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Japanese art of incense to be demonstrated at Japan House spring event

Incense utensils
Click photo to enlarge
Photo courtesy of Nippon Kodo Inc., Tokyo
Tools used for "listening to the koh" are called Koh-dogu.


Melissa Mitchell, Arts Editor

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — A demonstration of Kodo, the traditional Japanese art of incense, will be among the highlights at the annual spring open house at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Japan House on April 12.

The educational and cultural facility, at 2000 S. Lincoln Ave., Urbana, will welcome visitors from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Affiliated with the U. of I.’s College of Fine and Applied Arts, Japan House this year is celebrating its 10th anniversary at its current location.

Koh master
Click photo to enlarge
Photo courtesy of Nippon Kodo Inc., Tokyo

A Koh master.

The Kodo demonstrations, presented by Gyosetsu Maruyama and Nobue Irako, representatives of Nippon Kodo Inc., Tokyo, will take place at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

“Breathing in and appreciating the different varieties of incense is called “listening to the Koh,” said Japan House director Kimiko Gunji, who explained that the Koh represents the realm of spiritual pleasure. Not as well known to Western audiences as some other Japanese arts forms, the Kodo tradition – which can be practiced individually or in groups – dates back to the 15th century. Several Kodo schools have since evolved, and the art and culture of incense continues in practice today.

Other activities planned during the open house include tours of Japan House’s gardens led by James Bier, garden designer and builder, at 1 and 3 p.m.

Throughout the day, members of the Urbana-Champaign Association of Chado Urasenke Tankokai will present tea ceremonies. Examples of ikebana – or floral arranging – by students in a U. of I. art and design class, also will be on display.

More information about the open house, and other upcoming Japan House events is available on the Web at, or by calling 244-9934.