Sunday, November 27, 2016

Smoke Gets in Your Face (smoking in Japan)

Sorry, this is not a post on tips on smoking in Japan.

As a non-smoker in a relatively advanced society (Singapore) where smoking in public is strictly or quite rigorously controlled, it sometimes seems like a step back in time to experience second-hand smoke in Japan.

I was recently reminded of this when we were seated in the non-smoking section of a cafe, with my (not quite) 2-year-old daughter... right next to the table which was in the smoking section.

And really, there was no point complaining because a) there were no other seats/table available, and b) the cafe was really small, so there were no place in that cafe that was truly free of smoke. And this is Japan.

Not that I would have complained. If there were other seats, I might have moved, but I am not a confrontational sort.

And in any case, while second-hand (or side-stream) smoke is not good for your health, it would take prolonged and repeated exposure to significantly impact your health. Even if I or my daughter were to be exposed to smoke every meal for the two weeks we were in Japan, we were not going to keel over from lung cancer because of it.

But of course, having lived in a society which has generally provided me with a smoke-free environment, the acrid tang of tobacco smoke was not pleasant.

And no, it did not remind me of my father.

In our previous travels to and through Japan, we have often stayed in hotels where the rooms were nominally "non-smoking", but the tang of stale cigarette smoke was unmistakable when we first step into the room.

Whether we had been incorrectly given a smoking room, or the hotel is not very stringent about keeping non-smoking room for non-smoking guests, or whether previous occupants had smoked in the room without regard for the room policies, and whether the hotel had failed to act or rectify such flagrant flouting of the policies, I cannot say (mainly because I don't speak Japanese).

But what my wife (then girl-friend) found was a bottle of air-freshener, which presumably was intended to ameliorate the smoke odour in the room.

(As a side note, it was also good for your clothes, if you have been to a yakitori restaurant or some table barbecue and your clothes are infused with the smoke and odour of the meal. Particularly, the outer wear - jackets and coats.)

Anyway, I was looking at hotels in Japan as I start my preliminary plans for another trip to Japan (probably in 18 months time, but I plan very far ahead, and planning your holiday gives you pleasure, almost as much as the actual holiday), and I found that some hotels featured pictures of these bottles of air fresheners.

Great! I thought. My wife would love to know that we can find the stench of stale cigarette smoke in these hotels!

Then I thought some more.

Doesn't the presence of these air freshener bottles imply that a) the non-smoking rooms have a problem staying smoke-free? And b) perhaps the hotel randomly assigns you to any room regardless of whether you had specifically requested for a non-smoking room ("No, honourable guest. The room doesn't smoke. The previous guest must have smoked? So very sorry. Please use air freshener liberally. We will send up another bottle of air-freshener to your room!")

So here's a deduced tip: If photos of the hotel room include a photo of a bottle of the air freshener, consider yourself warned.

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