Smokers escape the gas chamber

January 14th, 2010 by Felicity Hughes

A crowded smoking area outside Shibuya Station (Masahiro Hayata photo)

A crowded smoking area outside Shibuya Station (Masahiro Hayata photo)

Anyone who has seen the smoking rooms in many of Tokyo’s main stations will know that things aren’t looking up for Japan’s puffing population. These Plexiglass rooms are so noxious that they’ve been nicknamed “the gas chambers” by commuters. Naturally, smokers can’t be choosy these days. Hounded off the streets in most wards and banned from lighting up on train platforms, tobacco imbibers are only allowed to light up in specially designated areas.

Fortunately for them, JT (Japan Tobacco) is very keen to keep Japan’s smoking population at profitable levels. For the past few years the company has been pleading with smokers to practice good manners and follow the “smokers’ style.” And if you’re in any doubt as how to be a good smoker, the company’s Web site is full of useful tips, smoking games, smoking history and suggestions on where to have a pleasant smoke.

In addition to outside smoking areas, the company has gone to the trouble of establishing “Smoking Lounges,” café-style spaces where smokers can puff away without having to shell out for a coffee. JT’s first “Smoking Lounge” opened at Narita airport in January 2006 but more have been popping up around Tokyo since. Naturally, there’s a catch to these “free” spaces. If you visit JT’s smoking lounge in Roppongi, for example, you’ll be given a sales pitch for Kent cigarettes (most likely by a young woman), asked to fill out a questionnaire and given  a free sample of Kent to try (one cigarette per person). Each smoking space appears to be promoting a different JT brand. JT also has the retro-looking SmoCar – a mobile smoker’s space that shows up at events nationwide and promotes smoking manners.

While an increasing number of cafes and restaurants are now closing their doors to smokers,  Cafe Tobacco, which opened its first store in Shimbashi last year, is catering exclusively to ciggie lovers (and offering exceptionally bitter coffee blends to boot). More smoker-friendly spots can be found in JT’s gourmet section, which  concentrates on a different metro area each month. The guide also includes outdoor spots where a peaceful smoking experience can be enjoyed. This month the guide is spotlighting my home town of Nakano and JT recommends that smokers head for Momijiyama Park, which has a lovely balcony overlooking a quiet pond surrounded by flaming red momiji trees. I can testify: It’s a prime location for a breather, and a far cry from Japan Railway’s gas chambers.

Photo credit: Mashiro Hayata/Flickr

Tags:

Comments are closed.

RSS

Recent Posts

  • 100 years of Japanese beauty in one minute

    Cut is setting its lens on Japan as it shows the dramatic changes Japanese women have gone through in the past century.

  • Studio Ghibli on a roll with licenses for new toys

    Nibariki has new wind-up toys inspired by Studio Ghibli’s “My Neighbor Totoro” and “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.”

  • ‘Japan Sumo Cup’ is possibly the most Japanese thing ever

    In this rhythm game, players choose a real sumo player, ride an actual race horse and compete against characters from “Street Fighter.”

  • YouTubers in Japan with 100,000 fans and counting

    YouTube threw a big celebration for more than 20 YouTubers living in Japan who have over 100,000 subscribers.

  • Finding laughs in translations that have lost the plot

    The Orikaeshi Honyaku Dictionary site, which boasts the catchphrase “from Japanese to Japanese,” roughly translates as “Chinese whispers.”

  • Japan tricks out the Halloween treats

    Halloween is a time to carve pumpkins, enjoy a few scares and, most importantly, shovel as much candy as humanly possible into one’s own mouth. While the practice of door-to-door trick-or-treating may not be a thing in Japan, the custom of eating special Halloween snacks certainly translates. Plenty of companies, both overseas and domestic, are […]

  • Ginza Cozy Corner takes dessert into hyperdrive with ‘Star Wars’ cakes

    One Japanese confectionary vendor is about to find the Force deep within a sweet tie-up. Ahead of the December release of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” Ginza Cozy Corner, which has outlets nationwide, has made a line of “Star Wars” sweets that are truly out of this world. The treats themselves are all based on people […]

  • Warning: This viral video of high school girls might make you blush

    Cosmetic company Shiseido has recently uploaded a YouTube video that is blowing viewers’ minds with a bona fide twist. In the promo video, titled “High School Girl? — The Makeup Secrets of High School Girls,” the camera weaves through a classroom full of drop-dead cute young women who pout and wink like true pop idols. […]

  • Sharp dials up the fan service to celebrate 20 years of ‘Evangelion’

    For those who have always dreamed of owning an Evangelion robot, this might be the closest you get. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the popular “Neon Genesis Evangelion” animated series, Sharp is releasing a special smartphone that pays homage to the show both in the device’s hardware and software. The phone itself is detailed […]

  • Tokyo plugs into Google Play Music

    If you haven’t heard the latest news from Google Play, you may have missed your opportunity to tune into a Google Play Billboard. From Oct. 8-24, music lovers can head over to Shibuya to, literally, plug into a selection of over 3,500 songs. The Google Play Billboard is meant to give visitors a much-needed chance […]