Smoking in Japan: No Smoking Patrolnesnad, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Smoking in Japan: A Guide to Culture and Regulations

For me, smoking in Japan was always a part of its culture. Smokey bars, restaurants, and karaoke halls were all part of a night out with friends. The very first flight I ever took to Japan on All Nippon Airways (ANA) had a smoking section. Fast-forward 25+ years, and it’s an entirely different situation.


Brief History of Smoking in Japan

In Japan, smoking has a long and storied history. Introduced by Portuguese traders in the 16th century, tobacco quickly gained popularity among the Samurai class. By the 20th century, smoking had become deeply ingrained in Japanese society, with cigarette consumption peaking in the 1960s.

Goyomi Lady Smoking

Brooklyn Museum, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

However, recently, there has been a shift towards a smoke-free environment due to growing awareness of health risks associated with smoking.

New Regulations

To address public health concerns and to create a clean and pleasant environment for all, Japan has implemented strict smoking regulations. Since 2020, smoking is prohibited in large indoor public spaces, including restaurants, cafés, and bars with a seating capacity of over 100 people.

Smoking Box in Tokyo

amanderson2, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Smokers can only indulge in designated outdoor smoking areas or designated indoor smoking rooms, ensuring minimal impact on non-smokers. It is important to note that these regulations are actively enforced, and violators may face penalties.

Japan’s Smoking Culture

Apart from legal restrictions, Japan has a specific set of social rules governing smoking. One such rule is the importance of respecting others’ personal space. It’s considered impolite to smoke near non-smokers without their explicit consent. Additionally, smokers are expected to dispose of their cigarette butts properly, using designated ashtrays or personal ashtrays to avoid littering.

Tips for Visitors

It’s important to be mindful of the local customs and regulations if you wish to smoke, or vape. Keep in mind that smoking on the sidewalk, and in parks, is commonly prohibited.

Sidewalk No Smoking Sign

David Hall, CC BY 2.0 DEED, via flickr

If you’d like to smoke, or vape, we recommend finding a designated area marked by signs that indicate a smoking zone. These areas can be found at train stations, parks, or on designated streets. Because of this rule, most ryokan (Japanese-style inns) and hotels provide designated smoking rooms or areas for guests to smoke.

Smoking in Japan has undergone significant changes. Smoking is now prohibited in most public spaces. Respecting others’ personal space and disposing of cigarette butts properly are important social rules in Japan. As a visitor, it is crucial to be mindful of local customs and regulations. By being aware and respectful, you’ll have a better Japan experience.