This really annoyed me. So now they were treating us like dogs! I thought
"To hell with the lot of them!" There was no way I was going to give in
to that sort of oppression.
Once a month I had ten cartons of American "More" cigarettes delivered
to my house by the customer service section of one of the major department
stores. At three thousand yen per carton, that meant that I was smoking
my way through thirty thousand yen's worth a month, roughly seventy
cigarettes every day. Then imports of foreign cigarettes were banned.
Just before the ban, I bought about two hundred cartons, but once they
were finished I had no choice but to switch to a Japanese brand.
Then one day, I had to travel to Tokyo to put in an appearance at a
literary party hosted by a publishing firm to whom I had been indebted
for many years. I told my wife to buy me a ticket for the Bullet Train.
"Tickets in Smoking are an extra twenty percent" she said, as she handed
me the ticket she had bought. "And there's only one carriage you can
smoke in. When I asked the man at the ticket counter for a seat in Smoking
he looked at me as though I was some sort of animal."
On the day of my trip I boarded the carriage marked "Smoking." It was
unbelievable - the seats were in tatters and the windows were covered
with dirt, with little round bits of paper pasted over the numerous
cracks in the glass. The floor of the carriage was littered with rubbish.
Seven or eight passengers sat gloomily in their seats. On the ceiling,
a spider was spinning its web to the gloomy accompaniment of Grieg's
piano concerto, which filtered from speakers inside the carriage. The
ashtray on the seat had not been cleaned and was full of dog-ends. A
sign posted on the door read "Passage to other carriages is forbidden."
The toilet for smokers at the back of the carriage had no flush, and
a previous user had kindly left behind a great fat turd. There was no
water supply for the sink, just a porcelain cup chained to a scoop-pump.
I was furious. I decided to give the party a miss, and at the next station
I jumped off and took a taxi home. I had realized what I would have
had to put up with at the party and at the hotel.
In the towns, tobacco stores had been ostracized from their neighbourhoods.
The stores near our house had gone out of business one by one, and I
was having to travel some distance to buy my cigarettes. Finally only
one shop remained.
"You're not going to close down too, are you?" I asked the old man
who ran the shop, "If you do, then bring all the cigarettes you have
in stock to my house." That night, the old man brought his complete
stock to my house.
It seemed he had been waiting for an opportunity to close down, and
had jumped at my offer.
Discrimination against smokers was rapidly worsening. The countries
of Europe and America had already succeeded in banning smoking entirely.
Of course, Japan being a backward country, cigarettes were still on
sale, and people were still smoking. People said that Japan ought to
be ashamed of such a situation. Consequently, smokers were treated like
scum, and people who lit up in public were often beaten up.
There is a theory that natural intelligence usually prevents humans
from behaving too stupidly. I am opposed to this theory. I am not sure
what sort of stupidity level counts as extreme, but a glance at history
reveals many cases in the past when human stupidity has led to executions
and mass murders. Discrimination against smokers soon grew to the level
of a witch-hunt, but since the anti-smokers did not believe that they
were acting irrationally, the whole situation was out of control. People
are never more cruel than when they are convinced of the righteousness
of their cause, be it religion, goodness, justice or whatever. On the
basis of this new religion which held that discrimination against smokers
was healthy, brandishing their notions of justice and goodness, anti-smoking
hysteria soon escalated to murder. A man known as the heaviest smoker
in his town, who had refused to quit no matter how much people tried
to persuade him, was butchered to death on the street in broad daylight
by two police officers and a hysterical group of about eighteen housewives
who were out shopping. It was said that when he died, nicotine and tar
spewed out of the holes in his body left by the bullets and breadknives.
When Tokyo was hit by a major earthquake causing fires in densely populated
urban areas, wild rumours circulated blaming the damage on smokers.
Roadblocks were set up, and all refugees with gravelly voices were labelled
as smokers and executed. It would appear that those who discriminate
sink on a sub-conscious level from guilt into paranoia.
