Smoking in Japan – An useful guide for foreigner (2022)

For smokers planning to go to Japan in the near future, it is vital to update the country’s smoking rules and etiquette before your departure. Otherwise, you may face a steep fine or awkward staring look from the local if you break the rule.

Here’s all the location guide about smoking in Japan, that you need to know before your trip:

Content

  • 1 People do smoke in Japan
  • 2 But consider where you smoke
  • 3 Age matters when it comes to buying cigarette
  • 4 Tax is high, so is price
  • 5 FAQs

People do smoke in Japan

In fact, smoking used to be a big culture in this country during the 50s and 80s. There was a time when the rate of man smoking in Japan reached 80% (in 1966) and the government was even supportive of them.

Smoking in Japan – An useful guide for foreigner (1)

20% of Japan population are smokers.

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However, the situation has shifted in the recent 15 years, when young people are aware, from an early age, that smoking carries some health risks. This leads to the fact that only 30% of men and 10% of women are smokers in Japan today. Among them, the youth tend to go for smokeless cigarettes or electronic cigarettes because it is cleaner, cheaper, and leaves no smell.

Well, basically, if you get the habit of smoking, don’t worry, Japan is quite a smoker friendly nation.

But consider where you smoke

Here comes the bad news. Smoking is prohibited in most outdoor and even indoor (from April 2020) public locations in Japan. You will be able to smoke only in designated smoking zones, which can be found in the park, malls, department stores, hospitals, some streets, and buildings. These places are usually quite noticeable due to a big sign with a cigarette picture or drawing. They can provide ashtrays, and the indoor ones have air filters or air conditioning.

Smoking in Japan – An useful guide for foreigner (2)

Designate smoking areas

(Video) What no one tells foreigners living in Japan

There is also a ban on smoking in public transportation such as buses, trains, and of course airplanes. Though, you can book a seat in well-ventilated smoking cabins on many trains along the Osaka and Fukuoka, Tokaido/Sanyo Shinkansen between Tokyo.

What about restaurants, coffee shops, and bars?

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Smoking in restaurants

If you want to smoke while eating some delicious Japanese dishes, treating yourself some top quality local brews, or chilling with a cup of coffee or tea, it is pretty easy to find an establishment that provides designated indoor smoking areas.

Smoking in Japan – An useful guide for foreigner (4)

Smoking sign in font of restaurants and café

There are cigar bars, cafes, and restaurants fully for smokers, but they are extremely uncommon. These exempted establishments are obliged to put up signs at the front to indicate that they allow smoking. Well, the most convenient way to find them is through dining recommendation websites like Tripadvisor or tabelog. You simply search for smoking café/ restaurant or click on the smoking button (like in the picture below).

And in Hotels?

Some hotels and other types of accommodation for rent in Japan such as shared houses or hostels contain both smoking and non-smoking rooms. The advice is to do research online first through hotel booking websites. Just make sure to tick the “smoking room” box in the filter to search for smoking rooms. Then, you may want to book in advance if you go in the travel season.

Age matters when it comes to buying cigarette

The law prohibits the purchase and smoking of cigarettes to persons under the age of twenty. Now, you are above that age, you still need something to prove that. How to prove depends on your purchase place, so let’s have a look at the two most popular ones:

Vending machines

You can also buy tobacco from numerous vending machines all over Japan. But you will need to take a further step to make that possible — by acquiring a driver’s license in Japan or a Taspo card.

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Smoking in Japan – An useful guide for foreigner (6)

Tobacco vending machine

Again, to end underage smoking, Japan’s government introduced a program named Taspo. The applicants have to come in for a detailed age verification procedure to make sure that only those who are 20 years old or older are free to buy cigarettes from vending machines.

A photo identification card will be issued once you have verified your age successfully. This card is Taspo, which you should tap onto the readers in the vending machines to buy cigarettes. Find out more about “Taspo” card application, by visiting the “Taspo” website.

Yet, you need to currently live in Japan to apply for a Taspo. Therefore, if you’re a short-term visitor, you should give up hope buying from a vending machine.

Watch the following video to find out how to buy cigarettes of different brands from a vending machine in Japan:

Convenience store and others

Besides vending machines, you can also purchase tobacco from tobacco stores and almost all convenience stores in Japan.

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Buy cigarette in a convenience store

In a convenience store, every tobacco has a number. Generally, you will order at the check-out with the number. You can order with the brand name as well, but the number is better as the cashier may not be fluent in tobacco names. Saying that in Japanese like this 「〜番ください。(–ban kudasai, Number—please.)」Sometimes, expect to be asked about your age, just show your passport and you will be fine.

