ASTIER DE VILLATTE / Awaji, Incense Island

Text: Sarah / Biutiful Creative Studio - Photos / Video: NORTH SEA AIR 

You may have already wondered where the incense comes from, how is it made, by what magic can a sublime smell emanate from a small burnt stick?

The Parisian house Astier de Villatte, maker of artisanal ceramics, and the creative agency NØRTH SEA AIR, are set off to discover Awaji. Awaji is a Japanese island that offers everything one could dream of: hot springs, grandiose landscapes, temples and shrines, white sand beaches, culinary delights, etc. But here, we are going to talk about its incense, which is made according to the traditions and ancestral techniques of this island nicknamed "the island of incense". Because in addition to making the most chic ceramics in Paris, Astier de Villatte makes the best incense in the world, which originates on the island of Awaji.

The legend of Awaji

A legend, which dates back to more than XNUMX years ago, says that fishermen on the island found and then burned a wooden branch washed up off Osaka Bay. From this branch emanated a magnificent smell, so pleasant that the fishermen offered it to the imperial house. This wood is none other than Jinkoh wood, which has become a staple in the creation of traditional Japanese incense. From then on, the fate of Awaji was traced, the island was entirely dedicated to the manufacture of incense. 

The "wood of Jinkoh", "wood of Agar" or even "wood of Oud"

This wood is called in different ways according to cultures and countries, in Japan, it is the wood of Jinkoh, the "drowned perfume". This wood comes from Aquilaria, a tree known for millennia for its black, resinous wood, with medicinal and of course fragrant properties. It is the part richest in sap, the reaction of the tree to an injury or a parasite, which is used in the manufacture of incense. 


It was in 1850 that the manufacture of incense developed on the island and its reputation spread throughout Japan. Its climate makes it a suitable place, its strong westerly wind called Nishi-kare is ideal for drying incense. It is according to a tradition of more than a thousand years which is transmitted from father to son, that incense is made in an artisanal way, by the Koh-shis, "masters of aromas".

They alone perfectly master the four stages of production: the dosage of exclusively natural materials (precious woods, herbs and plants, vegetable resins, perfume) which, when mixed with water, form a paste worked with millstones. Then comes the step of cutting this rolled dough into long and narrow ribbons, finally in the shape of spaghetti. The sticks are then dried in the west wind for three days then assembled into bundles and packaged.

It is difficult to imagine that such know-how is still relevant today and that is what makes this history so rich. A mastery instilled over several generations, people who work with passion, traditional working tools, and so many other things learned by Ivan Pericoli and Benoît Astier de Villatte, the founders of the Astier de Villatte house, who lent themselves to the game of manufacturing on the island of incense.

We now realize the great and beautiful story behind the little stick of incense that we love to burn, when we think about it, after a long day, in the hope of calming down and traveling for a moment through His smell… 

Discover the beautiful images shot on video by NORTH SEA AIR during Astier de Villatte's trip to Awaji Island.

ASTIER by VILLATTE | Awaji, Frankincense Island from NORTH SEA AIR on Vimeo.


And find all of our incenses and censers Astier de Villatte.