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The earliest record of the use of incense in Japan can be found in the Nihon Shoki (The Chronicles of Japan), a book that was completed in 720.
It states that a log was washed up on Awajishima Island where it was found by the inhabitants, who initially used it for firewood.
However it produced such a beautiful scent that they made an offering of it to the Imperial Court.
This book was written approximately 1,300 years ago, so there are various theories concerning what happened to the log, but it is thought to be the same one that is preserved in Horyuji Temple to this day.
In the Shoso-In repository of Todaiji Temple, which dates back to the 8th century, there is a log of incense that is 156 cm long and 43 cm wide at its broadest point.
There are notes on this log recording the fact that various famous historical figures, such as Oda Nobunaga(1534-1582) and Ashikaga Yoshimasa (1435-1490) removed samples from the spot indicated for their personaluse.
The Japanese think of incense as being something holy.
The smoke that rises from it is considered an offering to the gods, and it also has the power to purify the chi in the atmosphere.
Today, it is generally used to help people relax, but once you know its background, it will have a different effect.