Smoking in Japan – An useful guide for foreigner (8)

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Tobacco store

In Japan, there are tobacco specialty stores throughout cities and small towns. These stores are likely to sell rare varieties you won’t be able to find anywhere else. One plus point of these stores is the retro feature which makes them awesome for the photoshoot.

Buying cigarettes from a tobacco store (when you don’t have TASPO card)

Tax is high, so is price

Of course not as much as in Australia or Singapore but Japan tobacco taxes have experienced a continuous rise from the beginning of this century to 2018. Today, a pack of cigarettes with an average price of 450 yen, comprises at least 50% or more than 250 yen tax. Please note that the tax rate on heat-not-burn or electronic tobacco is three-time lower than traditional cigarettes. That is why they are usually cheaper.

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Tobacco price

Regarding only the conventional cigarettes, the cost already varies vastly. Two of the most favored brands are Mevius and Seven Stars, which currently cost 490 yen ($5) per 20-cigarette carton. While “third-class” products such as Golden Bat, Echo, and Wakaba, price is between 330 ($3) and 360 ($3.41), the cigarette of choice for Kim Jong-Un, 7.27 costs almost $50 for a pack.

FAQs

1. Why is smoking popular in Japan?

Smoking in Japan – An useful guide for foreigner (10)

Japanese smoking

For generations of Japanese, smoking has been a symbol of manhood and a method for concentration in work. Obviously, the government’s share in the prosperity of the tobacco industry had some impact on the fact that smoking used to be totally unregulated. Therefore, in many years, most spaces including homes, offices, cafés, restaurants, trains, and theatres allowed smoking until recently. Because the country aimed to protect people from second-hand smoking especially during Tokyo Olympic, they have taken in place a law ban on indoor smoking.

2. Can you smoke on the streets in Japan?

Smoking in Japan – An useful guide for foreigner (11)

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Smoking ban on the street

No. Many cities ban smoking on the streets, especially in crowded districts except in designated smoking zones. If you cannot see any, you can look for a restaurant or cafe. You will often find private spaces, thus free to designate smoking rooms

3. Is smoking allowed in Japan?

Smoking in Japan – An useful guide for foreigner (12)

Pay attention to the smoking or no-smoking sign

Yes and no. The government doesn’t ban smoking itself, but the place where you smoke is another matter. As we mentioned above, you definitely don’t want to smoke in public destinations both outdoor and indoor like streets or restaurants.

4. Can you drop cigarette butts in Japan?

Smoking in Japan – An useful guide for foreigner (13)

Don’t litter the cigarette butt

It is not as strict as Singapore, but generally, it is considered impolite to dispose of cigarette butts unconsciously in Japan. This is not really about smoking, but more about preserving Japan as one of the cleanest countries on earth. So, never throw your cigarette butt on the ground, find a trash bin to put them. Or carry a pocket side ashtray, and if there isn’t one, you can often purchase pocket ashtrays in 100 yen shops.

5. What is the penalty if you break the smoking law?

Smoking in Japan – An useful guide for foreigner (14)

Smoking rules violation penalties

Japanese cities have various sets of smoking rules and regulations and according to penalties for offenders. In Tokyo, for instance, if you are caught smoking in non-smoking areas, your punishment will range from 2,000 yen to 5,000 yen. In Osaka, the government has separated smoking and non-smoking areas. If you smoke on sidewalks and other areas in the non-smoking zones, you will receive a fine of 1,000 yen. In Kyoto, punishment for those smoking on footpaths and streets is 1,000 yen. In Nagoya, the fine rate is 2,000 yen. In Sapporo, the regulation states that people must discard cigarette packs and butts properly to not imperil the pedestrians and the environment. If you violate the law, you will get a fine of 1,000 yen.

FAQs

Is smoking OK in Japan? ›

At the national level, smoking is not restricted or prohibited by law in indoor public places, workplaces, or on public transport, although in practice many such places restrict or ban smoking.

What happens if you smoke in Japan? ›

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.

Should tourists bow in Japan? ›

Do bow appropriately. Bowing is a very important part of Japanese culture so it's best to mirror the locals. There are different bows used for different situations, but as a tourist in Japan the most useful bows you can use are when you're: Meeting and greeting people.

Is smoking socially acceptable in Japan? ›

Unlike in many countries, Japan traditionally had outdoor smoking regulations with more lenient indoor smoking regulations. Outdoor smoking is frowned upon on public streets and local governments typically have bylaws banning smoking on busy public streets.

