香が灰に変わる静けさの中で --In this tranquility of the incense turning into ashes--

香が灰に変わる静けさの中で --In this tranquility of the incense turning into ashes--


編集部より:デンマークで、有機栽培・自然栽培の日本のお茶をとりあつかう「io いほ」。その店主である中山さんに、お茶のこと、デンマークのこと、そしてお香にまつわるエッセイを寄稿いただきました。かおりを感じる詩的なエッセイです、あたたかいお茶といっしょにゆっくりとご覧ください。

詩を読むのが好きだ ー さまざまな事柄が細かく解説された様な長い文章や物語を読むよりも、言葉一つ一つを噛み締めながら読む詩という形式が好きだ。

I like reading poetry - where I can read each word by word, rather than a long sentence or story explaining various things in detail.


Especially when I am going back and forth between the spaces structured within a piece of text, wondering about things that are not clearly expressed, somehow even ordinary words come to gain a special presence. In the end of this process, I see the poetry visualised uniquely in my mind. When I do this, it is as if the time spent with one poem becomes unexpectedly long - even with such short sentences and few words that in fact may only have taken about thirty seconds to “read”.


I have been thinking that the time when I drink my favourite tea and the time when I enjoy the carefully blended incense - these are somewhat similar to the feeling of reading poetry. To brew tea and to light incense are both simple acts, but when I experience the world extending beyond them I encounter a unique flow of time.


For example, think about the moment of brewing a cup of tea. Taking its start upon contemplating the astringency, umami, and aroma of the tea leaves in front of us, leading to consideration of the temperature of the water that may be suitable for brewing them; proceeding to the warming up of the tea utensils, ending with the act of brewing a cup of tea. From the fragrance that rises with the steam to the drop of tea that is finally brought into our mouth, the poetic sentiment that spreads from this experience contains a rhythm that cannot be measured by a clock.


Therefore, when I brew a cup of tea, I try to do it slowly. Simply put, if you do not brew tea with a slow sense of time and movement, you often won't end up with a delicious cup. When in a rush, there have been numerous times when I would wish that tea could be like instant coffees - but in such cases, the tea I make usually end up too astringent, too thin, or simply unsatisfactory to drink.


Tea has a unique rhythm and wavelength, and it seems that it is difficult to grasp the time of drinking tea unless you are in touch with the leaves while they are brewing. Moreover, no matter who the drinker is, if you do not take that person into consideration, it is as if the feelings of the person and the taste of the tea will not be in harmony. In this sense as well, it is important to stay embodied in “tea time”.


Incense is a good friend of tea, and I often enjoy it when I sense a hole in the time. After all, incense fills time as well as space, although in a form that does not seem to be tangible. It is graceful as the ultimate luxury item, changing the simple yet extreme act of just sitting and being present in a meaningful moment. That’s all.


While enjoying incense, watching the dissipation of the smoke is one of the most memorable scenes. The white figure, which changes its appearance instantly while seemingly rising straight, is as free as a cloud floating in the sky. If you follow the smoke, expressions such as bending, twisting, and disappearing, which look like techniques of Kana calligraphy, stir up the imagination.

香という文化の悠久の時間感覚 ー その素材の、文化の、渡り歩いてきた時間と空間。目の前にある香の、ひとすじの煙の少し先、そしてそのもう少し先、そしてそのさらに先・・・それを何となく想像してみる。

Somehow the sense of time within the world of incense approaches eternity - both in terms of materiality, culture, and wandering movements in history. When the line of smoke floating right in front of us is just a surface of what the incense has already been, try to imagine what lies a little bit further behind, and then even a bit further…


For example, consider the activity of Kōdō, the Japanese incense ceremony, which has been quietly inherited across centuries. People gather around a tiny piece of wood hailing from a distant place and hold a once-in-a-lifetime incense party. The sensation of kaori (‘fragrance’) will surely be influenced by the physical conditions and moods of the day, an experience specific to that particular time and place. Or, think of the countless people across innumerable generations who, like me, have occasionally lit incense sticks.

