Monday, December 01, 2008

Japan - smoking

One afternoon I was flicking around TV looking for a cartoon or something to occupy Ríona for a few minutes. I found a cartoon, so we watched that for a few minutes. It wasn't by any means a toddler's cartoon, it was called "Gunlock (SaiYuki)" (there seem to be several seasons and variants of this anime, I have no idea which one I was watching). It's a retelling of Journey to the West (aka "Monkey Magic") with more modern characters, some guns etc. Although it wasn't a toddler's cartoon, it held Ríona's attention for while I got something else done. She seems to like any kind of cartoon at least for a few minutes.

The cartoon had some violence ("Daddy, boy fell over") but what really surprised me was that one of the main characters was smoking. He wasn't even a bad guy. I was just really shocked to see someone smoking in a kids show at 2pm.

It was actually pretty uncomfortable in Japan on several occasions, restaurants still have smoking sections, usually as big or bigger than the non-smoking sections and we sometimes had to settle for a seat in the smoking area. We even found one that didn't have a non-smoking section at all!

What's really odd though is that it's not like smoking is entirely acceptable in Japan either. In lots of places, smoking on the street is illegal and some streets had designated smoking areas. And in true Japanese style, people obeyed these rules. I saw plenty of smokers at the smoking areas and I can't remember seeing anyone smoking in the "wrong" part of the street.

Still it's better than China. A few years ago I was in Beijing airport and I went into a restaurant. "Smoking or non-smoking?". "Non-smoking", I said. "Sit anywhere you like", said the waitress. I was sleepless and jet-lagged at the time so I didn't notice how stupid this was. For a while I was the only customer but soon some more tables filled up, including a guy smoking right beside me. It was only then that I understood my conversation with the waitress. The question was purely cosmetic - probably just for foreigners - there was no non-smoking area in this restaurant, or certainly none that the waitress was willing to enforce. I wonder if I had lit up a cigarette would I have been told to put it out because my table was non-smoking?

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