Izakayas in Tokyo, for me, has always stood out as a place of interest. After all, they are one of the most traditional and unique eating experiences anyone can have in Tokyo, and even worldwide. A famous unique selling point of these izakayas is the fact that you could smoke inside these Japanese bars. But, with the world taking health and safety very seriously in today’s day in age, so, whether you can still smoke in izakayas today is another story. I got in touch with a lawyer in Tokyo to find out everything there is to know about smoking in Izakayas in Tokyo
Smoking is still allowed in Izakayas, however, as of April 2020, smoking laws were implemented in Tokyo to prevent smoking in restaurants. The establishment now needs to either have designated smoking rooms or be entirely ‘smoke-friendly’ and not have any customers under the age of 20 on the premises.
While smoking is technically still allowed in Izakayas in Tokyo, it is entirely dependent on the actual Izakaya that you go to itself. There are a few different methods that these establishments can take in terms of allowing smoking inside, and in this article, we take a deep look into them.
Can You Smoke In Izakaya?
Once upon a time, pre-covid and pre-Tokyo Olympics, the residents of Tokyo were allowed to spend the evenings in their favourite Japanese bar and enjoy smoking their go-to pack of cigarettes. Times have changed, and so have the laws about smoking inside. You can definitely still smoke inside, but, there is more to it now.
For example, you can’t just stroll into any Izakaya, pull out your lighter and burn a cig, there are rules and methods for each Izakaya within the city. Not following these set rules given by the owners, can result in a fine both for you and the business itself.
Well, why would they change the laws if so many people liked smoking inside Izakaya? Before these laws were set in stone, there was an estimated number of around 15,000 people per year who would die from second-hand smoke being the primary cause. (Source)
So, what are the requirements and different methods for smoking in an izakaya? When getting in touch with expert lawyer Nishida Rie from Shinjuku International Law Firm, she provided me with every bit of information I could possibly need.
What Are The Different Ways You Can Smoke Inside Izakayas?
As mentioned, there are a few ways that Izakayas can get away with letting their loyal customers keep traditions by smoking inside. Sure, it may be slightly more complicated to do so now, but, it is still very possible to do so.
So, what are these different ways that an Izakaya can let its customers smoke inside?
Designated Smoking Room With No Eating/Drinking Allowed
The first method of allowing smoking in an Izakaya is by the establishment having a designated smoking room. This smoking room is strictly just for people to smoke. So, that means there will be no staff serving inside it, and also, no eating or drinking is allowed.
Designated Heated Tobacco Smoking Room
This method of allowing smoking inside an izakaya is for those of you asking “can you smoke vapes inside Izakaya?” The answer is yes, assuming your chosen izakaya has a designated heated tobacco-only smoking room.
This type of smoking room allows people to vape while eating and drinking. Second-hand smoke from vapes (as far as our current knowledge of them is concerned), isn’t as severe as it is from cigarettes. It is important to note that these rooms are strictly limited to heated tobacco products.
For example a vape or e-cig, something that heats the tobacco and doesn’t burn it from an open flame.
Smoking Rooms With Eating/Drinking Allowed
These smoking rooms are much like the first type that was mentioned, in the fact that you are allowed to smoke traditional tobacco here, such as cigarettes or cigars. The difference, however, is that in this smoking room you can also eat and drink while smoking. This obviously will be a more desired option of the two for smoking customers.
If you desperately want to enjoy a smoke while experiencing this eating and drinking experience, be sure to find the right izakaya that will allow this. They are definitely out there, just have a good look!
Establishment Being Completely Smoke Friendly
This method is the most traditional and most desired out of the 4, for customers who smoke at least. This method of allowing smoking is the establishment itself, being entirely smoke-friendly. This means that customers can come in and smoke wherever (except in the kitchen…duh) and whenever they want.
The downfall for the business with this method, however, is that they probably won’t attract as many customers. Non-smokers in Tokyo don’t really want to get caught up in second-hand smoke anymore.
Also, the establishment will completely miss out on business from those under 20-year-olds, as these smoking rules prohibit anyone under the age of 20 to be present on the premises.
How To Find Izakayas That You Can Smoke In
You may be thinking these rules for smoking inside an izakaya are way too complicated, after all, you just want to enjoy some alcohol and snacks while having a smoke right? Well, it’s actually not that hard to find smoke-friendly izakayas.
Thanks to tablelog.com, you can easily search for and find izakayas that are either smoking establishments or have designated smoking rooms. Just simply search for ‘izakaya’ in Tokyo, adjust the filters and tick the boxes for “smoking establishment” and/or “sectionalized smoking.”
A big shout out to tablelog.com for making the process of finding smoke-friendly izakayas and restaurants in general, so easy.
In my honest opinion, the government of Tokyo have gone about this smoking situation in the perfect way. They have managed to reduce the number of people receiving second-hand smoke, while at the same time, still allowing the ‘classic izakaya experience’ for those who wish to partake in it.
This is yet another situation that shows the world how carefully the Japanese government decide on their laws, with the key premise of keeping the public as happy as possible!