Incense sticks called senko and candles are burned and offered on butsudans (household Buddhist altars) and at tombs when Buddhists pray for the departed souls of their ancestors. Incense sticks are placed standing up in the ashes of the incense burners and burned as offerings to the spirits of the departed. The main ingredients in the incense sticks are fragrant woods such as sandalwood, agalloch, benzoin, and clove and animal perfumes such as musk and castor. A blend of some of these perfumes is first kneaded with a green or brown colorant and pine resin. Then it hardens into sticks. Another type of incense sticks widely used is made from a mixture of powdered cryptomeria needles and perfumes.
Incense sticks were introduced to Japan from China early in the Edo period (1603 to 1867) and took the place of the incense powder that had been widely used because the incense sticks were much easier to handle. Since then incense sticks have been indispensable articles for all Buddhist ceremonies and services including funerals and memorial services for the deceased. Incense sticks are also burned and offered at tombs when people visit graves.