June 19, 2024

How To Make Your Home Smell Good: 17 Amazing Ways From Japan

How to make Your home smell good? Well, try it the Japanese way!

For centuries, Japan has been known for its extraordinary appreciation of scent. 

This goes way back to the time of the ninja and samurai.

It's not just about making your house smell nice, it's about preventing bad odors and spirits from festering.

Of course fresh air is the best way to freshen up a house, but there are also other tips and tricks Japan has cultivated over the years.

For example 'Kōdō' (香道), the art of appreciating Japanese incense. 

Below we are looking at the 17 best tips from Japan to improve the smell of the whole house.

Interested to learn more about Japan and its culture, design and fashion?

Check out our blog posts on Unique Japanese Wedding Traditions Gifts and Top 13 Japanese Themed Kitchen Design Ideas and 117 Awesome Japandi Bedroom Style Ideas For 2024!

How To Make Your Home Smell Good: 17 Amazing Ways From Japan

How To Make Your Home Smell Good: 17 Amazing Ways From Japan

Significance of Scent in Japanese Culture

Historical Importance of Fragrance

In Japan, the art, history, and spiritual practices surrounding incense have a profound past. 

Incense has been part of Japanese life for thousands of years; indeed, many consider it to be one of the most fundamental aspects of what is known as "Japanese culture." 

Incense has a natural pleasant fragrance.

As early as the 5th century CE, when incense was first imported into Japan from China and other parts of Asia, the clergy and common people began using it extensively.

Buddhism arrived in Japan with Nara-era missionaries who brought not only an enthusiasm for meditation—but incense-burners.

Cheery Blossom Scent
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Modern-day Scent Practices

The appreciation of pleasant odors in modern Japan has become a way of life. 

While it is normal for people themselves to not smell at all (to not impede on others, neither with good nor bas smell), spaces can smell.

Especially a pleasant scent of nature and cleanliness (like soap) is appreciated.

The common domestic use of essential oil diffusers, for instance, creates what is arguably the most alluring and airy atmosphere imaginable — a space where the couple can relax and be together. 

But using scents otherwise — say, as part of what Western nations have rebranded as 'aromatherapy' — is also a surprisingly popular practice in Japan. 

Cultural Stories and Traditions

The rich stories and ancient traditions of Japanese culture revolve largely around fragrance. 

One deeply held ceremony is the "Kōdō" or incense appreciation ritual. 

During these events, participants indulge in what can be described as a history lesson for the nose. 

They don't just appreciate incense; they also participate in incense games where they attempt to identify various scents offered to them—a great way to engage all senses! 

Another cultural narrative centered on smell revolves around using fragrances seasonally during festivals. 

For instance, every summer during the star festival "Tanabata," (たなばた) fresh herbs and plant-based aromas are used in an attempt to evoke freshness—a tensely held milestone event within Japanese culture for over 1,000 years! 

That's some serious persistence with a tradition if there ever was one!

How To Make Your Home Smell Good: a long tradition

How To Make Your Home Smell Good: a long tradition

Traditional Japanese Methods

Burn Traditional Incense: Utilize traditional incense to bring authentic Japanese aromas into your home.

Burning traditional incense is one of the most revered methods of putting Japanese aromas into your home. 

Incense in Japan, called 'Kō,' is made from natural ingredients like sandalwood and aloeswood.

It emits a medicinal, calming scent that permeates the space and agets rid of stale odors or any other unpleasant smells.

Every time I light incense, I am immediately transported to a place of peace that eludes me during most other moments in my day. 

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04/14/2024 11:09 am GMT

Kodo - The Art of Incense Appreciation: Practice this ancient Japanese ceremony using various aromatic woods and spices

Incense appreciation, or what the Japanese call 'kodo,' is an ancient and delicate art. 

At their best, fragrances can evoke powerful memories and intense emotions. 

Always, they are meditations on the nature of scent itself — a physical force acting on the human body and mind. 

In a traditional incense ceremony, one finds far more than just the putative aroma of whatever plant or tree has been incensed. 

There's also the burning of fire — the dangerous, hot flame that even in today's world can strike fear into the hearts of forest animals who hear it at night. 

Already in the shop choosing your own signature scent can be a great ritual.

Or with a growing collection, probing your sense of smell and selecting the right smell for today's mood - the action alone is calming.

