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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Japanese Cigarette Brands

In my small city of Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan I lived in an apartment complex that was called Zuiko Haitsu... or perhaps better known as Zuiko Mansion because it was the biggest place and the most luxurious. Compared to other AETs (assistant English teachers) and their living quarters, it was - though Matthew had a really nice place, too!

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 is a brand of the Japan Tobacco Inc. company... and you have your choice of: Caster Original, Caster Mild, Caster Mild Box (Premium Blend), Caster Super Mild, Caster Super Mild Box (Premium Blend), Caster One, Caster One Box, Caster One 100s, and Caster Menthol.
Caster apparently comes with a subtle hint of vanilla flavoring... so you don't taste the cancer. Was that more pithy?

Golden Bat
A folded open pack of the Japanese Golden Bat brand available in China during the 1930s. Now with more terror.
Ahh... Golden Bat from Japan Tobacco Inc. My mentor and boss Kanemaru-san smoked these babies religiously... at least one-and-a-half packs a day...
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?
I don't know what Japan Tobacco is hoping for, but Hope is available as four brands: Hope Filter Cigarettes; Hope Lights; Hope Super Lights; and Hope Menthol.
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?
Mevius was previously called Mild Seven until August of 2012... and as a brand of Japan Tobacco it remains the fifth-most smoked smoke in the world with some 76.5-billion inhaled annually. I believe Mevius stands for M (Mild)-Ev (Evolution)-I (as in I)-U (for You)-S (Seven)... but I wouldn't hold my weakened breath on that explanation... 
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!
Peace... does anyone not look at the downward sweep of the peace dove and not think that it is dying or dead? It's so two-dimensional that the peaceful mourning dove looks like it has been squashed flat by a 53-foot trailer carrying coffin nails (cigarettes) into the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.
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.

Pianissimo Péche
Momo is Japanese for peach, but it doesn't sound as cool as Péche.
Shhhh... I'm smoking.
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
Manufactured by Japan Tobacco (again), 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.
Credit: NASA/ESA/AURA/Caltech
Interesting brand names, eh? I know... many of you are thinking... there is no way I would ever buy anything called Golden Bat... but people have been smoking Camels all over the world for decades now.

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.

Andrew Joseph
PS: Photo at the very top was taken from HERE, by Daniel Hageman.


  1. I never ever read such type of info before this was really incredible. lotus mod clone

  2. This was great! loved the little touch of sarcasm there! keep it up!

  3. hey nice article

    thanks for sharing

  4. How can I buy caster 5 cigerrate online the one with vanilla flavor and charcoal filter

  5. Smoking a Mevius right now. My boss is Japanese and when he comes back from his routine visits to Japan, he brings back multiple cartons of them and he's very generous with sharing. They are very good and have a slightly more bitter taste than a Marlboro followed by an almost wheat-like exhale flavor. You have to get used to their charcoal filters as well.

    1. Ha! Thanks for the flavor profile! You painted a decent picture for me.

  6. You can find some Japanese brands present at duty free cigarettes online store

  7. How interesting.
    I came to Japan in 2003 and I'm still here.
    I love hearing stories like these.
    Let me ask you, why are they coming out now? These are memories you've been holding onto since the 90's right?

    1. That's true. I have been holding on to them since the 1990s. I have no idea why I held on to them for so long. Perhaps the fear of exposing one's self? Time breeds separation. If I had begun writing when I left, I might have simply come off as a jerk with my life story. But, with time (and age), I can comment back as to having sometimes been stupid, knowing I'm not stupid (in that way) anymore. But, the memories have been coming back since July of 2009 in written form. My initial plan with the blog was to simply write out the 76 or so columns I had written while in Japan (originally entitled It's A Wonderful Rife) and then leave it at that. It was when I wrote out the first blog article - merely to provide context - that I realized I could write more. And more. And still more.
      Thanks for writing, and for reading. Cheers!

  8. I cant totally relate to what you mean.
    I often reminisce with friends made within the first chapter of my life in Japan, even up until this day.
    And I have a lot of stories, but many of them cannot (or perhaps should not) be told.
    By the way, I lived in Fukushima, not so far from Ohtawara for my first 10 years here, it was an amazing place. And then, I also have some stories about 2011, but even now that era feels a little fresh. So I can certainly understand you holding onto your stories.