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Smoking in Japan: Cigarette Recommendations & Deep Thoughts from Japanese Smokers

Are these the best cigarettes in Japan? From fun flavors to pretty packaging, we’ve got the down low on cigarettes and smoking in Japan, straight from the mentholated mouths of Japan’s smokers.

Smoking in Japan, According to the Japanese

More than many other places in the 21st century, Japan is still a country of smokers, with about 25% of men and 8% of women smoking cigarettes on a regular basis. The country caters to them as well, with smoking areas still commonly found in cafes and restaurants, and cigarette vending machines selling tobacco products on the street! As an international team with a love for Japan, here at Japankuru we had some questions for smokers in Japan – why is it so common? Are Japanese cigarettes something special? And… did they have any recommendations?

Our very own Mr. Y and Mr. A, engaging in their favorite hobby.

With a collective lack of smoking experience and the kind of curiosity that could kill a cat, we set off in search of smokers who could teach us about Japanese cigarettes, and we found a willing pair of anonymous experts. Two Japanese men in their mid-20s, Mr. Y and Mr. A have collectively been smoking for about a decade, and neither is planning to stop any time soon. When it came to why, both men started with the kinds of reasons you might hear anywhere. The busy life of a Japanese office worker is stressful and busy, and not only is tobacco itself relaxing, but a smoke break is a small blessing wedged into the hustle and bustle of daily life. When going for a smoke, the smoking booth becomes a little oasis away from it all! And just through proximity, smoke breaks provide a comfortable little blip of relaxed social time, offering a chance to chat with unexpected new acquaintances, like coworkers from other departments at the office. We’re not exactly here to talk up the smoking lifestyle, but we could see why Mr. Y and Mr. A were so enthusiastic about their habit.

Of course, they did have some ideas about why Japanese cigarettes themselves are so great. Unlike some countries that have literally outlawed most flavored cigarettes (like the US), Japan is a wonderland of flavorful tobacco products, with every level of menthol and just about every kind of fruit finding its way into the leaves and flavor capsules of the local cigarettes. Plus, they say, the packaging is pretty cute. We are absolutely not trying to recommend that you start smoking just to try these Japanese cigarettes, but if you’ve already got a hankering for tobacco products, we’ve got a few of the latest Japanese cigarette recommendations from our favorite Japanese smokers.

Japanese Cigarette Recommendations from the Locals

① Mevius E-Series Menthol Option Purple 8

Image Source: Japan Duty Free

Concensus tells us that funky flavor is one of the most exciting things about Japanese cigarettes, so these ones from Mevius (formerly known as Mild Seven) are an obvious choice. With a bite of menthol and a strong taste of “purple” once you bite down on the flavor capsule in the filter, the unique fruity flavor is what drew Mr. Y to these cigarettes, even if it’s a little hard to pin down. What is purple flavor? Well, it’s a little unclear, although there are some strong notes of blueberry and other fruit flavors. Mr. Y describes it as “fruity, berry-ish, and delightfully chemically.” If that sounds good to you, these Mevius cigarettes might be worth a try.

② Marlboro Menthol 4

Mr. A’s top recommendation is a little more conventional, but these low-tar menthols are a classic Japanese choice. Distinct menthol flavoring is generally a popular choice for many Japanese smokers, and the low tar level of these cigarettes gives them a smooth, easy feel that Mr. A can’t get enough of. These cigarettes might be Marlboros made with American tobacco, but this particular configuration is only available in Japan, giving them that Japanese jeu ne se quoi.

③ Mevius E-Series Menthol Sunny Gold

We’re back to Mevius for one last recommendation approved by both of our smokers, the E-Series “Sunny Gold” menthols. Mr. Y and Mr. A described the cigarettes as particularly “tropical,” with strong fruity notes to go with the fresh menthol flavor. Official advertising for the cigarettes notes that the fruity base of this flavor is accented with hints of banana, a flavor that’s a rare find both inside and outside of Japan. A trip to Japan isn’t exactly what you’d think of when imagining a tropical beach getaway, but it is an island nation, so perhaps that makes these tropical cigarettes a surprisingly fitting choice when sightseeing in Japan.

Bonus – For Travelers from Asia: Natural American Spirit Menthol One

Image Source: ANA Duty Free Shop

American Spirit doesn’t quite qualify as a top choice for either of our smokers, but they did still recommend these Natural American Spirit Menthol One cigarettes for anyone looking for a lengthy smoking experience. American Spirit tobacco products might be common enough in other parts of the world, but Japan is currently the only country in Asia where they can be purchased, which is probably why American Spirit cigarettes tend to be top sellers in Japanese airport duty-free shops! So if you’re coming from Asia, you might want to keep an eye out.

Smoking Etiquette in Japan

Before you go off and start experimenting with all of Japan’s many wacky flavored cigarettes, remember that it’s important to stay on the right side of the law – and general etiquette – when it comes to smoking in Japan. Smoking on the streets is illegal in some parts of Japan, and frowned up in many others, so outdoor smoking should generally be confined to designated smoking areas. Inside, many Japanese cafes, bars, and restaurants do still allow smoking – but only some of these establishments allow smoking at all tables (usually small old-fashioned cafes or izakayas), and many of them have smoking booths on the premises for your smoking needs. In general, be responsible with your cigarette butts and stick to smoking in places with other obvious smokers. Not only can you avoid breaking any rules, but you might make some friends like Mr. Y and Mr. A, who can give you the lowdown on Japanese cigarettes and other local recommendations!

For more info and updates from Japan, check Japankuru for new articles, and don’t forget to follow us on X (Twitter)Instagram, and Facebook!

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