Getting the incense stick to light up but the go out, while slowly eating away and releasing the fragrance - that requires practice.

How To Make Your Home Smell Good: incense appreciation

How To Make Your Home Smell Good: incense appreciation

Use of Tatami Mats: Incorporate tatami mats in your home, which naturally emit a grassy, earthy aroma

In traditional Japanese homes, tatami mats (たたみ) are the norm. 

However, in American homes, they're mostly unknown—except to enthusiasts of all things Japanese

Tatami mats have a distinct earthy aroma that's meant to evoke the natural world and (for some reason) are also supposed to be good for your health. 

How To Make Your Home Smell Good: natural remedies

How To Make Your Home Smell Good: natural remedies

Natural Remedies

Essential Oils and Diffusers: Blend essential oils like yuzu, hinoki, or sakura for a natural fragrance

The natural and versatile use of essential oils makes them an ideal way to fill your home with pleasant fragrances inspired by Japan. 

Oils like yuzu, hinoki, and sakura are popular because they have unique and different scents that isolate the essence of each oil’s fragrance. 

Yuzu is a Japanese citrus fruit whose bright, uplifting aroma can aid in invigorating any room it is in. 

Hinoki is a type of cypress tree known for its woody scent, sometimes associated with hot springs and forest baths that promote relaxation.

Sakura, the cherry blossom, is well known by many as the beloved flower tree of the Japanese.

AromaTech Cherry Blossom & Hinoki Aroma Oil for Scent Diffuser - 120 Milliliter
$89.00 ($21.98 / Fl Oz)

A very luxurious and beautiful scent to bring Japan to your home.

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04/15/2024 09:15 am GMT

Green Tea Leaves: Use dried green tea leaves as a natural deodorizer and air freshener

Using dried green tea leaves makes for a super simple, yet effective, natural deodorizer. 

You can find bundles of dried green tea leaves at most Asian markets or some health food stores. 

If you cannot find them, you can also dry your own leaves by tying bunches of fresh green tea (or your local herbs) together and hanging them upside down in a warm place. 

Once the leaves are dry (but not so crumbly that they shatter easily), you can put them to work.

Place some lovely-smelling dried green tea leaves in an attic or basement to keep those spaces from developing a musty smell. 

Or use 'em to keep odors from forming on carpets: in a small spray bottle with some water (and clear rubbing alcohol), they become a great DIY room spray.

How To Make Your Home Smell Good: various ingredients can be used

How To Make Your Home Smell Good: various ingredients can be used

Bamboo Charcoal for Odor Absorption: Place bamboo charcoal around the house to naturally purify the air

There is nothing quite like the power of bamboo charcoal to naturally purify the air and eliminate odors. 

Most people don't realize that bad smells are actually a sign of poor air quality, which comes from an imbalance in the atmosphere. 

Charcoal has existed since prehistoric times; it was used for cave paintings and drawings long before we humans were able to formalize any sort of language or writing.

Bamboo charcoal absorbs odors because it contains tiny, uniform pores that attract and trap foul odorous particles (gases) and excess moisture (humidity).

This makes it a popular method for maintaining a nice-smelling home without using synthetic chemicals—I can also recommend for the inside if your shoes! 

Natural Potpourri: Create potpourri from dried flowers and herbs common in Japan like cherry blossoms and green tea leaves

Making natural potpourri is an easy way to carry the scents of Japanese flowers, herbs, and trees into your home. 

Using dried ingredients—and there are many wonderful possibilities to get them pre-made online —to craft a potpourri is the easiest way to create a lasting source of fragrance.

These potpourri blends can also be easily added to an air purifier (but check the instructions on yours first!), making the entire room smell great with their natural scents.

Aromatic Wood Blocks: Use blocks of aromatic wood such as cedar and cypress in your decor for a subtle, natural fragrance

If you're looking for a natural and seemingly miraculous way to keep your home smelling fresh, consider using aromatic wood blocks. 

Cedar and cypress are the most commonly used species when it comes to aromatics, not just in Japan but worldwide. 

Incense made from these woods has been in use for thousands of years.

What is an aromatic wood block? 

It's simply a piece of cedar or cypress that has been purposefully allowed to dry after being cut from the tree. 

Once dried, it will emit what can only be described as the essence of a forest—very fresh-smelling oil produced within the wood itself.

(Chemically speaking it releases volatile organic compounds that combine thousands of great smells.)