Can you smoke and walk in Japan? ›

Smoking while walking is banned throughout Japan, and there are many places where simply smoking outside is banned as well. Therefore, please refrain from smoking while walking. In addition to causing harm to those around you, you could ever incur a fine.

Can you smoke on your balcony in Japan? ›

Basic rules about smoking in Japanese apartments

Basically, for most apartments in Japan, you are not allowed to smoke indoors and in your balcony, as well as in communal spaces such as corridors and the entrance hall.

Can you smoke in hotel rooms in Japan? ›

In April 2020, a new smoking law, which prohibits indoor smoking, fully came into effect. The exceptions are private homes, hotel rooms, cigar bars and some small-sized restaurants and bars that were opened before April 2020.

Can you smoke on the street in Tokyo? ›

You can smoke in the city, but you'll have to be careful about where you do so. Certain streets may ban the activity, and a new law ahead of the 2020 Olympics now prohibits you from smoking in some bars and restaurants as well.

Why do people smoke so much in Japan? ›

Smoking for that generation in Japan was a luxury and a way of being social, so all spaces – offices, homes, cafés, restaurants, trains, and theatres – were all smoker friendly, needless to say, the government's vested interest in the prosperity of the tobacco industry had something to do with smoking being completely ...

Do Japanese bow to foreigners? ›

Most Japanese do not expect foreigners to know proper bowing rules, and a nod of the head is usually sufficient. Shaking hands is uncommon, but exceptions are made, especially in international business situations. At formal meetings, business cards are exchanged during the introductions.

How do you apologize in Japan? ›

ごめんなさい (Gomen Nasai) This is the standard way to say “sorry” in Japanese, and you can use it in most situations. ごめんなさい (gomen nasai) is the polite way to say “I'm sorry,” but you can make it more casual, too.

Is it rude to point with chopsticks? ›

Pointing with chopsticks is very rude, just like pointing a finger at someone. Make sure to avoid doing this.

Is smoking a big thing in Japan? ›

TOBACCO USE AND TRENDS

Smoking rates among men (27.1% or 13.7 million) are higher versus women (7.6% or 4.1 million). 26.1% of Japanese smokers aged 20 and above reported a desire to quit smoking, while 60% expressed a desire to reduce the number of cigarettes smoked or did not want to quit at all (Figure 3).

How much does a pack of cigarettes cost in Japan? ›

In Japan, a pack of cigarettes costs around 400 to 450 yen. About 65% of the price is tobacco tax, which is increasing each year.

Which country smokes the most? ›

Nauru has the highest smoking rates in the world at 52.1%. Oddly, women smoke slightly more than men in Nauru (52.6% to 51.7%), which is somewhat of an outlier.

Can you smoke in bars in Tokyo? ›

Japan's ban on smoking inside restaurants and bars takes effect this week. TOKYO — People will no longer be allowed to smoke in most restaurants and bars in Japan starting Wednesday, according to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.

What is the best cigarette in Japan? ›

In fiscal year 2021, Seven Stars produced by Japan Tobacco was the best sold cigarette brand in Japan, with a market share of around 4.3 percent. However, the Mevius brand was the most popular brand regarding the accumulated market share, with ten products ranking in the top 20.

What percentage of Japanese people smoke? ›

As revealed by a survey conducted in 2019, almost 18 percent of the Japanese adult population were smokers. While the smoking rate in Japan has decreased slightly within the last decade, the habit remains predominantly prevalent among male adults.

Is smoking indoors legal in Japan? ›

Tokyo, April 1 (Jiji Press)--A law banning indoor smoking in principle fully took effect in Japan on Wednesday as the country is racing to protect people from passive smoking going into the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.

What do they call cigarettes in Japan? ›

Japanese people always use たばこ for cigarettes.

Can you smoke on Japan Airlines? ›

Beginning today, Tokyo-based Japan Airlines will ban smoking on all international flights--but it will offer passengers an alternative. Those who find smoke-free flying troublesome will receive a little plastic tube in the shape of a cigarette to put in their mouths to help suppress the urge.

How do you ask for cigarettes in Japan? ›

Just say “(Number) onegaishimasu (please)”, and wait patiently as the person behind the counter passes you your tobacco. While you are never allowed to actually retrieve your own cigarettes in a store, there are numerous vending machines for cigarettes in Japan as well.

Can you smoke in bars in Japan? ›

Most office workers now light up only in smoking rooms or outdoors, and cities are gradually imposing limits on outdoor smoking in public areas. But most restaurants and bars in Japan allow smoking, making them the most common public source of secondhand smoke.

