Obon and incense in Japan

Now that August has arrived, many Japanese people are checking their incense stocks to make sure they are prepared for Obon. A Japanese Buddhist custom, 盆 Bon (or お盆 Obon) takes place for three days in the middle of August, at which time ancestors' spirits are believed to visit household altars. Many Japanese people return to their family homes to visit and clean their ancestors' graves and burn incense sticks.

Although Obon is the most important time devoted to honoring ancestors, Japanese people burn votive incense sticks at household altars and ancestral graves throughout the year.

While they come in different colors and fragrances, until now, the only shape of incense designed to honor the spirit of one's deceased loved ones has been the straight stick shape. But now, candle and incense manufacturer Kameyama Corporation has released the world's first incense in the shape of a human outline.

Incense of Memories

A new concept in votive incense, あの日のおもかげ線香 (ano hi no omokage senkō | Incense of Memories) comes in four different shapes designed to evoke happy memories of loved ones' favorite hobbies or activities such as hiking, surfing, playing golf and reading books.

Incense sticks are usually burned in a special ash-filled incense pot at the household altar. However, due to their unconventional shape, Incense of Memeories is more suited to burning somewhere else in the home, not necessarily inside the altar. For example, as suggested in the image below, it can be placed on a table or cabinet surface, along with a photo frame of the deceased.

One of the advantages of this product is that it has universal appeal even if you don't participate in Obon and regardless of the religious beliefs you may or may not espouse. It doesn't need to be used to honor the spirit of an ancestor. For example, if you enjoy surfing, hiking, golfing or reading books, or have family or friends who do, it's a great idea for your own home or as a gift for a family member of a friend.

Five years ago, Kameyama Corporation began their project to realize the world's first incense shaped like a human outline. There were various challenges such as regulating the amount of smoke and the time it takes to burn the incense but they finally succeeded in creating a product that met their standards of quality.

Now that their production and supply system is in place, approximately 800 pieces (200 pieces of each of the four types) will be available on Kameyama's official e-commerce site and for sale at Buddhist altar speicality stores nationwide.

Each package costs 2,750 JPY (incl. tax) and contains five sticks. You can purchase them online (while supplies last) at their official e-commerce site here.

Please note that you may need to use a forwarding service such as Buyee or White Rabbit Express if you'd like to have your purchases shipped outside of Japan.

By - grape Japan editorial staff.