I'm going on a trip to Japan this weekend. I have a bit of an oral as well as hand fixation, meaning that I find it very difficult if I'm not doing something with my mouth and/or hands at all times. I tend to chew a lot of gum and play games on my phone while I'm outdoors, and this works fairly well. However, since I'm going to Japan and I plan to do a lot of sightseeing, I'd like to do something that doesn't have me glued to a screen at all times, and enjoy the sights while I'm there. I have a vape for this purpose; it's non-nicotine (I'm not a current or former smoker), and I use it mainly so I can have something to do with my hands and mouth while I'm outdoors.

I know that in Japan it is frowned upon to smoke cigarettes outside of designated smoking areas, but as vaping is different from smoking in terms of various health effects and so on, as well as producing zero litter, are the rules different for vapes? I'm not particularly interested in vaping in a smoking area, I'm more interested in taking it on my sightseeing excursions and vaping while doing other things outdoors, so if it's treated like a cigarette then I won't bother even bringing it with me.

  • 2
    As I know Japan doesn’t separate real tabaco to electronic cigarettes and vape. People judge them as smoking so you should be at designated smoking areas.
    – Binh
    Commented Apr 16, 2019 at 16:16

2 Answers 2


In general, vaping (e-cigarettes) are split into two categories, those that include some sort of head and those that don't. Vaping that use heat are considered smoking and subject to the smoking rules in Japan and you will be restricted to the smoking areas. Those that don't are not subject to the laws however cities recommend that users excerise good manners and not vape in public areas that are subject to non smoking rules. Even if you vape with a non-heat variety which is technically legal in a non-smoking area, I'm sure you will not be looked upon kindely

e.g. Setagaya City (https://www.city.setagaya.lg.jp/mokuji/sumai/011/005/d00159077_d/fil/tobaccorule.pdf)

Most tourist sites and some entire cities of Tokyo are non-smoking outdoors. Small restaurants often have smoking areas but most upscale and most chains are non-smoking (but may offer a smoking section)

  • Do you have proof or at least a good reasoning for your argument that vaping is considered smoking? I could not find proof, could you?
    – Willeke
    Commented Sep 8, 2019 at 8:16
  • @Willeke I didn't realise there was a distinction between types of vaping so I updated my answer with an example from my local Setagaya City
    – paullb
    Commented Sep 10, 2019 at 1:51

Japan does ban E-cigarettes with nicotine but does not ban vaping without nicotine in the liquid. Link to a wikipedia page here. While vaping without nicotine is allowed, from comments I read it is not socially accepted, it is seen more like smoking than like something innocent.

I have not found any proof vaping without nicotine is banned to smoking areas, I also have not found any proof you can do it anytime anyplace.
As you are not addicted I would advice you to take up an other habit, which is seen as innocent wherever you go, which does not have negatives.

One of the guys at work uses liquorice root sticks. (Link to image search.) Those are about the size of a new pencil when you buy them (although other sizes may be for sale as well,) and you chew from one end, till you have a very little stick left. You can eat the wood but mostly people just chew the soft bits out of the wood and cut the end when it gets dry.

I do personally use a bit of string to keep my hands busy, but that does not involve the mouth. It might be that you can find a new habit that like mine is seen as innocent. Not involving things you need to buy.
Many people who stop smoking pick up a pencil or pen, nibble a bit on it and hold it as if it was a cigarette. Looks innocent and pens are everywhere.

Added from a comment by OP:
Smoking and vaping was still often done outside the dedicated smoking areas. This was in Kansai area in 2019. Your millage may vary for the rest of the country and as more time has past.

  • 1
    As it turned out, when I went to Japan (this post is 4 months old, I went and long came back), I did see many people both smoking and also vaping outside the smoking areas. I didn't bring my vape with me, but there seems to be nothing socially wrong with it, at least where I was (mostly Kansai area).
    – Ertai87
    Commented Sep 9, 2019 at 14:28

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