Can you bring a vape to Japan? ›

Electronic cigarette cartridges and liquids which contain nicotine are classified as medicinal products and are regulated under the Japanese pharmaceutical affairs law. If you wish to bring them into Japan, the amount that can be cleared by the customs is up to 120 ml (liquid) for the one-month dosage.

What is the smoking age in Japan? ›

Smoking is prohibited for those under the age of 20 in Japan. On campus, smoking is permitted only in designated smoking areas. Smoking is strictly prohibited inside any building.

What is the age of consent in Japan? ›

According to the source, the current legal minimum age of consent in Japan is 13 years of age.

What is the Japanese smoking paradox? ›

The prevalence of cigarette smoking among Japanese men has been consistently high compared with Western males over the past 30 years. However, during the same period, the incidence of and mortality rates for lung cancer have consistently been lower in Japan than in Western countries ('Japanese smoking paradox').

How do you greet a Japanese woman? ›

For a simple “Hello,” say “Konnichiwa.” If it's morning, say “Ohayo gozaimasu,” or try “Konbanwa” for an evening greeting.

What are 5 table manners in Japan? ›

  • Only Use Wet Towels to Wipe Your Hands. ...
  • Say Thanks Before and After Your Meal. ...
  • Use Chopsticks the Right Way. ...
  • Hold Your Rice Bowl While Eating. ...
  • Don't Eat with Elbows on the Table. ...
  • Slurp While Eating Noodles and Drinking Tea. ...
  • No Leftovers is Basic Etiquette.
20 Dec 2019

How do you show respect in Japan? ›

In Japan, people greet each other with a bow. The more respect or formality you'd like to convey, the deeper the bow. For friends and casual acquaintances, a small inclination of the neck and head will do.

Is Sumimasen polite? ›

Saying sumimasen is a way of acknowledging one's indebtedness to other people. It is said not because the Japanese are always apologetic. For them, sumimasen is a more polite way of saying thank you, as English speakers would normally utter. Sumimasen is a formal and sincere way of apologizing.

Is Sumimasen more polite than Gomenasai? ›

"Sumimasen" is a little more formal than "Gomennasai." When you apologize to the higher or the senior, "Sumimasen" is used in general. Among the family members or close friends, it is common to use "Gomennasai." "Gomen ne" or "Gomen" can be used in a more casual case.

What arigato gozaimasu means? ›

In Japan, arigato is a simple way of saying “thank you” among familiars or peers. Politeness is highly valued in Japanese culture, so be mindful that there are more formal ways to say “thank you” to superiors or elders (e.g., arigato gozaimasu, which is a more polite way of saying thanks).

Is it rude to finish your food in Japan? ›

Not finishing one's meal is not considered impolite in Japan, but rather is taken as a signal to the host that one does not wish to be served another helping. Conversely, finishing one's meal completely, especially the rice, indicates that one is satisfied and therefore does not wish to be served any more.

Is it polite to burp in Japan? ›

Blowing your nose at the table, burping and audible munching are considered bad manners in Japan. On the other hand, it is considered good style to empty your dishes to the last grain of rice.

Do Japanese eat rice with chopsticks? ›

Chopsticks are, inarguably, the single most important eating utensils in Japan. The Japanese use them to eat everything from rice and meat, to noodles, salad, and so much more!

Do girls smoke in Japan? ›

Smoking was particularly common among women aged 50 to 59 years old. Within this age group, almost 13 percent smoked, while only three percent of women aged 70 years or older were smokers.
...
Smoking rate across the female population in Japan in 2019, by age group.
CharacteristicShare of smokers
--
5 more rows
9 Nov 2021

Do Japanese teens smoke? ›

Smoking Underage In Japan

Still, underage smoking is still prevalent, as Japan still is a very smoking culture. In 1999, 19% of 15-20 year old men and 4.3% of 15-20 year old women identified themselves as smokers. 42% of male smokers and 35% of female smokers reported going habitual before 20, the legal age limit.

How much is Marlboro cigarettes in Japan? ›

The price of 1 package of Marlboro cigarettes in Tokyo is ¥564.

Are cigarettes cheaper in Japan? ›

The price of ordinary cigarettes in Japan is about 30% of cigarettes in the U.S. The cheapest cigarettes in Japan are around 200 yen and the most expensive ones are around 480 yen. 2:Where can I buy cigarettes? They can be bought at super markets and convenience stores.

How much is a pack of Marlboro cigarettes in Japan? ›

Price Rankings by Country of Cigarettes 20 Pack (Marlboro) (Markets)
1.Australia26.46 $
58.Japan3.87 $
59.Taiwan3.79 $
60.Poland3.72 $
61.Jordan3.53 $
101 more rows

Which country has least smokers? ›

ICELAND:

Iceland is the country with the least smokers. It has a very little amount of cigarette users with very less percentage about 19% of the total population are smokers which is much better than other smoke-filled countries. The government of Iceland is trying t reduce the percentage by the next few years.

