Bochukoh, Fragrant Mothballs

When I was a child, I used to smell a very favorable scent every time my mother opened the drawer of her chest. I was thinking she put some Nioibukuro (sachets) in there, but later I found out the scent was from Bochukoh (防虫香, scented mothball) instead.

On sunny days during Doyoh (the hottest period of summer) season, my mother and grandmother gets busy with summer-airing of their Kimono in the well-ventilated place at the house. Kimono is made of silk and cannot be exposed to the sun, so that the house is filled with Kimono flapping all over. Before the sunset, all Kimono are folded again and put into the drawer with Washi (Japanese craft paper)-wrapped Bochukoh as you see in the picture below.

In the 8th century, there was a kind of Bochuko called Ebikoh (えび香), and some of them are still preserved at Shosoin (正倉院, the Repository for treasures and important materials of Todaiji Temple).

Bochukoh is a very moderate but refined way of moth proofing. It doesn't kill insects but only keeps them away by its repellent scent for insects. Not only for Kimono, but Bochukoh is also used for Ohinasama (お雛様, dolls displayed at the Girls' Festival). Bochukoh has such a deep connection with our culture.

One of my friend who is not a big fan of Japanese traditional scent, uses herbs such as lavender and rosemary instead of Bochukoh. It's also a nice idea.

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