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2024-06-17 / 2014-08-23

Past Exhibitions

Smoking Paraphernalia -Pipe, Pipe case and Tabacco Pouch



It is said that the custom of smoking came to Japan with the so-called “Nanbanjin” (the Portuguese) in the late 16th century. Once arriving at Nagasaki, smoking became very popular rapidly in Kyoto without passing through local cities in between Nagasaki and Kyoto. Tobacco immediately began to be cultivated, and pipes themselves came to be made in Japan. At the beginning the pipes produced were large, but were made smaller over time, and eventually they had a role as an accessory as well.

Early on, the material for pipes was mainly brass or iron, but elaborately worked precious metals such as gold or silver also came to be seen. Pipe cases for carrying pipes or pouches for tobacco, both luxuriously decorated and worthy of aesthetic regard, came to be produced in large quantities. Among both men and women these “sagemono” for smoking, hanging from kimono sash at the hip, functioned as fashionable and important ornament. 

In Genroku (the late 17th century), because of layer after layer of sumptuary laws, some of these extravagances were secretly produced, while other objects, though apparently plain on the surface, had through the originality of the craftsmen who made them been elaborately decorated in areas hidden from sight below the surface.  The world of the sophisticate, the so-called “iki,” was expressed in the aesthetic sense developed under such a control.

However, it was after the Meiji era that spectacular pipe cases were to be made.  Once the Edo shogunate had collapsed and the sumptuary laws been abolished, and then the Haito Edict, which banned the wearing of swords, was promulgated, the craftsmen for sword-fittings, who formerly had depended upon samurai for their living, began to make metal-fittings for “sagemono”.  With their distinguished techniques and artistic taste they constantly created marvelous works.  Among these metal workers were Kano Natsuo and Unno Shomin, the greatest metal craftsmen of the day.

It gives us great pleasure to be able to put on this exhibit of smoking paraphernalia by the greatest metal craftsmen.

Information on the main pieces