There is a difference ! - The Incense Charcoal we carry is chemical free bamboo and hardwood charcoal which is made without sulfur, saltpeter or any other chemical additives. Bamboo and hardwood charcoal is just as easy to light as the self-igniting charcoal it may just take a couple more minutes. It burns virtually orderless and it is a lot more healthy for you. It costs a little more but it is well worth it! The ash we have is for adding to your burning vessel to dissipate heat away from the burner and keep your aromatic substance off the direct heat. Both the generic and shoyeido brand are of very high quality and purity.