One of the things I really enjoyed about visiting Japanese Buddhist temples was offering incense in the large outdoor burners that were always available for that purpose. The burner in the following photos is located at the Todai-ji Temple in Nara near Kyoto. The wooden box in front holds the incense and donations.
You throw a small coin into the wooden box through the slats on top and then take a stick of incense from the side. At some temples, they don't rely on the honour system though. You have to pay a set price (usually 100 yen -- about $1) to an attendant who then hands over a little bundle of incense.
Once the transaction is complete, you light your incense at the open flame provided and stick it in the fine white sand of the burner. People say a little prayer and presumably rely on the smoke to carry their words up to the Buddha or Bodhisattvas. As you can see, a lot of sweet-smelling smoke emanates from the incense burner. I'm sure there must be a purification aspect as well of both the sacred space and the people.
[Photos by Debra She Who Seeks]