Relishing a moment with a Kiseru pipe

The kiseru pipe is one of the traditional crafts proudly produced in Kyoto.

It has become both an implement for tobacco enjoyment and a fashionable item that hints at its owner’s refined and cultured taste.

The name kiseru is said to have derived from the Cambodian word khsier around the 16th century. Kiseru pipes were mainly used until the Meiji era, when tobacco rolled in paper (i.e. cigarettes) were introduced.
The Japanese used to have a special tobacco set called tabako bon which they would offer the guest a puff before tea was served. Tabako bon also became part of the tea ceremony entertainment. In this way, kiseru was profoundly connected to life and traditional culture in Japan.

Incidentally, in Japanese there is the term ippuku-suru which means to relax and “have a puff”.

The term is said to have originated in the enjoyment of tobacco using a kiseru and has become widely used when one wants to have a smoke.

The finely shredded tobacco was first invented in Japan. Techniques for blade-making during the Edo period developed to such a point that it became normal for tobacco leaves to be cut into hair-thin pieces. The pipe bowl also became compact and portable kiseru pipes became widely used.
How to enjoy a puff with a kiseru pipe.First, the pipe bowl is filled with finely-cut tobacco by hand before lighting.
Unlike a cigarette filter, the smoke that passes through the ra’udake section of the pipe gets adequately cooled. The longer the pipe, the longer the enjoyment.
Ra’udake absorbs harmful substances like tar and nicotine. For this reason it must be replaced regularly.
Making a unique kiseru pipe
Metal such as brass or silver is beaten to shape the mouthpiece and the pipe bowl. Next, silver solder is used to join the sides. Today, there are just a few craftsmen in Japan who have inherited this unique craft.

The mouthpiece and the pipe bowl can both be engraved with any design according to the customer’s wish.

Only skillful craftsmen can achieve intricate, decorative designs.

The ra’udake can also be chosen according to taste.

It is lacquered or dyed to bring out the shine, while designs are either hand-drawn or stenciled.

The cylindrical kiseru pipe case and the pouch for keeping the finely-cut tobacco are customarily carried around by tying them to the kimono sash. There are various types of material, metal fitting and netsuke used to make these, and the combination show the taste and preferences of the owner. Such is the quintessence of Japan.
The popular spread of the cigarette resulted in the survival of only one store specializing in kiseru pipes in the entire Japan found in Kyoto. While cigarettes are the mainstream, young people with interest in the aesthetics of kiseru or people who deepen exchanges with others through the enjoyment of kiseru. 
Kiseru pipe was once an essential personal item to the Japanese. In the bygone era people in the thousands loved their kiseru pipes and enjoyed smoking them. The kiseru culture of Japan is a legacy of conversation enjoyment. As a communication tool, kiseru has essentially remained the same today as it was in the past.
Tanigawa Seijiro Shoten
Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts, FUREAIKAN
Credits: Story

Information provided by:
Tanigawa Seijiro Shoten & Kiyomizu Sannenzaka Museum

Directed by:
Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts

Text by:
Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts
Aruga Yuu( Department of Apparel and Space Design, Kyoto Women's University )
Iwata Mitsuki( Department of Apparel and Space Design, Kyoto Women's University )
Tamada Minai( Department of Apparel and Space Design, Kyoto Women's University )

English Translation by:
Eddy Y. L. Chang

Photo by:
Maezaki Shinya, Associate Professor, Kyoto Women's University

Movie by:
Takayama Kengo(A-PROJECTS

This exhibition is created by:
Aruga Yuu( Department of Apparel and Space Design, Kyoto Women's University
Iwata Mitsuki( Department of Apparel and Space Design, Kyoto Women's University
Tamada Minai( Department of Apparel and Space Design, Kyoto Women's University
Kasai Takae( Department of Contemporary Society, Kyoto Women's University

Project Director by:
Maezaki Shinya, Associate Professor, Kyoto Women's University


Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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