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How To Prepare A Kodo Cup

For The Japanese Incense Ceremony

Preparing A Kodo Cup


A Kodo cup and another burner for starting the bamboo charcoal are needed. Fill the Kodo cup almost full with clean white chaff ash.

Note: a Kodo cup is also known as a Kiki-gouro

kodo cup and hitori gouro_small

Heat a large bamboo charcoal in a separate bowl of ash until it is completely red-hot and grayish-white.

Note: A separate bowl called a Hitori-gouro is used to start the charcoal because initially the charcoal gives off a subtle unpleasant scent that you do not want to be absorbed by the ash in your kodo cup.

hitori gouro

Fluff the Kodo cup ash so that it’s not compacted and create a small hole in the center to accept the charcoal.

prepare kodo cup - fluff the ask

Place the charcoal in the center of the cup so it sets just slightly lower than the surface of the ash.

prepare kodo cup - place charcoal

Use the chopsticks to pull the ash up into a mound over the charcoal.

prepare kodo cup - bury charcoal

Using the ash press to lightly tamp and compress the ash mound into a smooth volcano shape over the charcoal.

prepare kodo cup - tamp ash

Rotate the bowl and continue to press until smooth.

prepare kodo cup - tamp down ash

With a metal chopstick, gently make an air-hole to the charcoal and push the charcoal down just slightly.

The charcoal should be about 1/2 inch below the surface.

Optionally, you can decorate the surface with traditional lines (see books on Kodo).

prepare kodo cup - create vent hole to charcoal

If you have a feather, it’s used now to clean the ash from the edge of the cup.

prepare kodo cup - clean with feather

Place the mica plate gently on top of the air-hole and press it down softly to secure the mica in place and keep it level.

prepare kodo cup - place mica plate in place

Place a piece of aloeswood on the mica plate.

Note: Aloeswood pieces should be about the size of a single grain of rice.

prepare kodo cup - add agarwood piece

The aloeswood should not smoke, but rather slowly release its wonderful aromas through low heat. 


1. If the charcoal is buried too low the mica may not get warm enough to release the woods’ fragrance. In this case, remove the mica plate, fluff the ash, and bring the charcoal up higher and begin again.

2. Also, if the ash is old and used, it may not let the charcoal breathe and force it to extinguish itself. Always use clean ash for Kodo.

3. If the charcoal is too high and therefore too close to the mica plate, it will generate too much heat and may smoke the wood. This is remedied by either adding a second mica plate to diffuse the heat, or by removing the mica plate and using a chopstick through the hole to push the charcoal further down.