Smoking in Japan

Japan used to be a smoker’s heaven, with cheap cigarettes and being allowed to smoke everywhere. These days the numbers of smokers is declining and the public policy regarding smoking is changing rapidly, and rightfully so.

New laws prohibit smoking in many public areas e.g. main shopping streets. In very popular areas you will find separate outside smoking areas where you are still allowed to smoke.

The lack of trash cans on the streets with the Japanese desire to keep the streets clean will make you feel guilty if you smoke on the streets. Smoking outside is frowned upon in general. You’re not supposed to walk around with a cigarette. Signs depicting children and asthma patients encourage you to do the right thing.

Strangely enough, in a lot of restaurants and coffee places there is a smokers and non-smokers section. You can smoke in bars.

Voices are rising to ban smoking in bars and restaurants by the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, since Japan is one of the last remaining developed nations where you can still smoke in these establishments.

On the Shinkansen trains (bullet trains) there are separate smoking “rooms” between some wagons. They’re very small and smell dirty.

You can buy cigarettes in convenience stores. There are also vending machines on the street but they require a special pass to activate and are thus reserved for the Japanese only.