When one lights incense, especially those new to Japanese incense, there is an expectation of getting what one paid for: immediate and powerful scent. But centuries of crafting incense have taught the Japanese that burning incense is only a fraction of the entire experience incense provides. Sometimes, as in the case of Shoyeido's Nijo 二条, it's the subtle ability to provide the background to one's experience that makes incense so powerful.
Part of Shoyeido's legendary Horin line, Nijo (Avenue of the Villa) is described as a timeless creamy sandalwood and vanilla recipe, reminiscent of a fresh afternoon rain. Although this reference would seem to hint at the illusion to water or moisture, the emphasis of Nijo is on the experience of the senses after the rain - the clean, fresh, peaceful scents that fill the background of our experience. Nijo is tremendously subtle and from this subtly comes its amazing promise.
Nijo's stick note is filled with a decadent vanilla and powdery cream. There is a background of lavender floral resting underneath the dominant notes, providing a clean high contrast above the luxuriousness of the vanilla. Like all the sticks from Shoyeido's Horin line (which are derived from their coil parents), Nijo's stick is highly enjoyable completely unlit.
Once lit, Nijo takes on a mysterious creamy Sandalwood tone that is both present, and not, at the same time. The lavender floral from the stick vanishes giving way to subtle hints of vanilla and spice that always suggest, but never announce fully. Although the primary notes are of creamy vanilla, powdery, almost fruity notes mix subtly throughout the gentle experience of Nijo's burn. Never are any of the notes loud or overpowering however. This is a background incense, perfect for setting the base for one's experience, be it meditation, relaxation, or entertaining. If you're expecting a wave of scent to wash over you the moment the burn begins, you won't find it with Nijo. Instead Nijo masterfully works in the background just within reach of awareness.
Nijo's after-note is amazing and where this incense truly shines. The ebb and flow of various notes is replaced with a steady low sweetness, mixing the best of Sandalwood and vanilla tones in a consistent chord that is as long lasting as it is subtle. Nijo's scent remains for an amazing length of time after the burn is complete, coloring the background in its subtle glow just outside of awareness. Yet leave the space Nijo has filled and one will be greeted surprisingly by it upon one's return.
The duration of the after-note makes Nijo a perfect choice for energy or space clearing work. Its long lasting nature combined with subtle ability to vanish into the background is perfect for setting the background to one's experience.
Life plays out
The background to its tapestry