

11. Ko-Kwai refers to "The Incense Games." These games are often confused with Ko do (The Incense Ceremony) which came later with the aloes wood classifications promoted by Ashikaga Yoshimasa. Kodo uses aloes wood only, whereas Ko Kwai used Neriko. (See Soradaki article) The beginning of Koh-doh was established when Yoshimasa Ashikaga asked his trusted advisor Sosshin to evaluate and classify all of the incense that they used. Sosshin, with the help of Sanjonishi Sanetaka (a scholar and poet) set up the classifications (Rikkoku) and devised several games and rules for parties to appreciate and "listen" to the incense. Later, incense schools were set up to pass down this art.


Rikoku, or the six kinds of Aloeswoods (lit. six countries):

Kyara, Manaban, Rakoku, Manaka, Sumotara, Sasora


This is the most famous and well known of all Aloeswood some believe to come from either Vietnam or Cambodia. Kyara is a particular odor described as: "A gentle and dignified smell with a touch of bitterness. The fragrance is like an aristocrat in its elegance and gracefulness."


A sharp and pungent smell similar to sandalwood. Its smell is generally bitter, and reminds one of a warrior.


Smells light an enticing, changing like the mood of a woman with bitter feelings. The fragrance is of good quality if it disappears quickly. None of the five qualities are easily detectable**


Mostly sweet. The presence of sticky oil on a mica plate is often present after smoldering Manaban. The smell is coarse and unrefined, just like that of a peasant.


Sour at the beginning and end. Sometimes mistaken for Kyara, but with something distasteful and ill-bred about it, like a peasant disguised as a noble.


Cool and sour. Good-quality sasora is mistaken for kyara, especially at the beginning. It reminds one of a monk. Sometimes very light and disappearing.

**Five associations used to classify aloeswood aromas in ancient Japan.

1. Sweet -- Resembles the smell of honey or sugar

2. Sour -- Resembles the smell of plums or other acidic foods.

3. Hot -- Resembles the smell of peppers on a fire.

4. Salty -- Resemble the smell of ocean water when seaweed is dried on a fire.

5. Bitter -- Resembles the smell of bitter herbal medicine when it is mixed or boiled.