Smoking Etiquette In Japan
Did you know that before all the strict smoking laws in Japan, there was a thriving tobacco culture in the country between the 1950s and the 1980s that even the Japanese government officials supported back then?
If you are a smoker, you probably would have found that period of Japan a paradise. Imagine being able to light a cigarette anytime, anywhere, without having to worry about fines and penalties. It surely was a different time.
However, nowadays, smoking has become restricted across the country. You cannot just smoke while walking down a street, or while waiting for your bus or train. Everywhere, no smoking signs have become common, and people who are caught violating the law are going to face fines and penalties.
If you are visiting Japan soon, and are wondering what the smoking rules and regulations in the country are these days, read on for more information.
What kinds of cigarettes can you buy in Japan?
If you just can’t live a day without having a smoke, you are in luck, because you can find many places around Japan where you can buy cigarettes. Thus, there is no need for you to stuff your luggage with cigarettes to last you for your entire trip.
In major cities, like Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Sapporo, Hiroshima, and Fukuoka, as well as in the smaller towns in the countryside, there are convenience stores (or konbini), tobacco shops, department stores, and other shops that carry different brands of internationally and locally made cigarettes.
Some popular international brands include Marlboro, Kool, Davidoff, and Black Devil, and they are sold at varying prices, starting from about 500 yen. On the other hand, some popular local brands include Mevius and Seven Stars, and they are usually available for sale at a price of 400 yen to 500 yen. They all come in a variety of special flavors, such as standard menthol and blueberry mint.
How do you buy cigarettes in Japan?
To buy cigarettes in Japan, you should present an ID, specifically your passport. For foreigners in Japan who are residents, they can show their residence card or driver’s license instead. You are required to do so because there is a law in place that says only those who are older than 20 years old are legally allowed to purchase cigarettes. Your passport contains your date of birth, so the seller will be able to verify that you are of age at the time that you make the transaction.
Where can you smoke in Japan?
It is essential that you only smoke in designated smoking areas in Japan. You can easily find one of these places because they are clearly marked, with a large sign featuring a cigarette image on it. They are very common outside train stations, parks, convenience stores, department stores, and other business establishments. There are also ones that are situated inside train stations, and they are kind of like a small-sized, enclosed room with air filters, air conditioning, ashtrays, and others.
Can you smoke in restaurants, bars, and other similar places?
Many restaurants, bars, and dining and entertainment establishments have no smoking policies. However, there are also many that have designated smoking rooms to accommodate their smoking customers.
Before your trip, it is advised that you do some research on which places offer smoking areas, so that you do not have to waste your time in Japan going from one izakaya to another, or one coffee shop to another, checking if they will let you, a smoker, enjoy their food or beverages while you smoke.
Can you smoke in your hotel room?
Before your trip, when looking online for hotels to stay at, you should use the hotel listings website’s ‘smoking room’ filter to only get results that show hotels and other accommodation options that have smoking rooms available.
In Japan, smoking rooms are very common at business hotels, and they typically are offered at the same price as non-smoking rooms. Thus, you will not have to worry about having to pay more to be able to smoke.
Also, many hostels and other lodgings have smoking areas in their vicinities where you can spend your smoke break, and maybe meet fellow travelers to make sightseeing plans together for the rest of your trip.
Can you smoke on public transportation?
In general, smoking on public transportation in Japan is prohibited. The majority of train and bus services around the country are strictly to be kept smoke-free. They have signs and posters that remind commuters about the smoking laws.
But, on one particular Shinkansen line, there are smoking cars available. The Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen service has smoking cars where passengers who smoke can choose to stay during the journey. The cabins are well-ventilated and secure to ensure that the smoke is not going to do any damage, and to keep the other non-smoking cars free of smoke.
What are the punishments you might face if you get caught breaking Japan’s smoking laws?
The punishments for violating the smoking laws in Japan vary per city or region, and they are usually fines that cost a few thousand yen.
If you are caught smoking in a non-designated smoking area in Tokyo, you have to pay a penalty that can cost between 2,000 yen and 5,000 yen. While in Nagoya, the fine is 2,000 yen.
In the Kansai region, you must pay up 1,000 yen if you are caught smoking on the streets and other non-smoking spots. This rule applies to the city of Kyoto, Osaka, and others.
In Fukuoka, if you smoke while walking or biking, or at the non-smoking areas of Hakata Station and Tenjin, you will have to pay a fine of up to 20,000 yen.
Up north, in Sapporo, there are smoking areas found adjacent to some buildings, parks, and others, and if you smoke outside of these zones, you are going to be slapped a fine of 1,000 yen.
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