Tobacco was introduced into Japan by the Portuguese towards the end of the sixteenth century, and was first planted in 1605. As in other countries, here too officialdom strove to impede its use; but by 1651 the law was so far relaxed as to permit smoking, though only out-of-doors. Now there is hardly a man or woman throughout the length and breadth of the land who does not enjoy the fragrant weed; for, as an anonymous author quoted by Sir Ernest Satow sarcastically remarks, "Women who do not smoke and priests who keep the prescribed rules of abstinence, are equally rare." Nevertheless, a reaction has begun to make itself felt,—a reaction grounded in the fear of national deterioration caused by the visibly deleterious effects of smoking on the physique of school-children. A law was accordingly passed in 1900, prohibiting this indulgence to minors, that is, to all persons under the age of twenty.
Tobacco has been a government monopoly for the last seven or eight years; but the total area of cultivation fixed for each year varies so widely as to render statistics on the subject practically useless. Of the numerous varieties of Japanese tobacco, the most esteemed is Kokubu, which is grown in the provinces of Satsuma and Ōsumi; but the plan commonly followed by dealers is to make blends of two or more sorts. Prices vary from 30 sen up to 1 yen for 100 me, that is, a little less than 1 lb., but are expected soon to double. All Japanese tobacco is light, and consequently well-suited for use in the form of cigarettes. One of the countless ways in which the nation is Europeanising itself is by the adoption of cigarette-smoking. But the tiny native pipe it looks like a doll's pipe holds its own side by side with the new importation. (See also Article on Pipes.)
Book recommended. The Introduction of Tobacco into Japan, by Sir Ernest Satow, in Vol. II. of the "Asiatic Transaction."