Friday, September 28, 2007


I'm just about to leave Tokyo tomorrow morning, after a busy week and a half of consultations for a symposium we`re organizing here at the United Nations University in a few months.

But I'm not going to talk about whales, tuna or sushi today.

I haven't written about tobacco in a very long time, here Chez Rémi.

Last night I had dinner with Kazue Kobata, a Japanese Art Producer who has not stopped smoking yet (at least as of last night). After we finished eating our sashimi meal, and while we were drinking another sake, she pulled out her cigarettes. I was intrigued by the brand she smokes, which is called Peace. She explained to me that after the US bombarded the whole country (including two nuclear blasts), when they landed they distributed to the survivors top class Virginia leaves cigarettes branded as Peace. Sixty years later the stuff continues to sell!

When I left the restaurant and walked to my hotel, I stopped in front of a tobacco slot machine, and discovered that there is now a new brand, called Infinity Peace. I guess that's Condoleeza's favorites!

Talking of tobacco...I see that the Shinjuku district where I'm staying is covered with posters to remind everyone that Smoking is prohibited in the streets. A Japanese friend has told me that fines for offenders are really high. As a one-time tobacco control activist, I think it's not bad (since smoking was prohibited in the work place and most public spaces in many European countries, the streets look like giant ashtrays). But at the same time, I have noticed that it is almost impossible to find non-smoking tables in the restaurants of the Shinjuku district. How do you say paradox in Japanese?

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