Posts Tagged ‘tobacco’

Ippuku: Tokyo’s new pay-as-you-go smoking space

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

An Ippuku pay smoking space in Tokyo's Ochanomizu

An Ippuku pay smoking space in Ochanomizu. (Rebecca Milner photos)

Tokyo has taken the opposite tack from many Western cities when it comes to curbing tobacco use in public space: smoking is banned on the streets but not inside bars and restaurants. Well, almost banned — special smoking areas, usually in front of train stations, corral smokers into tight quarters around a few communal ashtrays (and inside a haze of smoke). These smoking zones are so unpleasant, they’ve been nicknamed “gas chambers.”

Hikarie smoking space

Hikarie’s clubby smoking space.

Recently, however, we’ve seen a smattering of more attractive smoking spaces — and not just ones created by tobacco companies. The new Hikarie building in Shibuya has what could be called a deluxe smoking lounge. There are benches to sit on, outlets to charge your phone, and, in the smoking space on the 11th floor, moody lighting. Most impressive however is the degree of ventilation — the air isn’t deplorably smoky.

All of this conspires to position smoking not as a fact-of-life or a dirty habit, but rather as a quality of life issue — smoking should ultimately be a pleasant experience. It’s the same logic that results in Japan having some of the nicest public restrooms in the world, with heated toilet seats and rows of mirrors (complete with hooks for hanging handbags and a ledge for holding make-up pouches and hairbrushes).

Starting this summer, a new venture is betting that, where such deluxe quarters do not yet exist for free, smokers would be willing to pay a small premium for that pleasant experience. Ippuku, which means “a puff,” is a pay-as-you-go smoking area. It features much of the same amenities as the space in Hikarie: padded rails to sit on, tables to prop up a drink, outlets for phone charging, and continuously circulating air.

Continue reading about smoking lounges for paying customers →

Can mah-jongg and pachinko parlors clean up their acts?

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

Healthy Mah-jongg is getting more popular with young players who've discovered the game online

When we think of mah-jongg we generally conjure up images of middle-aged guys playing in dingy rooms, filled with thick blue smoke. So we definitely took note when we heard of  Kien Mah-Jongg Story, a new parlor that is offering a refreshingly smoke-free environment to its customers.

“Fewer people smoke and there’s a lot of people who hate smoking,” said company president Akira Aiba in a recent interview with Shibuya Keizai Shimbun. The atmosphere at Kien (no-smoking) Mah-jongg Story is “low key and chic” and designed to attract a younger, more fashionable, crowd in their 20s and 30s. Though the mahjong world of the past was predominantly male, Internet mahjong sites have turned on a new generation of younger female players.

The trend isn’t limited to the younger generation. According to a recent article in the Telegraph, Japan’s elderly generation are also opting to play the game in a healthier environment. Kenkou (healthy) Mah-jongg parlors (many of which are owned by Galapagos), where drinking, gambling and smoking are forbidden, have opened all over the country and are attracting a mainly female, elderly clientele.

Pachinko, another gaming industry that’s traditionally associated with chain smokers, appears to be taking steps — baby steps — toward cleaning up its act. You can be forgiven for thinking that pachinko parlors require their patrons to smoke, but there are actually a few places of refuge for non-smokers and their numbers are growing. Furthermore, there’s been talk in the Diet of extending the public smoking ban to places such as pachinko parlors, though you can bet that the owners and the tobacco industry will put up a fight.

What do you think? Should the smokers be kicked off the premises?

Last chance for cheap smokes

Friday, September 24th, 2010

Red Bull and smokes

Buy today or pay the price tomorrow

To smokers in some Western countries, Tokyo’s looming all-time-high tax hike is a pittance – with prices increasing by ¥110 to ¥140, cigarettes here will still cost less than half as much as in New York or London. But everything’s relative, and an increase from ¥300 to over ¥400 has smokers planning strategies and convenience stores cashing in.

For years, single or double packs of cigarettes have come packaged with trinkets, from directly useful products like lighters and pocket ashtrays to more tangential goodies like sparkly makeup mirrors and canned coffee. (What’s that? You wish someone had compiled a site with photos of all the trinkets that come packaged with Japanese cigarettes for the last 10 years, sortable by brand or by type of giveaway? Done. ) Now some cartons, packs of 10 boxes, come with tote bags (buy three boxes, get a bag), the better to haul the goods home with. And people are stocking up. Convenience store cigarette sales this month have been double the sales of last September, according to Jiji Press. At Lawson, some 30% of cigarette sales have been in cartons. Signs for advance orders of cartons are ubiquitous at tobacco shops, convenience stores and even supermarkets. Orders made before the end of September will be charged at the pre-hike price, even if the cigarettes are picked up after the beginning of October.

There seems to be increased interest lately on Internet message board 2chan.net, too, in private importers like my-tobacco.com and Gala Store.  However,  people buying through these sites seem to have had varying levels of satisfaction with the buying experience, with some having to pay tax on delivery.

Lawmakers say the purpose of the increase, and future increases already being eyed, is to reduce the number of smokers and cut down on the 100,000 deaths caused by smoking each year in Japan. While anecdotally some people are saying this increase is enough to prompt them to quit, some are taking a different tack: Kyodo News quoted an economist as saying he’d stockpiled 1,000 packs already.

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