San Francisco State UniversityWeb A-ZFind it Fast


SFSU community waxes poetic at incense ceremony


News & Events

More Campus Headlines

News Archive

Contact Public Affairs

March 4, 2003

Sachiko Hayashi leads a traditional Japanese incense ceremony.

The aroma of Japanese incense inspired several SFSU administrators, faculty and students to compose original poetry on the spot last week at a special ceremony held in the Japanese Tea Room on campus.

In the ceremony which kicked off the spring Foreign Languages Colloquium Series, guests including SFSU President Robert A. Corrigan observed the preparation of the incense, learned proper manners to "listen to" (or enjoy) the incense, and listened to two kinds of ancient Japanese incense prepared by Toshiki Azuma and Sachiko Hayashi (pictured above) of the Nijo-oieryu School of the Incense Ceremony in Japan.

The particulars of the incense ceremony were developed in the 15th century. However, its preceding form was depicted in the early 11th-century masterpiece literature, "The Tale of Genji" -- particularly, the incense contest in which participants' skills of creating rare, precious, quality incense were judged.

The Japanese tradition of enjoying incense dates even earlier, to the sixth century, when the king of Paekche (now Korea) introduced Buddhism and incense to the people of Japan. By the eighth century, the burning of incense to scent rooms and clothing had become stylish among the aristocrats of the Imperial Court.

After listening to the incense, guests played a game where they identified the two types of incenses: kyara and manaka. The kyara and manaka were given poetic names of the white and red camellia, respectively, representing February when the camellia blossoms.

Guests then had about 30 seconds to compose his or her answer in the form of a waka, a traditional Japanese poem that contains exactly 31 syllables.

Richard Giardina, associate vice president for academic planning and assessment, wrote the following:
White, the color of peace,
gives sweet breath to our acrid world
as doves give song to flight.

English Professor Jan Gregory wrote:
Two blossoms and a spray of leaves --
Buds that yearn to open
red and white.
An unexpected shadow falls over them.

For more poems composed by SFSU faculty and administrators at the ceremony, click here.

For details on upcoming Foreign Languages Colloquium Series events, call (415) 338-7413.

San Francisco State University Home     Search     Need Help?    

1600 Holloway Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94132    (415) 338-1111
Last modified March 4, 2003, by the Office of Public Affairs