Delicately scented incense sticks as well as thin pieces of rare incense woods have spread to various places in Japan and the rest of the world, connecting cultures and times beyond geographical conditions. Even if you live in Denmark, a single piece of incense is able to bring you a glimpse of a foreign culture to your space. Or, perhaps the fragrance itself reaches the nostrils of an unexpected person, giving rise to new surprises and joy.


By the time a single piece of incense burns, various thoughts are layered on top of each other, like multiple exposures that overlap and combine - and in the end disappear with the smoke. In this tranquility of the incense turning into ashes, I am a wanderer within the world of kaori in a pocket of time created momentarily out of nothing.


After a long journey from Japan, tea leaves and incense finally begin to breathe here in Denmark as a cup of tea and contours of scent. The only thing we in io - a Japanese teahouse can do to let them become accustomed to the atmospheres of this new land is to introduce each of them carefully to our customers in their own pace.


We try therefore to explain the characteristics of our teas and incense as much as possible prior to a purchase. We aim to do this by focusing on individual qualities rather than contrasting positions within a framework that is based on hierarchy. In the end, we simply wish for our customers to choose the item they want according to their own personal taste.


Neither our tea nor incense originates from Denmark - and yet the series of processes by which they have been made and brought here are all part of just this world. In that sense, I think it would be good if Japanese tea and incense can be accepted as mere “tea” and “incense” rather than “foreigners” exuding an exotic air.

そして、「外国人」としてではなく、ただの「いほ」として、私たちの茶屋は、いつの日か店名に ”japanese” という言葉を使わなくても成立してくれる場所にしたいと思っている。今はまだ、私たちが自分たちの自己紹介をしている段階で、「日本」という言葉をよく使うが、それは自分たちの来た道を表現するための選択であって、今デンマークで実践していることを規定するための枠組みではない。逆に言えば、日本という言葉で自分たちを特別な存在にしたい訳ではなく、ただどこから来たかというのが日本だっただけのことだ。

We, as io, also aim to be a place where one day we are established without the use of the term “Japanese” in our company name. We still tend to use words such as “Japan” or “Japanese" when we are introducing ourselves, but it is meant as a way to describe where we are coming from; it does not define what we do. In other words, it is not our intention to brand ourselves as something special through reference to a notion of “Japan” - it is just that our teahouse happens to take its starting point there.


That is why we aim for io to be a place with a sense of time and space that is natural (and as such unique) to us; a place that embraces quietude despite being in the bustling midst of Copenhagen’s Nørrebro area where various cultures interweave and mix; a place where you can take shelter from the outside world for a while - as a small hut within the city; a place where past and future resonate through various media such as tea, incense, and a variety of utensils; a place that appears to be changing over time yet stays unchanged in its way of being.



With this in mind, I cycle to the teahouse today as well - it takes approximately fifteen minutes only. The time I spend cycling to the teahouse, while the city’s scenery and atmosphere gradually transform, is a good time for me to prepare my mind for the day. When I arrive at the teahouse, I open the door and take the morning air inside, then boil water and light the candles. Lastly, I light a stick of incense. When I finally open the door and leave our street sign outside, our teahouse io is open - a place where a small fragment of Japan becomes part of the city of Copenhagen and its people each time a cup of tea is served or a stick of incense is burned. 

io いほ - a japanese teahouse (デンマーク、コペンハーゲン) 店主

Yukiko Nakayama
Co-owner io - a Japanese teahouse (Copenhagen, Denmark)

編集部より「io いほ」さんのご紹介
WEBページ / https://www.io-te.dk/en/
Instagram / https://www.instagram.com/io.japanesetea/



麻布 香雅堂が運営する〈お香の交差点 OKOCROSSING〉のプロジェクトのひとつ〈お香とわたしの物語 OKOPEOPLE〉の公式アカウントです。 https://oko-crossing.net/