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Koh-do Games


In a ceremony of Kôdô several perfumed woods are often listened to (smell the fragrance with attention). The participants in the ceremony try to guess in which order the woods were presented. This kind of game is called " Kumi-Koh ". There are about 500 sorts of basic Kumi-Koh. Very often the odours of flagrant woods are presented with a poem, who gives a theme to the ceremony. The poem is often connected to the season or the landscape evoking an emotion.



Examples of Kumi-koh


Tukimi-koh (月見香)


This is a kumi-koh which suits October and one autumn evening [1].


Two sorts of fragrant wood are required.

One of both named “the moon”, and smelt before the game. Another odour, “the guest”, remains unknown before the game.

The Master prepares 3 sachets of each wood. He draws 3 sachets from the set. He presents these 3 sachets to the participants.


« Appreciation of this kumi-koh (depending on the results of the listening of each person) »


If we listened to three times in succession of the moon, we answer "the night of full moon".


If we listened three times in succession of the guest, we answer “ the rainy night ": There was no way to see a moon.


If we listened once to the moon, then twice the guest, we answer " the moonrise ": while the moon grows, the moon rises up early and goes away early.


If we listened twice the moon then the guest once, we answer " the night waiting for the full moon ": a night before the full moon.


If we once listened to the guest once and then the moon twice, we answer " the night after the full moon ": one night after the full moon, the moon rises slightly late.


If we listened to the guest twice and then the moon once, we answer " the moon at daybreak ": just before the new moon, the moon rises up late and stays late.


If we listened to the moon, the guest, and again the moon, we answer " the moon over a lake ", we see two moons appearing in the black color of the night: one is over the sky and the other is on the surface of the lake.


If we listen to the guest once, then the moon, and again the guest, we answer " the moon between the trees ": we see the moon between the trees.



Mayflower-koh [1,2]


This kumi-koh was created by the association of koh of Boston, during Japan Festival in 1992. This game was offered to the Koh-do masters, who came to Boston for the Koh-do demonstration. The people of the association offered this kumi-koh to thank the Masters for their helps for koh-do lessons and for their friendship since 1986 [ 1 ].


This kumi-koh suits the beginning of spring.


Three fragrant woods are used and named " Melted snow ", " Snake sleeping in the sun ", and " Mayflower ".  The two first woods are smelt before the game, the third one remain unknown before the game.


Three samples are drawn from a set : 2 sachets of " melted snow ", 2 sachets of " snake sleeping in the sun ", and 1 sachet of "Mayflower". They are successively presented to the participants. The participants try to identify them.


This kumi-koh was inspired by a poem, "No.1322", by Emily Dickinson, an American poet.


Pink-small-and punctual-


Covert-in April-

Candid-in May-

Dear to the Moss-

Known to the Knoll-

Next to the Robin

In every human Soul-

Bold little Beauty

Bedecked with thee

Nature forswears



« Appreciation of this kumi-koh »:

If somebody enters the forest of the New England, and...

- he or she well identified all three fragrances, we can say that he or she had a peaceful walk in the woods, appreciating the spring arrival by finding many things.


- he or she identified only the snow, we can say that the walk was too brief, he or she went out the woods immediately of the forest, perhaps because it was too cold.


- he only identified the snake, we can say that he or she was so afraid of the snake that he walked hurriedly, he or she was not able to find the flower.


- he or she identified only the flower, we can say that he or she discovered the Mayflower quit by accident, not knowing what it was.



[1] Kiyoshi Oota, 香と茶 (trad.: The koh and the tea), Tankosya, Kyoto, 2001.

[2] Kiyoko Morita, Book of incense -enjoying the traditional art of Japanese scents-, Kodansya International Ltd., Tokyo, 2006.