The list of places I wish to visit is as long as it is fickle with few entries ever-constant at a single spot. The Land of the Rising Sun has been one of those few exceptions being at the very top of the list for a coon’s age. As usual, opportunity knocked just when I had all but given up hope in the form of a business trip I had neither the qualifications nor experience to be involved in. Who am I to argue with such decisions by the “top brass”; especially when that meant giving up on the unique chance to cross Japan off the list? No sir! Not I! I’m a good little worker I am, I’ll take that free ticket now!
Needless to say that checking the vaping habits of the Japanese ranked very low in my priorities. I’m presenting what little I discovered on the topic.
Due to the length of the trip and packing benefit of lighter clothing, I broke one of my self-imposed rules never to travel with expensive/irreplaceable gear. On this trip, I was traveling with an SVD (not the most expensive kit but more so that I wish to travel with) a set of batteries, charger and a collection of DIY eliquids in 30ml bottles that I made fancy labels for; always neglecting to mention they contained nicotine. I had no issues at customs what-so-ever, the officers looked very familiar with the vaping gear.
The Status Quo:
Generally speaking, the smoking laws are much more unconstrained than in Europe or the U.S. You are never more than a few feet away from a cigarette vending machine, cigarettes are cheap and, for the most part, there is no smoking ban in effect. Yet smoking has been on a fast decline! A lesser man would attempt to make a point of this to all the proposed anti-smoking regulatory bodies that have been exploiting people’s concerns to gain money and political influence without any significant comparative reduction in the number of smokers (curb THAT #curbit).. but just for the purpose of the post I will rise above and make no mention of such a thing what-so-ever *snicker*.
Vaping is legal in Japan but is still in its infancy. The very limited number of vape shops stock most recent releases in devices but are legally unable to sell e-liquid with nicotine resulting in many of the early adopters importing both gear and e-liquid from the US and Europe – Hawaii is quite popular amongst the few vapers I met. Packages containing e-liquid are usually taxed at customs as tobacco products and shipments from China are often turned away (this is not restricted to cigarettes and due to copyright laws and good ol’ fashion rivalry)
I happened upon a vape store in Tokyo and looked at a couple of online shops. Their collections are unsurprisingly familiar considering all of their products were imported. Prices were a bit inflated but not insanely so. A bottle of Five Pawns juice (30ml – 0mg) for example will set you back roughly $30. From the looks of things, I got a feeling that even though vaping is only just beginning to spread the existing vapers are quite enthusiastic about it. Some of the juices on sale I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen sold at 0mg before, so manufacturers are definitely taking notice.
Fellow vapers were scarce and the few I did meet were more interested about how fashionable their device was instead of its performance, nothing new here. it was Tokyo after all. I did ran across a middle aged business man happily vaping at a bar. He spoke very little English (as do I) but he was very happy to share some of his experiences with me, most of the legal stuff in this post is based on his recollections.
Aside from all that I walked the streets with my PV in hand and no one ever looked twice. Bigger shops were very familiar with vaping and ready to answer my “can I vape here?” questions by politely asking me to join the smokers section for that. Their store, their rules I always say.
It was one of the best trips I have ever taken in most any other aspect aside from vaping. I was hoping to try some local juices at least but found none that were readily available to me. The hotel said they handle package deliveries if I wanted to order something but with time restrictions and the language barrier it proved impossible.
It’s going to be very interesting to see how the availability of cigarettes and 0mg policy will affect vaping in Japan, along with how the heavily invested in tobacco Japanese Government will move with the increasing number of vapers. What I would personally like to see is that glorious Japanese innovation and ingenuity in the creation of new devices and the application of the unique flavors in the crafting of eliquids.. hopefully with nicotine.