During a trip to Kyoto, I had the privilege to tour the main office of a 300 year old incense company. This company has a larger factory out of town for making their everyday grade products, but the best quality stuff is made here with a lot of human hands at every step of the process.

In the beginning, raw materials like sandalwood are brought in as a fine powder, and blended together to form the recipe. They are mixed with a binder by the wheels of this machine.

Once the paste is formed, it is extruded and cut roughly to length by one of the makers.

Our guide showed us a close up of the incense at this stage. Like clay in a potter’s studio, mishapen or trimmed bits can be reused and extruded again into firsts.

The rough cuts are transfered to another maker, who cuts them to the precise length for packaging.

They are then stacked in front of a fan to dry before finally being packaged and sold in the shop below, or to customers around the world.