Beautiful, isn’t it?
Surely you recognize the kiseru!!
Fans of samurai and history-based Japanese films have undoubtedly seen one of these being contemplatively smoked during discussions of either covert military strategies or flirtatious banter leading to kimono-less frolics on the tatami.
My new Kiseru arrived today from Japan thanks to the excellent service I received from Living Shop Ando, one of the only places selling these authentic pipes internationally. (I’ll tell you about Ando below).
Here’s (almost) everything you ever wanted to know about traditional Japanese kiseru including what Japanese tobacco you put in it and how to get your own…
The term “kiseru” is said to have come (according to my SanSeido Dictionary) from the term “ksher” of the Khmer language of Cambodia. Since it is a “borrowed” word (from other cultures) “kiseru” is generally spelled using the katakana writing system. Interestingly enough, over time the kanji for “chimney” (enkan) has also taken on the (additional) pronunciation of “kiseru”. (Thus a dictionary search for the term will produce both versions.)
Kiseru are almost always comprised of a tube of bamboo (or some other wood) capped by a small stem and bowl made of either silver or bronze. If you search the web for “kiseru”, you will uncover many pictures of ornate Meiji and pre-Meiji kiseru pipes and accessories.
The bowl is so exceptionally small compared to Western standards that the endeavor of smoking a kiseru may seem fruitless. But please keep in mind that in Japanese culture sake is also imbibed from very tiny cups — and that has hardly stopped them (or me) from getting a buzz on.
As far as getting my hands on one of these: I simply could not find an online store in the USA selling kiseru (and I am familiar with the major pipe/tobacco sites here). And the ONLY (trustworthy) Japanese site I could find which (a) sold kiseru online and (b) would ship abroad, is:
Living Shop Ando (www.lsando.com) owned and operated by Mr. Takamitsu Ando.
Before ordering from the site I called Living Shop Ando and found that Ando-san could speak English and was very helpful. The quality of service and information I have received from Mr. Ando has been impeccable. Thus I have absolutely no reservation recommending him to you in the event you wish to purchase one of these pipes. (And I doubt you could buy a new one elsewhere.)
Just a heads up: one Yen (¥) now roughly corresponds to a US penny (¢) — given the credit card service and all that. Thus ¥1000 will equal roughly US $10.00 (and 45,000yen equals $450.00).
Here are some detailed views of my new kiseru: