Most restaurants in Tokyo and Japan – including izakaya and cafés – welcome smokers, a rarity in this day and age. However, with the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games approaching this summer, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government will crack down on public smoking to mitigate the health dangers of unwanted secondhand smoke.
Back in 2018, the Japanese government passed the Revised Health Promotion Law, establishing clear rules about where and when people can smoke. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government went one step further, though, passing its own Ordinance to Prevent Exposure to Second-Hand Smoke, with much stricter regulations on indoor smoking. Both the city and national governments are aiming to ensure Tokyo 2020 will be a ‘tobacco-free’ Olympics – something the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has insisted on since 1988.
The Japan-wide law bans indoor smoking with some exceptions – with posted signage, smoking will be allowed in smaller cafés, bars and restaurants, for example. But the Tokyo-wide ordinance doesn’t have this exception: it specifically bans smoking in dining establishments with hired employees, which make up roughly 84 percent of Tokyo's cafés, bars and restaurants. If the owner still wants to accommodate smokers, they are required to be separated from the main, non-smoking establishment. For example, by featuring an attached smoking box or room.
There will also be a fine for individual smokers violating the rules, with up to a ¥50,000 fine under the Tokyo Metropolitan Ordinance and up to a whopping ¥300,000 under the Revised Health Promotion Law. Smokers keen to avoid getting caught should look for new signs clearly stating if lighting up is allowed or pointing them to outdoor smoking areas.