Heritage and the Politics of Culture
Fragrant materials such as agarwood are precious substances as they are widely used in religious ceremonies, medicine, perfume, treatment oil, etc. in many countries. In Japan and China, the use of agarwood has a long history and relevant fragrance cultures have been developed in different forms such as: Japanese kodo (incense ceremony), traditional incense offering in religious practices and recent re-invention of incense appreciation in China. This paper will explain the recent incense activities taken place both in Japan and China from the socio-cultural perspectives, and to investigate the recent Incense café in Japan based on the “leakage” of oral traditions within a Japanese system and how it is associated with relevant agarwood craze in mainland China. It is important and significant to understand various interactions of the incense traditions in these two countries as the transformations became obvious in the last two decades while Japan kodo participated more in international exchange and Chinese outbound tourism ran through a dramatic increase both in terms of the number of tourists and money spent. Therefore, it is timely to discuss why Japanese kodo became more visible instead of remaining at the “closed” system with limited outreach activities and how Chinese incense tradition was re-invented based on large amount of available written documents.