Tobacco Pipe-selling & cleaning vendor (yatai), c. 1910.

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Tobacco pipe-selling & cleaning vendor (yatai), c. 1910.

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Tobacco culture, c. 1910

“Among those things introduced into Japan during the so-called Christian Century of Japan, from 1549 to 1642, were the influences seen in the manners of the tea ceremony (cha-no-yu), adopted partly from the posture of Roman Catholic priests at mass, and in the social custom of smoking, which was developed after the introduction of pipe smoking, which came to accompany tea drinking in Japan.

“Also linked with the tea ceremony were the Japanese kiseru (smoking pipe), tabako-bon (tobacco tray), tabako-ire (tobacco case or pouch) and other uniquely designed and highly sophisticated accessories that evolved from simple European smoking instruments.

“No references from the period indicate how pipe smoking was introduced in Japan, however, except for a few legendary stories written in the late seventeenth or the beginning of the eighteenth century … Smoking tobacco in a kiseru was already popular in Japan when the Dutch arrived in 1609. Dutch traders even supplied silver kiseru and finely shredded tobacco to their colleagues in other colonies or trading posts in Asia.

Onnanoko & Japanese tobacco pipe (kiseru), c. 1910.

“… [When] the nation was united after 1600 under Ieyasu, the first Shogun of Tokugawa, economic stability created a new class of rich merchants. While the warrior class was still permitted to wear swords – as a status symbol – townspeople, including merchants also sought symbols to denote their wealth. Many chose smoking utensils, such as the kiseru, tabako-bon, tabako-ire and kiseru-zutsu (pipe case).

“All types of fine arts and technologies were applied to create extremely luxurious smoking artefacts … In 1867, when the Imperial Restoration abolished the samurai class, the craftsmen who had decorated swords applied their skills to decorating kiseru or making buckles for tabako-ire.”

Smoke: A Global History of Smoking, edited by Sander L. Gilman & Xun Zhou, 2004

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