Are you a secondhand smoker?
Do you enjoy a few whiffs of someone else’s cigarette from time to time?
Perhaps you have never directly lit up a ciggy in your life.
Maybe you quit smoking at some point (おめでとう！).
If you aren’t an actual smoker, you can still enjoy the secondhand smoke of others and there is no better place to do so than in Japan!
Smoking in Hokkaido
It’s sarcasm, of course.
But, whether you live here in Hokkaido or are just visiting, it doesn’t take long before you realize that smoking is a popular pastime here.
Although cigarette consumption in Japan is slowly decreasing, it still ranks far ahead of countries the likes of America, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, France and Italy.
If you enjoy second hand smoke, then you will be pleasantly at home here.
But, what do you do if you want to avoid secondhand smoke consumption, especially in restaurants and bars?
Smoking rules in Hokkaido
To those who are lighting up in defense, please understand there is no intention here to judge anybody on their choices.
We aren’t bashing the habit.
Certainly, we could have exhaustive debates over the culture, social perception, politics, taxation, economics, health concerns, how cool it looks, etc., surrounding smoking tobacco.
That’s best left up to those who do serious research, get lucrative grants, etc.
Rather, we simply recognize that many foreign folks have gotten used to smoke-free environments from their home countries before arriving in Hokkaido.
Of the countries previously mentioned, all countries except for America have some sort of national legislative ban or restriction on smoking.
About thirty states in America currently have the same.
Japan has yet to enact anything to that extent.
How to avoid with Secondhand Smoke in Hokkaido
That’s not to say that Japanese don’t care about the issue.
There is gentle urging for smoking restrictions by the federal government and some localities have started to enact certain bans.
In many places, including public spaces in Sapporo, you can only smoke in designated areas and in those quaint little smoking booths that look like isolation chambers (in a way, that’s exactly what they are).
With the Olympics coming in a 2020, there will be a further push for bans in places like restaurants, bars and hotels.
Several of these establishments already have segregated smoking areas.
But, there will be some political, economic and cultural resistance to a total ban.
For those who are looking to avoid secondhand smoke, your preferred major restaurant/bar search engine should be able to screen for smoke-free establishments.
Here are a few more localized sites that are also helpful:
This is not a comprehensive list.
Restaurants and bars come and go.
But, it can point you in the right direction for cleaner air.
Beer Bar North Island is a particularly good place especially if you like local craft beer!
Also, keep in mind that many chain restaurants are at least partially smoke-free, and folks at many other restaurants tend not to smoke making for a more enjoyable environment.
Individual experiences will vary, but suitable places are out there.
Feel free to send us recommendations and we will pass them along.
Of course, if you prefer to be a secondhand smoker, it’s not a problem but that’s an article for another day.