Incense, known as Kou (香), plays an integral role in the tea ceremony, adding a sensory element to the overall experience. There are two types of incense commonly used during the ceremony, each suited for different seasons and settings.
During the warmer seasons when the Furo (portable brazier) is utilized, Kouboku aromatic wood is chosen for its delightful fragrance. This type of incense emits a pleasant scent that complements the ambiance of the tea room and enhances the tea ceremony experience.
In colder seasons when the Ro (sunken hearth) is employed, tiny balls of Neriko, a blended incense, are favored. These carefully crafted balls produce a subtle and captivating aroma, creating a cozy atmosphere in harmony with the winter setting.
Typically, three pieces of Kou are placed in the Kougou, a designated incense container. One piece is positioned near the fire, gradually releasing its fragrance as the ceremony progresses. Another piece is strategically placed a little further from the fire, ensuring it ignites later in the ceremony, offering a delightful shift in scent as time goes on. The final piece remains in the Kougou, allowing guests to appreciate its fragrance during the Haiken (viewing of tea utensils).
The presence of Kou in the tea ceremony not only adds a pleasing olfactory dimension but also symbolizes the attention to detail and aesthetic sensibility inherent in the art form. It invites participants to engage their senses fully and deepens the overall experience of the ceremony.