Japanese Incense Sticks - A Surprisingly Good Alternative to Candles

In Japan, incense sticks are traditionally given to those who have lost loved ones, which can be used when attending a wake or funeral. However, incense sticks actually come in many different shapes, sizes, and scents, and not all of them are made for solemn occasions. In this article, we'll go over what makes incense sticks different from candles and how to choose the right incense sticks.

Incense Sticks vs Candles

Unlike candles, which can go on for hours, incense sticks typically only burn for less than an hour. While it's always recommended not to leave them unattended, because they produce no flame and extinguish rather quickly, they feel "safer" than candles and are great for people who only want to enjoy a scent for a short period of time.

Incense sticks also release a very strong burst of fragrance initially, whereas candles emit a steady fragrance over the course of several hours. If you want to quickly fill the room with scent, incense sticks are the way to go.

How to Choose the Right Incense Sticks


One of the most important things to consider when choosing incense sticks is the scent. In this regard, you’re spoilt for choice! You can browse through a range of subtle wood fragrances like sandalwood, aloeswood, or agarwood, floral scents like cherry tree or lavender, all the way down to the nostalgic cedar. There are even unscented sticks for those sensitive to aromas. You’ll have no trouble finding a scent appropriate for the occasion!


Incense sticks come in many shapes and sizes - long, short, spiral, and more. Each shape has a different purpose.

Short incense sticks, which often have a slender cylindrical shape, are the most common and are generally intended for home use. Long incense sticks are mainly seen in Buddhist temples, with monks using them to measure time when chanting sutras or doing Zen meditation. Spiral incense sticks burn the longest and were developed for Buddhist rituals where the incense stick cannot be allowed to burn out.

Amount of Smoke

Different kinds of incense sticks produce varying amounts of smoke, so you should first determine whether they will be for indoor or outdoor use.

For outdoor incense, cedar or other wood that produces a lot of smoke is recommended, while aromatic incense meant for the home should produce only a little smoke. Some modern incense sticks are even designed to produce no smoke or ashes!


If you're hoping to give incense sticks as a present, pay attention to the packaging. There are many options to choose from, like classy paulownia wooden boxes and packaging with refined, stylish patterns or even flower motifs.

3 Stylish Japan-Made Incense Holders

Just like a candle's wick, incense sticks need to be placed upright to be used. That's where incense holders come into play. Here are some of our favorites.


This charming "bean bowl" sized incense holder is made in the Kutani style, a 360-year-old traditional Japanese craft. It features a cherry blossom design perfectly embodying the striking colors and delicate texture of Kutani ware. It’s a natural accompaniment to a gift of incense sticks, demonstrating true appreciation for those people we’re glad to have in our lives.

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With over 1,000 years of experience in metal casting, Konohazuku aims to bring the fun and beauty of metal into people's everyday lives with this stunning tin flower incense holder. Tin is incredibly durable, not breaking when dropped, and its color changes the more you use and polish it. If you are a regular user of incense sticks, eventually this delicate-looking flower will turn into something that's truly one of a kind.

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This stunning ceramic incense holder displays a scene from the movies, with an incredibly large, milky white moon, indigo blue night sky, and forests that stretch as far as the eye can see. If you're looking for an incense holder that also doubles as a work of art, this is the one to pick.

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Gift Wrapping

Whether you plan to gift incense sticks or holders, it's important that the gift wrapping makes it clear that your gift is something out of the ordinary.

At BECOS, we offer deluxe gift wrapping options using the highest-quality Japanese washi paper with mizuhiki decorative cords or gorgeous furoshiki wrapping cloth. If you want your gift to have even more of an impact, our services are at your disposal!

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A Traditional Item That Has Withstood the Test of Time

Incense sticks have been used for years to fill spaces with scents and evoke certain emotions within people. Though initially only used for solemn occasions, they have adapted to meet the needs of the modern generation time after time. With the popularity of candles continuing to grow, we hope you will also consider making a place in your home or office for this amazing craft.

▶︎ Take a look at the other incense holders sold on BECOS

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