Between 1990-1993 when I lived in apartment 307, the seven-story building was the tallest building in my town. It still might be, but I would need confirmation on that.
Anyhow... directly across the street there was an old abandoned factory... a cigarette factory.
It wasn't a factory with lots of automation, but in its hey-day, it was a place where cigarettes were packed and rolled by hand. It had long been out of business - maybe 20 or 30 years - by the time I had moved in across the street... and while looking dingy and closed off, it was opened up from time to time for various festivals to be held in its grounds.
Since smoking cigarettes still seems to be a Japanese tradition - one that I hated, but then came to embrace years later after leaving Japan - I thought we could take a look at just the Japanese brands of smokes available. All seven of them.
|Don't worry... I'm sure my comments will become more pithy.|
Caster apparently comes with a subtle hint of vanilla flavoring... so you don't taste the cancer. Was that more pithy?
|A folded open pack of the Japanese Golden Bat brand available in China during the 1930s. Now with more terror.|
Golden Bat has been around since 1906, and is a filterless cigarette - perfect for those who enjoy spitting out bits of dried tobacco from their teeth. Well.. the cigarettes came filterless, but the user could add the filter if they wanted.
Actually, Golden Bat was first produced in Japan back in 1905 - but only for the export market to China... the bat is considered a good-luck symbol in China.
I can not confirm this, but rumor has it that Japan's Chinese exports of Golden Bat back in the 1930s used to add a small amount of heroin and or opium to the mouthpiece areas of the cigarettes as a way to make the imbiber addicted... which is quite weird, as they need not have wasted all the heroin or opium, as tobacco on its own seems to be more addictive than heroin. It was supposedly conceived of by Japanese Imperial Army General of China and Manchuria Doihara Kenji (surname first), a wonderful gentleman who was eventually prosecuted and sentenced to death by a War Crimes tribunal for his horrible actions in China and Manchuria. It sure sounds like the drugs in the cigarettes is a likely fact.
Golden Bat is an inexpensive cigarette, and is apparently made from low-level tobacco, so the smoker does not always get the same smooth tobacco flavor. Oh, Mr. Kanemaru.
|What is the Man hoping for? A manicure?|
They are available in three sizes: Short (70mm), King Size (85mm) and Long (100mm), which should confuse everyone, as King Size usually means the biggest. You can purchase each brand (and size ) in the soft or hard package, and can purchase each in 10 or 20 smokes per pack.
If you look below, you'll see the cigarette brand Peace... which is a sister brand of Hope... Hope and Peace. Lung and Cancer.
|Are you looking at the blurry pic of the four hot Japanese babes or the largest pack of smokes ever?|
No full explanation regarding the strange made-up name of the cigarette has been offered by the monopoly that is Japan Tobacco.
|Japan Tobacco controls the Japanese cigarette market... and is owned by the Gov't of Japan. They are trying to control every breath you take! Or don't take!|
Now... despite my critique of the Peace brand name, this logo was actually designed by Raymond Loewy back in 1952. Loewy was a French-born American designer who also designed (I'm just going to copy from his Wikipedia entry here): Shell, Exxon, TWA and the former BP logos, the Greyhound Scenicruiser bus, Coca-Cola vending machines, the Lucky Strike package, Coldspot refrigerators, the Studebaker Avanti (One of the ugliest cars ever, in my opinion - he did much better work earlier on the Hupmobile stylings) and Champion, and the Air Force One livery. He was involved with numerous railroad designs, including the Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 and S-1 locomotives, the color scheme and Eagle motif for the first streamliners of the Missouri Pacific Railroad and a number of lesser known color scheme and car interior designs for other railroads. His career spanned seven decades. His nicknames were The Man Who Shaped America, The Father of Streamlining and The Father of Industrial Design.
|Momo is Japanese for peach, but it doesn't sound as cool as Péche.|
Pianissimo is a musical term I am quite familiar with - having once taught taught piano and clarinet to earn money to complete my journalism studies, which helped get me into the JET Programme. It is an Italian word meaning to play 'very soft'.
Péche... is the French word for 'peach'... as evidenced by the cigarette packaging.
Produced by Japan Tobacco (owned by the Government of Japan), Pianissimo Péche appears to be an attempt to cater to the female smoking audience of Japan.
These smokes are sold in packs of 20 or in cartons with 10 packs each for a total of 200 cigarettes in a carton.
Seven Starsセブンスター Sebun Sutā), comes in a variety of cancers brands: Seven Stars (Soft Pack/Box), Seven Stars Medium (Box), Seven Stars Lights (Box), Seven Stars Black Impact (Soft Pack), Seven Stars Menthol (Box), Seven Stars Lights Menthol (Soft Pack/Box), Seven Stars Black Charcoal Menthol (Box), Seven Stars Revo Lights Menthol, and Seven Stars Revo Super Lights.
It is packaged as king size (85 mm), 20 cigarettes in a hard pack. The brand was created in response to customer demands for a low tar, menthol and D-spec product.
If I had to make a guess, and I am, I believe the name is based on the Pleiades star system... who are known collectively as the Seven Sisters... In Japan, the Pleiades are known as Subaru - yup... the car company name (which, for some reason only has six stars on its logo), and subaru means 'cluster'.
Okay... I looked it up... the Subaru car company? It has six stars in its 'cluster' logo NOT because of the star system, but rather because it is a cluster of five car companies that merged into one... five small stars equals one large star for a total of six stars.
The tobacco brand... let's assume it's for the star cluster system:
|A color-composite image of the Pleiades from the Digitized Sky Survey.|
And Mevius? Hope? Peace? Seven Stars? Pianissimo Péche? Why isn't anything replete with a Japanese name? Caster? WTF?! I suppose foreign names are still cool in Japanese product branding.
PS: Photo at the very top was taken from HERE, by Daniel Hageman.