Before the Beginning

Lisn incense




Waking up in the morning: stretching, freshening up, making coffee in the kitchen. It’s still summer over here; my neck and my back beaded with sweat from the steam of the coffee. Have you noticed how the hair seems to grow faster after a certain length? It is as though there was an invisible threshold – everything before that was but a test of one’s patience.

I bring my coffee to the room and, with my eyes closed, draw a circle in my head. All is quiet within the circle. As I finally look up, strands of thought go out the window. Like so many times before, I notice the mess in the corner, and make a mental note to tidy the room afterwards.

I often find myself in the middle of preparing something before I light an incense. The fumes signal a beginning, or various beginnings – of an important task, or angst, but half an incense stick of time suffices to calm me down. This ritual of mine emanates from an encounter with the unforgettable scents of LISN – each a univocal self-expression.


他們每年都會製作新的氣味,現在共有一百五十款氣味的線香。家裡的我會混著一起放,隨意抽一枝或看顏色選擇當天的,名字很有意思。Awakening、Whisper drops、Largo、Always⋯


Derived from the word “listen”, LISN is a specialty branch of Shoyeido, Kyoto’s renowned 300-year-old incense company. A friend recommended LISN to me on the grounds that their designer incense had passed her “quality test”: she gets diarrhea when she uses incense of poor quality.

There are more than 150 scents in the LISN range, with a new scent being released every year. At home, I put all of the incense sticks together and choose the scent of the day at random, or by colour according to the weather. The sticks are embossed with enigmatic phrases like Awakening, Whisper drops, Largo, and Always. A corresponding story or imagery can be found by searching through the catalogue on LISN’s website.

The element of surprise makes a refreshing change to the absence – or excess – of thought. To read other people’s stories is like walking through a tinted revolving door – you’ll never guess the humour that awaits on the other side.