[Eishi’s Japanese Trivia 1] The Origin of “Kiseru”/ Japanese Pipe

Hi all, Eishi here!!! Hope you are having a fantastic day!!!

This morning I was doing a little research for my rakugo and encountered a very interesting trivia so decided to share it here 🙂

Have you ever seen traditional Japanese pipes before?

They look like the one in the photo above, and they are called “kiseru” (キセル). They were already in use in Japan in early 17th century.

It is usually spelled in the katakana writing system, which suggests that it is a foreign word, but I’d never thought it actually was… until today!!!

As it can also be written in kanji or Chinese characters (“煙管”: 煙=smoke; 管=pipe, tube), I had never doubted that it was a uniquely Japanese word.

I was completely wrong!!!

First of all, a Japanese pipe can be broken down into 3 different parts.

The metal tip where you put shredded tobacco is called “gankubi” (がんくび 雁首), which literally means “goose neck”. (* Technically, the very tip of gankubi where tobacco is put is called hizara or “fire dish”.)

The middle part, which is usually made of bamboo, is called “rao” or “rau” (らう 羅宇).

The metal mouth piece is called “suikuchi” (すいくち 吸い口).

Now, the words gankubi and suikuchi make sense as Japanese, but rao doesn’t.

Rao is actually from “Raosu” (Laos) as bamboo for Japanese pipes were often sourced from Laos.


I have learned that the word kiseru itself is from the Laotian language!

We learn something new everyday!

2 thoughts on “[Eishi’s Japanese Trivia 1] The Origin of “Kiseru”/ Japanese Pipe

  1. Pingback: A Samurai Who Migrated to Thailand 400 Years Ago | English Rakugo NZ

  2. Pingback: [Eishi’s Japanese Trivia 2] Chinese Word Used in Edo? | English Rakugo NZ

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