2015 No.16


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Souvenirs of JapanSouvenirs of Japan


Grace Yourself with a Wearable Fragrant Sachet

Photo: Kuribayashi Shigeki   Collaboration: Shoyeido Incense Co.

Colorful silken threads are woven to make a small pouch, which is then filled with scented materials like cloves or sandalwood. This is a Japanese-style sachet, a scent bag called nioi-bukuro, made to be worn nestled against one’s chest or placed in a drawer or a shoebox, where it transfers its fragrance delightfully to clothes and shoes. You can buy one in a souvenir store in many popular tourist destinations, or in an incense shop.

Traditional Japanese culture includes an appreciation of pleasant aromas. In kodo (“the way of fragrance”), aromatic wood is burned following established forms of etiquette, giving practitioners a different appreciation of the world. This aesthetic is sometimes also expressed through waka poetry, with the writer letting inspiration come from the different aromas. The tradition lives on today in the nioi-bukuro pouch—which involves a culture of enjoying the fragrance as representative of the character of the person wearing it. These special sachets go back to around the 8th century, when an incense called ebiko was used to keep insects away from things like clothing and books. During the Edo period (1603-1867), nioi-bukuro were often made in the shape of a kimono sleeve and worn as a fashionable part of a woman’s etiquette.

You might enjoy giving a nioi-bukuro to a person, choosing the scent that best matches the impression you have of them. The little pouches create precious aesthetic moments as you interact with the aroma. You may just discover the unique aesthetic sense of the Japanese who value this form of communication through fragrance.