Today, finding a kiseru exhibiting the quality of the one depicted here is a rare feat; finding a skilled Japanese artisan to duplicate this finery is a yet more rare feat. On close inspection, the viewer should be able to appreciate the delicate, precision craftsmanship of chiseling, engraving, encrustation, surfacing, and applying accents and adornment to these utensils of smoke by skilled artisans long ago. One can read in various sources that the kiseru is an opium pipe; nothing could be further from the truth! It was always a pipe for tobacco.
From the James Lee Dick collection. Kiseru pipes are an Asian variation on the smoking pipe that has been around since the sixteenth century. The small bowl size can be deceiving in that a small ball of fine-grained tobacco can last a long time in these small bowls. The substantial amount of decoration on this pipe indicates that it was originally owned by somebody within the social elite of Japanese society.
(Courtesy of the Colorado Springs, Colorado, Pioneers Museum)