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Issue 88 - A perfumed world

Whisky Magazine Issue 88
June 2010

 

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A perfumed world

Dave Broom explores the sensory experience of incense.

We've been told that to reach today's destination that we'll have to take “a tram” from Osaka's Ebisucho station, which surprises us somewhat, none of us having heard of such a mode of transport in the city before.

We emerge from the underground next to a slightly dilapidated train-shed, containing a single carriage covered by paintings of animals. “GIANT PANDA HAPPY TRAIN” runs the legend on the roof.

The Giant Panda Happy Train is empty, save for one elderly gent who looks like he's been riding on it for 100 years. “Can we get to Sakai City on this?” He nods. A clutch of three-yearold boys bounce on board, the driver appears out of nowhere and off we go, everyone grinning like idiots.

The tracks cut through backstreets, almost through gardens, then jump on to the street, before diving into the hidden backyards once more, a hidden line that weaves through Osaka's outer limits. It's strangely reminiscent of the train in Miyazaki's Spirited Away.

We bid it a sad farewell at Sakai City and sniff the air. It seems aromatic. The closer we get to a smart modern building, the more intense the scent becomes. We enter. Now the scent is all-pervading. Giant pieces of dark, twisted wood lie on the floor.

“Welcome to Baieido,” says a man, proffering his business card, which declares him to be Nobuhiro Nakata, president of this, Japan's oldest incense house.

Why incense? We live in a sensory world. Our lives are fragranced and given meaning by the efforts of a colle...

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