Up in Smoke: Sakai’s Last Incense Craftsman

Certified as a Living National treasure, Kinzaburo is an aging incense craftsman based in Sakai in the heart of Osaka prefecture. As a one-man operation, he spends his time producing and selling his incense sticks in a small studio-shop. 

Despair in the face of the near complete disappearance of his craft is palpable in Kinzaburo’s voice as he identifies himself as Japan’s last remaining incense craftsman. With no apprentices, automated processes will take over from here. Watch as he masterfully hand-straightens small batches of incense sticks over and over again to ensure consistent quality. His slowed movements betray the fact that while he still has some longevity left, he already considers himself a part of the past. 

That being said, not everything can be left to mass-production. Many trades still need the dextrous human hand to hold the primary role in production. How long until the importance of such work is recognized? Or, like Kinzaburo and his incense, are such dreams of a craftsmanship renaissance truly gone up in smoke? 

Kinzaburo’s shop may be found in Sakai-shi, Osaka. You can also visit their official website kunsyudou.jp (use extension to translate to english) or check out their online shop kunsyudou-onlineshop.jp (Japanese only).

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