How to use and clean your kiseru

 

 

How to use a kiseru

Take a pinch of tobacco rolled into a small ball about the size of the "hizara" (the bowl of a kiseru). Traditionally, it is lighted on with embers in the "hi-ire",the fireplace of a tabako-bon. Of course, it's possible to simply use matches or even a lighter. Kiseru matchesThere is also a Japanese brand of matches specifically for kiseru. Those are quite long matches which is convenient for kiseru use : the rest of the match uncalcined being used for scraping the bowl after smoking.

After lighting the kiseru, take a few puffs, and then, to get rid of the ashes stucked into the bowl, tap the "gankubi" on the edge of the ashtray "hai-otoshi" of the tabako-bon. If you use an ordinary ashtray take care not to damage the gankubi. In Japan, "hai-otoshi" are usually made of wood which is softer than a metal or glass ashtray. Some also tap directly gankubi against the palm of their hand.

Some people fear that the small size of the kiseru bowl is not convenient to use, but during centuries Japanese enjoyed the kiseru way of smoking tobacco, and the size of the bowl has never been a problem. The "kizami" tobacco is particularly suitable, but Western tobacco can also be smoked in kiseru. Below, a video showing that kiseru can last about 15 minutes and can be smoked with Western tobacco. In this demonstration, it is Peterson Sherlock Holmes tobacco  that is used but other tobacco can be used. (click on the image to watch the video on Youtube)

 

 

 

How to hold a kiseru

 

Prise en main du kiseru

There are naturally no rules on how one should hold a kiseru... Yet, the above image shows four traditional ways to hold a kiseru allocated to different categories of individuals : (1) 町人 chonin "townspeople", (2) 博徒 bakuto "tenants of dens", (3) 武士 bushi "samurai", (4) 農民 Nomin "peasants".
In fact, this is how kabuki (Japanese traditional theater) actors should hold a kiseru while they play these roles...

 

Recently Japanese also use kiseru in different ways:

Kiseru experiencing a revival in Japan among both younger and older people, some of them have found original ways to use kiseru:

- Cutting a cigarette (approx. 2 cm) and pushing it directly in the bowl "hi-zara".
- Using only the beak of the kiseru "suikuchi" as a cigarette-holder.

 

How to to clean a kiseru 

 

Naturally, it is more pleasant to smoke with a clean kiseru. As for any other pipes, it is recommended to clean the kiseru after each use.

Usually, the bamboo pipe "Rau-kiseru" can be replaced if necessary: metal tips are simply nested (without glue or other) which allows to 'dismantle' the kiseru and change the bamboo if damaged. Tips are thus not permanently attached to the pipe, except for "all metal" kiseru, which parts are welded together.

 

In the past, as shown on the woodblock-print below, people used washi (traditional Japanese paper) to clean the kiseru. Washi that was produced at that time was very strong but now it is the quality is not so good and the frays in the kiseru, leaving small pieces of paper that eventually clog the kiseru.

 

Traditionnal way to clean a kiseru
Now, it is recommended run a pipe cleaner back and forth through the stem to clean it. Pipe cleaners do not fray and can absorb moisture and remove dirt and tar. See kiseru-cleaners.


Metal parts

 

Some metals tend to oxidize over time. This is unavoidable but it is not a big problem. Just use ordinary metal polish and soft dry cloth. It is better to do it from time to time regularly...