Cuban Cigars in Japan: an expanding market
A History of Smoking
Cigars in Japan are very popular. According to OECD data, Japan has always had a history of being a country with a high number of smokers. Even though it has historically been considered one of the most smoker-friendly countries in the world, it has also experienced the largest per capita decline over the last two decades compared with its Western counterparts.
As an extreme example of the presence of smoking in the Japanese culture, in 1984, Japan’s new Minister for Health and Welfare, Kozo Watanabe, was quoted as saying that “smoking is the basis of my good health”, reporting that he smoked 80 cigarettes (4 packs) per day when he was on the election trail.
The fast-paced lives, combined with a strict work ethic would not seem to pair well with the laid back, enjoyable aspect of cigar smoking. Surprisingly, the Japanese thought otherwise.
Habanos in Japan
During the last few decades, Cuban Cigars have been a product consumed mainly by foreigners in Japan. However, there has been a constant shift in the paradigm with an increase in popularity of many of the most renowned brands such as Cohiba, Montecristo, Partagas or Trinidad. This trend has not just affected Japan, but all eastern Asia which is receiving the attention of premium brands. We can see it in the decision of Habanos to present their Trinidad La Trova in 2017 throughout 7 of Asia’s Casa del Habano, including that of Tokyo, Japan.
According to Mitchell Orchant managing director of C. Gars Ltd in an interview for BBC: “ The largest markets by far include Hong Kong, China Singapore, Macao and Japan. There are collectors all over the globe though the main ones are in Europe and the Far East”.
Where to find them.
In case you find yourself in Tokyo, there are some amazing places where you can smoke your favorite cigar. They all have unique atmospheres and great drinks to pair your cigar with.
Here are a few examples:
Chardonnay Cafe & Cigar Bar
A dimly-lit hangout for the suit and cocktail crowd, Chardonnay boasts a pool table as well as a cigar menu listing over seventy cigars by gauge, length and weight in grams.
This self-termed “wine and cigar bar” has several things going for it: a comfortable outdoor terrace, very friendly staff, an extensive list of great appetizers and a menu of over sixty cigars, ranging from the everyday smoke to the special occasion.
Cigar Club Grand Hyatt
Owned by the general importer of Cuban cigars in Japan. Well stocked Walk-in humidor, up-scale cigar accessories and expert advise from Japanese and English speaking staff.