“Scent of an era” produced by Kungyokudo

I was very moved by the scent when I bought this air freshener “794 Heian era” produced by “Kungyokudo”. I found out that they also produced scented candles based on the same concept.

Air Freshener from "Scent of an era" series
Air Freshener from “Scent of an era” series

I had very interested in these products made with modern scents instead of traditional Japanese scents. Mainly about the scented candles, I’ve tried to interview with the brand manager of “Kungyokudo”, a long –established fragrant company in Kyoto.  

The concept of scent based on tradition and product planning

■The birth of new concept
What kind of thing was it that made you started product development with the concept,”Scent of an era” ? And would you please tell me about its background?

―Our main channel for sales had been common households have family Buddhist alters* from our starting of business. But households without the altars had increased year by year. And so many people have no experience of lighting fire to incense. Even though under such this circumstance, we hoped to keep creating for 100 years after. From 2014 we started re-branding to broaden a market and to get our name “Kungyokudo” known to common households in preparation for the 2016 debut.

family Buddhist alters* :When praying for our ancestors, we Japanese had served incenses for them for long times.

Without adhering to incense, we decided to develop the products integrated into modern everyday life and symbolize the future of “Kungyokudo”. We decided to create the concept of scent unique to us, “Kungyokudo” inherits tradition. Candle came up to our minds with the concept ”Scent of an era”, which expresses transience of the eras in Kyoto. We named each candle after historic and memorable year of each era as below.

794 Heian era
1482 Muromachi era
1594 Aduchi Momoyama era
1716 Edo era
2016 The Modern era / Debut year of Kungyokudo

For details please see
【5 candles from “Scent of an era” series produced by Kungyokudo】
※794, 1482, 1594 developed into air fresheners
Overseas (outside of Japan) shipping service is stopped as of September 14, 2020.

Each candle expresses Scent of an era, coming up to the modern era scent gradually transits to more fresher and lighter from sweet scent, to western from oriental, Japanese scent. ―

5 candles from "Scent of an era" series
5 candles “Scent of an era” series

■Reason of using modern scents
For example, “794” includes 2 essential oils, Lemon and Geranium. Why do you use such these scents recently popular among Japanese as perfume or aromatherapy instead of traditional scents inherited from ancient times (cinnamon, clove, and sandalwood etc.) to express “Scent of an era”?

―Because we decided to develop the products integrated into modern everyday life as I said above. And as the total fragrant brand, we hope to offer new Fragrant style based on blending techniques of natural aromatics cultivated over the years. ―

■The person who blended scents for the series
Who did select and blend scents for this series “Scent of an era”?

―I myself did it as the brand manager of “Kungyokudo”. ―

■Mizuno Manabu** designed the colors of the products
Pastel colors designed for each Scent of an era are so beautiful, too. Who did select or design the colors of the products?

―Manabu Mizuno, creative director of Good Design Company, whom we asked to design for packages of the products. ―

Manabu Mizuno** : creator of Kumamon, a mascot designed for the Kumamoto Prefecture in Japan.

About 3 air fresheners of the “Scent of an era” series
■The extract of persimmon tannin (air fresheners)
You developed “Scent of an era” to 3 air fresheners (794, 1482, 1594) from 5 scented candles. You used extract of persimmon tannin for them. And recently we have found out the extract among any other air fresheners.

Had the extract been popular and used for air fresher since Aduchi Momoyama era when your company started business?

―I don’t know in details. But people had been using it for primer for lacquer and dyeing since Heian era. Because the extract worked well as protection from insects, deodorization and waterproof, I think. ―

3 Air Fresheners from "Scent of an era" series
3 Air Fresheners “Scent of an era” series

■The gel reminisce of the transience (air fresheners)
As time passes, gel inside of the glass reduces. I feel the transience of time at the sight of the aspect.

―Yes. We hope you enjoy the scenery of the transience inside of the glass. ―

After 1.5~2 months

■The most important thing when creating modern products
When owners inherit their tradition try to create new products accordance with modern people, they tend to loose the sight of values or concepts as long-established brands.
What was the difficulty in regarding this point? Or what was the most conscious of ?

―We kept focusing on Kungyokudo’s identity when we started development of products with this point. And we always do so, when we create the products integrated into modern everyday life. For your reference, when we resumed creating hand cream and soap as cosmetics, sold to another company before, we reconsidered about our identity and what kinds of scents express it. Then we created the concept of “scents of four seasons” selectable accordance with customers’ feelings. So we combined extracts of foods seasonally grown in Kyoto by our original method and ingredients of scents as Kampo (Chinese medicine). ―

Kungyokudo, the oldest incense supplier in Japan

Ouno Kungyokudo Co, Ltd. was established in 1594 (Bunroku / Aduchi Momoyama era) in front of Nishi Honganji in Kyoto. We started our business as the apothecary*** served the temple. We have been creating fragrant products for ceremonies and everyday life. Keeping the tradition as a long-established fragrant company in Kyoto, we offered new Fragrant style based on blending techniques of natural aromatics cultivated over the years. And we’ll to do the same for modern everyday life.

apothecary***: They sold and treated with ingredients of scents and Kampo(Chinese medicine) in ancient times in Japan. They sometime produced scents and herbal medicines from the same ingredients.

■History of Kungyokudo
Our history is according to Honganji. Our families were bladesmen served Honganji in Osaka, before the temple separated into West and East. On the way to Saginomori in Wakayama, our ancestors accompanied with them carrying the principal image on their backs throughout fields due to religious difficulties by Enryakuji.

The name of “Ouno” were given to our families after that. Since then, Honganji came back to the current place of Nishi Honganji donated by Hideyoshi Toyotomi. 3 years later, Kungyokudo also came back to the place in front of Honganji.