Which country has most female smokers? ›

Smoking prevalence, females (% of adults) - Country Ranking
RankCountryValue
1Nauru49.10
2Serbia39.10
3Bulgaria37.10
4Croatia36.10
118 more rows

Who is the biggest smoker in the world? ›

China's smoking rate still lags behind Korea's and Japan's (1,711 cigarettes per person in China versus 1,958 in Korea and 1,841 in Japan), but China is the world's largest overall consumer of cigarettes.

Can you smoke on the street in Tokyo? ›

You can smoke in the city, but you'll have to be careful about where you do so. Certain streets may ban the activity, and a new law ahead of the 2020 Olympics now prohibits you from smoking in some bars and restaurants as well.

Is smoking still popular in Japan? ›

As revealed by a survey conducted in 2019, almost 18 percent of the Japanese adult population were smokers. While the smoking rate in Japan has decreased slightly within the last decade, the habit remains predominantly prevalent among male adults.

Why do people smoke so much in Japan? ›

Smoking for that generation in Japan was a luxury and a way of being social, so all spaces – offices, homes, cafés, restaurants, trains, and theatres – were all smoker friendly, needless to say, the government's vested interest in the prosperity of the tobacco industry had something to do with smoking being completely ...

Do Japanese men smoke? ›

According to a survey conducted in November 2019 in Japan, smoking is more prevalent among men aged 40 to 49 years, with around 36.5 percent of respondents claiming to smoke out of habit. The second highest share of smokers was found among male respondents aged 30 to 39 years.

Can you smoke in hotel rooms in Japan? ›

In April 2020, a new smoking law, which prohibits indoor smoking, fully came into effect. The exceptions are private homes, hotel rooms, cigar bars and some small-sized restaurants and bars that were opened before April 2020.

Can you smoke in bars in Japan? ›

Most office workers now light up only in smoking rooms or outdoors, and cities are gradually imposing limits on outdoor smoking in public areas. But most restaurants and bars in Japan allow smoking, making them the most common public source of secondhand smoke.

How much is a pack of cigarettes in Japan? ›

In Japan, a pack of cigarettes costs around 400 to 450 yen. About 65% of the price is tobacco tax, which is increasing each year.

Do girls smoke in Japan? ›

Smoking was particularly common among women aged 50 to 59 years old. Within this age group, almost 13 percent smoked, while only three percent of women aged 70 years or older were smokers.
...
Smoking rate across the female population in Japan in 2019, by age group.
CharacteristicShare of smokers
--
5 more rows
9 Nov 2021

Which country smokes the most? ›

Nauru has the highest smoking rates in the world at 52.1%. Oddly, women smoke slightly more than men in Nauru (52.6% to 51.7%), which is somewhat of an outlier.

What is the best cigarette in Japan? ›

In fiscal year 2021, Seven Stars produced by Japan Tobacco was the best sold cigarette brand in Japan, with a market share of around 4.3 percent. However, the Mevius brand was the most popular brand regarding the accumulated market share, with ten products ranking in the top 20.

Can you smoke in bars in Tokyo? ›

Japan's ban on smoking inside restaurants and bars takes effect this week. TOKYO — People will no longer be allowed to smoke in most restaurants and bars in Japan starting Wednesday, according to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.

Can you smoke on Japan Airlines? ›

Beginning today, Tokyo-based Japan Airlines will ban smoking on all international flights--but it will offer passengers an alternative. Those who find smoke-free flying troublesome will receive a little plastic tube in the shape of a cigarette to put in their mouths to help suppress the urge.

What do they call cigarettes in Japan? ›

Japanese people always use たばこ for cigarettes.

What is the smoking age in Japan? ›

Smoking is prohibited for those under the age of 20 in Japan. On campus, smoking is permitted only in designated smoking areas. Smoking is strictly prohibited inside any building.

Do Japanese teens smoke? ›

Smoking Underage In Japan

Still, underage smoking is still prevalent, as Japan still is a very smoking culture. In 1999, 19% of 15-20 year old men and 4.3% of 15-20 year old women identified themselves as smokers. 42% of male smokers and 35% of female smokers reported going habitual before 20, the legal age limit.

What percent of Japan smokes? ›

TOBACCO USE AND TRENDS

In 2019, 16.7% or 17.8 million Japanese adults aged 20 and above smoked combustible cigarettes (CCs) and heated tobacco products (HTP) products.

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