Using aromatic wood blocks is a good idea if you have children or pets, as there is not liquid to spill, no small parts that can be swallowed by accident.

Ash Protection
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Freshen Up with Citrus Peels: Place dried citrus peels around the home for a natural, refreshing smell

A simple and natural way to keep your home smelling fresh is with dried citrus peels such as a lemon peel. 

By the way, orange peels are an equally affordable way to achieve this - any citrus fruit is great.

In Japan, yuzu and mandarin oranges are loved for their good smells. 

To use dried citrus peel as an air freshener simply requires leaving the peels out in the direct sunlight or drying them thoroughly after washing them off in water.

How To Make Your Home Smell Good: citrus scents

How To Make Your Home Smell Good: citrus scents

Sachets Filled with Japanese Herbs: Fill sachets with aromatic herbs like shiso or yomogi to place in drawers and cars

There are all sorts of clever ways to keep small areas fresh and free of odors by using aromatics—naturally making a space smell pleasant without synthetic air fresheners. 

My personal favorite is using sachets filled with dried herbs like shiso and yomogi (Japanese mugwort). 

Both have unique fragrances: shiso's slightly minty scent, yomogi's earthy, herbal aroma. 

To use them as sachets, simply put the dried herbs into tiny little pouches made of fabric, then place the pouches in drawers or the linen closet. 

Or you could do what I do: Place them in your car!

If you don't have access to these herbs, really any herbs that grow in nature around you (or at your local grocery shop 😉 ) will work!

Scented sachets filled with natural ingredients like lavender or cedarwood are a great choice too!

How To Make Your Home Smell Good: aromatic oils

How To Make Your Home Smell Good: aromatic oils

Modern Techniques

Scented Wooden Blocks: Place scented wooden blocks in drawers and closets to subtly perfume the air

Now to a modern twist of an air-freshening solution that's both contemporary and age-old:

Scented wooden blocks provide a unique and effective method of quietly perfuming your drawers and closet spaces. 

Visually speaking, they don't tell you much: They're little wood cubes with a captivating fragrance. 

Most models are made from aromatic woods—like cedar or Hinoki—that naturally repel pests without using chemicals. 

Place them in your drawer; over time, the wood's essential oils will seep out and provide needed freshness to even the stuffiest of enclosed areas where odors inevitably accumulate. 

In addition to keeping one's clothes and bedding fresh (woolen items especially benefit), scented wood cubes can preserve the materials themselves by controlling moisture (a prime cause of odor). 

Wood fragrances are amongst my favorite scents, reminding me of a stroll through the forest (mori 森).

Sophisticated Design
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Rattan Aroma Diffusers: Utilize rattan sticks with modern blends of Japanese-inspired oils for long-lasting fragrance

There are few, if any, other diffuser options that compare in terms of style and class to the rattan essential oil diffuser. 

I There’s just something special about this particular combination—about how well the parts work together in form and function—to make for an essentially gapless diffusion experience. The only other thing I can think of is maybe a DIY reed diffuser.

DIY Rice Vinegar Room Sprays: Mix rice vinegar with water and essential oils to create effective room sprays

Freshening up your home doesn't have to break the bank. 

In fact, a natural and cost-effective way to keep odors in check is through the use of homemade essential oil sprays that utilize rice vinegar. 

Rice vinegar itself isn't something most people think to reach for when it comes to freshening up their living areas.

However it has a pretty strong deodorizing power that can generally be relied upon.  

That's why combining different scents with it can often result in effective (and pleasantly aromatic) air treatment options:

The rice vinegar acts as a sort of counterpoint to whatever other scent you were requiring from your essential oils.

BTW, I also like to place bowls of vinegar in the microwave or oven and heat them up - this allows removal of oil and grime with just a paper towel.

Fabric Fresheners with Japanese Ingredients: Spray fabrics with a mist made from diluted sake or plum wine for a fresh scent

You might rely on synthetic air fresheners or scented sprays in hopes that they will cover up any unpleasant odors. 

However, don't overlook the potential benefits that certain natural ingredients could provide. 

Enter sake and plum wine - two Japanese ingredients with a long history dating back thousands of years. 

They're used for much more than just providing a basis for the production of fragrances.

These ingredients, when used as aerosol solutions, not only deodorize whatever fabrics they touch but also don't present the risk of an allergic reaction like some synthetic fragrances might. 

