Around 10 years ago, Hiro Nakayama was living in New York when she noticed how her sense of smell seemed to be directly linked to the amount of stress she was experiencing in her life. After a particularly difficult personal struggle came to an end, she suddenly realized that she could smell different foods and flowers more vividly, leading her to believe that her sense of smell had been dulled while she had been dealing with the stress. So began her journey to understand the important role that scent plays in helping to bring harmony to our emotional and physical states, and to share this knowledge with others.

Now known as a “scent communicator,” Nakayama founded her fragrance business Project Felicia in New York, and began hosting experiential fragrance events both in New York and Singapore. The aim, she tells us, is to nurture sensibilities and creativity by focusing on olfaction. Her creative incense workshops have become so popular that they are now used as part of corporate training and team bonding programs in Singapore. Recently she has begun hosting events in Tokyo, too, and Weekender went along to try our hand at crafting our own incense.

The two-hour workshop we attended was a collaboration between Project Felicia, Abigail Terrien of Abi’s Journal, and Kyoko Nagano, CEO of MyPal, which arranges Japanese cultural workshops. With a dozen of us seated around a long table, our creative incense kits already set up in front of us, Nakayama explained the history of incense in Japan – it is thought to have arrived here when Buddhism was introduced in 552 – and took us through the different kinds of powder we’d be mixing together to create a plum fragrance (perfect for spring). Our kits included small bags of powdered agarwood, sandalwood, clove, frankincense, and more.

Creative incense kit

As Abigail handed out cups of freshly brewed green tea and delicious homemade peanut butter matcha balls to eat, we set about mixing our incense powders together in a small bowl. The trick is to slowly add teaspoons of water, ensuring that you create a kind of playdough texture that can be molded into any shape you like.

Incense powders mixed together with water

While our incense cones ended up looking more like Hershey’s Kisses than any kind of mini artworks, we were impressed by the creativity around the table – some participants even fashioned tiny flowers and animals out of the incense mixture.

The incense takes about a week to dry, so we’re still waiting to light up our little cone kisses to experience the full sensory experience, but we’re already loving the zen-like scent of spring they’re bringing to our office.

If you’d like to attend Project Felicia’s Creative Incense Workshop, the next one will be held on April 14. For more details and registration info, see our event listing.