Incense has been an important element of Japan’s way of life and culture for centuries. Ichimiya-ku in Awaji Island, situated in a fan shaped valley over flat land, produces 70 percent of all incense made in Japan.
The history of Ichimiya ku’s incense industry began in the mid-19th century, a period during which the local people had been making a living as fishermen. Unfortunately, they couldn’t go out to sea during winter because of the strong northwestern wind. As such, the fishermen had been looking to utilize abundant dead branches of trees to create a winter industry. One day, villager Tatsuzo Tanaka happened to come across incense making in Sakai, south of Osaka. He was a visionary who saw the future for his town and brought the incense art form home.
They purchased pine needle resources from the neighboring province (current Tokushima prefecture) and began production. As Awaji provided geographically favorable conditions, including good transportation and a generous climate, the industry soon flourished. And approximately 60% of the current population became engaged in the many aspects of incense making.