The tobacco plant has been rolled, dried, smoked, and chewed for centuries since its discovery by Columbus some 600 years ago. It’s a controversial pastime, but love it or loathe it, the fact remains it is big business, especially here in Japan. If you’re a habitual smoker, then you are in the right place.
The ubiquitous convenience stores, cigarette vending machines, and network of tiny hole-in-the-wall tobacco shops (a throwback from when the tobacco industry was state-operated) ensure that local big-name brands are readily available and at prices usually much lower than those in Western countries. But if you are one of a breed of self-professed ‘hobby smokers,’ or a connoisseur who likes to roll your own, you may be left scratching your head as to where to gather your favorite supplies.
Enter Hori-san, owner of ‘tobacco department store’ Sirius Tobacco. Located at the end of a slightly tired shopping arcade in the suburbs of Osaka, the entrance features the familiar hole-in-the-wall booth on one side where customers can purchase cigarettes from a little hatch, but venture inside and discover a shop floor dedicated to every conceivable tobacco product available. From pipes and rolling tobacco to fancy cigars and lighters, Hori-san stocks it all.
Aside from some 700 different types of cigarettes, there are traditional Japanese kiseru pipes, lacquerware trays, and implements that wouldn’t look out of place in a Japanese tea ceremony. An entire wall is dedicated to colorful packets of blended tobacco in a mind-boggling array of flavors, such as mango, mint, and even chocolate. A set of drawers reveals rows of artisan briar pipes from Europe. Shelves teem with lighters, rolling papers, nicotine pouches, filters, snuff, and ashtrays. A humidity-controlled room at the back of the store houses an extensive selection of premium cigars.
Hori-san realized that with such a plethora of tobacco stores across the land, he had to do something to stand out. He travels to Germany every year to attend the annual InterTabac tobacco goods trade fair to source interesting pipes and other items, keeping his finger on the pulse of the latest tobacco trends. By offering a huge variety of goods, he believes he is future-proofing his business for when he predicts traditional cigarette sales will eventually wane.
He has also embraced e-commerce, selling his products online to customers all across Japan. Currently, his website is in Japanese only and is not set up to ship internationally, but he has plans to change that. When international customers drop by, he uses a neat pocket translator device to communicate, but his enthusiasm for tobacco and ingratiating demeanor helps smooth over anything potentially lost in translation. Sirius Tobacco is one of the brightest flames in the business.
561-0832 Toyonaka-shi, Shonai Nishimachi 2-28-12
Access: Hankyu Shonai Stn (four stops from Osaka/Umeda Stn)