Hiroyuki Tokutomi: Smooth Blowfish Cavalier (Hiro) Tobacco Pipe

Product Number: 002-141-0441

When describing a composition which cohesively balances many sources of inspiration, there are many tortured phrases which can be trotted out; "Walks the tight rope", "Successfully navigates the fine line", none of which would be apropos to this piece because of the sense of the precarious those phrases suggest. At first glance, this pipe amazes with a sense of cohesion and unity, of a solidity of execution that requires neither jumps of logic nor change-ups in underlying aesthetic value to justify its "being".

To fully appreciate this pipe it helps to look at its antecedents and follow the natural progression to this apotheosis of Toku-san's present work. To get a complete picture, one would have to travel back to Tokutomi's study under Danish Legend Sixten Ivarsson in 1974. But, for the sake of brevity and to reduce your urge to shoot the describer, we can make due with a glance from early 2003 forward.

This blowfish was created in early 2003, but is stylistically similar to the blowfish he was making previously. Toku-san's teacher, Sixten Ivarsson, was always insistent that the bisecting line be straight and on a single axis through a blowfish and on this matter Toku, with this pipe, adhered. From there, Tokutomi added subtle touches, such as having the large convex face of birdseye become concave upon approach to the main bisecting line, and carrying all of the lines of the bowl through the shank. It's important that we consider the artistic underpinnings of Sixten's requirement. The shape is fundamentally asymmetrical. Within the Western tradition, even with Modernists such as Sixten, it is important that asymmetry be grounded by some symmetry, lest the composition lack coherence.

This style of blowfish had genesis in August of 2003, and represents a striking departure from the preceding aesthetic. Tokutomi-san had a vision that asymmetry need not be anchored to the ridgidly symmetrical in order to have cohesion. Compositional chaos could be avoided and harmony achieved through the use of opposing forms, repetition of shapes, and inspired use of implied space. Strange that something as simple as allowing the shank of a fugu to help mimic the arc of a blowfish about to strike, and visually compensating with other compositional aspects (offsetting the curve of the shank with a higher oppositional bias on the rim) could so shatter aesthetic chains. Shatter they did, for this new freedom allowed Toku to begin creation of some of the most fabulous, thought provoking pipes the world has ever seen.

It's not often I get the opportunity to fire off a double clich in one sentence but, with Toku-san now outside the box, the genie was out of the bottle. Disks could now take on radically asymmetrical forms and remain aesthetically cohesive; Volcanoes could now truly mimic their geologic counterparts. In the case of this pipe, representing a style created in October or November of 2003, Tokutomi could now visually compensate to a huge rim bias to the right and create a blowfish which could balance on a fin, with its tail high in the air.

In December of 2004, Tokutomi-san began his work on a mind blowing approach to the cavalier shape. This piece found its foundation and finish subtly grounded within forms found in traditional Japanese arts and crafts (Katachi). The foot, bamboo, ferrule, ivory, and bit, all have recognizable antecedents within crafts created from the Edo period forward. This solid underpinning allowed for the placement of a highly organic blowfish bowl. The Cavalier Blowfish was born.

The current state of Tokutomi-san's Cavalier Blowfish first found its voice in September of 2005, and its apotheosis is before you. Viewed from several feet away, the eye never rests on any single element, but takes on the composition in its stunning totality. Intellectually, one understands that this pipe is a groundbreaking fusion of Katachi based symmetry. anchoring a wonderful expression of the organic; a celebration in finding beauty within the imperfect. The heart, however, sees no "fusion"; the soul only recognizes an uncanny, unified form that stands as it own unique aesthetic. Upon closer inspection, one has to marvel at the sense of cohesion and solidity that Hiroyuki Tokutomi achieved given the various material, color, and aesthetic elements employed. The vulcanite foot is quite katachi and, keeping within Toku's earlier vision, initiates a line that is carried all the way to the button. Painfully beautiful cross cut grain and birdseye grace one of the nicest bowls that I have ever laid eyes on, each form and shape perfectly kept in "wa" (harmony) with oppositional echo. Separated into a single element, the vulcanite bit, by itself, is a work of art. Added to the shank it becomes a critical aesthetic component, rather than merely a functional necessity.
-- Bear Graves

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Measurements & Other Details

  • Length: 7.89 in./200.41 mm.
  • Weight: 5.12 oz./145.15 g.
  • Bowl Height: 2.29 in./58.17 mm.
  • Chamber Depth: 1.88 in./47.75 mm.
  • Chamber Diameter: 0.79 in./20.07 mm.
  • Outside Diameter: 1.56 in./39.62 mm.
  • Stem Material: n/a
  • Filter: None
  • Shape: Cavalier
  • Finish: Smooth
  • Material: Briar
  • Country: Japan