Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Kiseru - きせる
I asked the shop's owner how to prepare the pipe and he said just brushing the inside with a pipe cleaner was all I needed to do. No soap or water needed. Guessing from past smoking experiences and other sources, I packed the bowl by wetting my fingers on my tongue then pinched out a bit of the tobacco and rolled it into a pea sized ball. Like a cigarette you inhale kiseru tobacco but not as deeply as you would a cigarette. Lighting and smoking must be done gently as if you suck too hard you might pull ash into your mouth. You also need to be careful of blowing back into the kiseru as the lit tobacco will pop out of the bowl quite easily. Although the first few tries are a bit awkward at best, getting to understand the method of smoking the kiseru becomes quite easy. It's also important to pay attention to how much is left in the bowl. Sucking in ash is quite degusting. The perfered method of emptying the bowl is to tap it firmly aginst your hand. I would guess that hitting it against an ashtray might damage the pipe fitting.
Besides the taste and the pleasant feeling you get from the tobacco I also like the kiseru because it takes time. The process of smoking becomes much more important. It's not so fast and easy as a cigarette. You cannot do this while driving or walking. It requires patience and time. In my busy rushed life I found the time it takes to pack and smoke the kiseru quite relaxing. It can be unnerving smoking the kiseru because everyone, Japanese and foreigners alike will look at you. I'm not sure if it has a bad image, but in a country of smokers this will really make you stand out.
This blog has a quite interesting write up about the kiseru along with the etymology of the word and a review of an online store that sells and ships kiseru world wide. The shops webpage in English, here, also has some links to some interesting videos about kiseru although all in Japanese.
Kiseru also has another meaning in Japanese. Kiserunori means cheating on train fare by buying the first and last parts of your journey and riding the longest most expensive part in the middle for free. This mimics the construction of the kiseru with gold, or metal, on each end with bamboo in the middle.