Japanese fabric mist manufacturers, too, have seemingly caught on to this concept and now produce various incense mists using these antiquated yet effective ingredient pairings in their products.

Incense Papers: Use scented Japanese papers to subtly enhance the aroma of your home

To take your home's fragrance to the next level, consider using incense papers, like these beautiful ones as a modern retention of a traditional Japanese art form. 

Incense papers are infused with the classic Japanese scents of sandalwood and aloeswood, not to mention an almost countless array of floral essences. 

You can place a sheet in a decorative holder or light it openly.

(If you choose to light your incense paper on fire, make sure you have adequate ventilation.) 

How To Make Your Home Smell Good: modern interpretation

How To Make Your Home Smell Good: modern interpretation

Electronic Aroma Diffusers: Employ electronic diffusers with timers to spread scents like yuzu or cherry blossom at intervals

Home fragrance can be as high-tech as you want it to be. 

If you don’t mind a few modern contraptions showing up on your countertops, then there are some truly futuristic ways to enjoy a beautiful scent in your home. 

Electric essential oil diffusers fall into this category. 

Their ultrasonic-emitting technology sends the essences of yuzu, cherry blossom, and other scented oils, directly into the air.

The ‘timer’ part is key here: many humidifiers now come with built-in timers and some allow for two different scent intervals during the day.

Just add drops of your favorite essential oil and set the diffusers to start!

Our Pick
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06/19/2024 02:09 pm GMT

Japanese Bath Salts in Closets: Use scented bath salts in small dishes in closets to impart a subtle fragrance

An innovative method for keeping your clothes and linens fresh is to sprinkle Japanese bath salts in your closet. 

These salts typically contain "notes" that resonate with the scents found within fragrances generally associated with an Asian or Spa culture – like yuzu (a citrus scent), hinoki (cypress) or towari (incense).

Put salts into small satchels that keep open to the air.

Place aromatics in liquid form in a neater pourable container; then set the mixture on a level in your closet. 

The perfume will seep out into the air surrounding your clothes. 

How To Make Your Home Smell Good: a light feeling

How To Make Your Home Smell Good: a light feeling

How To Make Your Home Smell Good Today

A summary of the techniques

And now you know how to make your home smell good like the Japanese people do!

You can choose from a variety of Japanese-inspired methods to make your home smell good using natural, traditional, and modern techniques. 

Some are ancient: you can light incense or practice the centuries-old art of 'Kodo' - incense appreciation. 

There's natural methods like using potpourri made from dried flowers, herbs, leaves, and seeds. 

Then there are the more recent ideas for creating fragrant spaces in Japan: electric diffusers emitting scents like yuzu or hinoki.

You'll be sure to find the right method suitable for your home and lifestyle.

Can you use scented candles too? 

Of course, but surprisingly they are not common in Japan, maybe due to the open flame, incense sticks are preferred.

Where to find ingredients to make your home smell good

It's easy to find the ingredients needed to get your home to smell good naturally. 

Lots of these items can be found at local health food stores, grocery stores, and online retailers. 

The essential oils mentioned -- yuzu, hinoki, and sakura -- can often be sourced from either health stores or websites dedicated to aromatherapy. 

For traditional incense (Agarwood), look for Japanese cultural centers or online. 

Bamboo charcoal is commonly found in Asian medicine stores and some herbal shops as well as online; it's used not just here but across Japan and East Asia for its detoxifying properties. 

Bath salts infused with fragrances meant to evoke specifically Japanese scents can occasionally be found in bath-and-body stores that carry products labeled "Japanese-inspired".

Get started today

How to make your home smell good?

Select one of the methods we mentioned above and place it in your hime.

Best combine a few of them!

Why not put a bath salt satchel in your closet, and incense stick on your cupboard, and an electric diffusor with timer (for safety!) next to your bed.

Achieving a home that carries an alluring Japanese-inspired scent is easy and makes for a wonderful way to add some elegance to your living space. 

You're just a few scents away from transporting yourself—along with any guests you may have—to the tranquility of Japan, minus the long-haul flight. 

Don't wait—begin now and experience the rewards of a fresh and airy smelling home. 🙂

How To Make Your Home Smell Good: great match with the Japandi bedroom

How To Make Your Home Smell Good: great match with the Japandi bedroom


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Originally from Tokyo, I am a world-traveling Japanese adventurer who loves connecting with people.

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