Then the National Tobacco Company was set on fire, and once the company
was eventually forced into bankruptcy the Black Age for smokers truly
arrived. Each night, parties of Anti-Smoking League members roamed the
streets wearing pointed white masks and carrying torches above their
heads, setting fire to the few tobacco stores that remained. I was still
making the most of my privileges as a popular author, and getting my
editors to buy cigarettes for me, and so I continued smoking without
"Never mind about my fee. Pay me in cigarettes, or else I'm not writing
a thing." These poor editors had to scurry around the whole country
in order to supply me with cigarettes that were still sold secretly
at some country stores, or smuggled into the country and sold on the
There were others like me. The idiots in the press continued to run
special features on famous people who were still smoking. Each report
listed the names of one hundred people who like me had publicly announced
their intention to continue smoking.
"Which of these stubborn people will become the last of the smokers?"
Although I was hiding out at my home, now even I was in constant danger.
Stones were hurled through the windows, and arsonists set fire to the
wall and hedges around my house. Graffiti in various colours was sprayed
on the wall and no matter how many times I repainted it, the slogans
"SMOKER'S HOUSE" "NICOTINE DEATH" "OWNER NOT TRUE JAPANESE"
The abusive Ietters and crank-calls increased, and most of them now contained
direct threats. Unable to live with me any longer, my wife took my son
and moved to her parents' home.
Each day the newspapers ran columns asking "Who will be the last of
the smokers?" They even had experts trying to predict the result, as
the list of names printed gradually became shorter and shorter. The
pressure on smokers escalated as quickly as the complaints against discrimination
decreased. One day, I tried calling the Association for the Protection
of Human Rights. The man I spoke to was utterly lost for an answer,
and made no effort to be polite.
"Why are you complaining? What we have been trying to do is protect
"But the smokers are the minority now."
"Smokers were always the minority. Our organisation defends the interests
of the majority."
"Oh, really? So you always side with the majority, then?"
"Of course we do. Don't be so stupid."
There was nothing for it but to protect myself. No bill had yet been
passed outlawing smoking, but in protest at this, the lynching of smokers
grew hopelessly frenzied. I strung up barbed wire around my house, ran
an electric current through it at night, and armed myself with a re-powered
pistol and a Japanese sword. That day, Kusakabe, a painter who lived
in a town nearby, called me. He had once enjoyed smoking a pipe, but
as he was no longer able to get hold of any tobacco he was making do
with ordinary rolled cigarettes. He had become a frequent subject of
media reports now that he was one of the twenty or so smokers who remained.
"Things are really terrible, aren't they?" he said. "I have heard that
there is going to be an attack some time soon. The press and the TV
people are going to stir up the Anti-Smoking League and get them to
set fire to our houses, then film the whole event for the news."
"Jesus!" I said. "If they get my house first, can I escape to your
"All right, and I'll do the same. If they come here first I'll drive
over to your house. Then we could drive to Tokyo. I have a safehouse
there, and friends who can help us. Since we're going to be together
to the end, let's smoke ourselves to a magnificent death in the capital."
"Agreed. We'll die in glory so that textbooks in the future will say
'Even in death, they did not let their cigarettes slip from their lips'."
We laughed together. But it was hardly a laughing matter. One evening
just two months later, Kusakabe drove to my house. His clothes were
covered in burn marks. He parked his car in the garage, a refurbished
storehouse which was part of the main building. "They got me," he said.
"and they're coming here next. We'd better get out of here quickly."
"Just a moment" I said, closing the garage door. "I'll load up all
the cigarettes I have."
"Thanks. I brought a few myself."
As we were loading the cigarettes into the trunk of the car, there
was a sudden commotion around the house, and the glass window on the
"Here they come" I switched to warrior mode. "Shall we take a few out
as we go?"
"Yes, let's do that. I'm ready for them!"
From the dining room facing the garden we could see a man caught on
the barbed wire over the fence at the back. He was crackling away, his
body split open. I heated up the pot of oil I had prepared beforehand,
handed my pistol to Kusakabe, and picked up my sword. There was a noise
in the toilet. When I burst in, a man had smashed the window and was
trying to climb in. He must have jumped across from the roof of the
neighbouring house. I slashed off both his arms at the elbow.
Without a sound he disappeared onto the other side.
About a dozen people had cut through the barbed wire and burst into
the garden. They began trying to wrench open all the windows and shutters
and so after consulting with Kusakabe, I carried the pot upstairs, and
from the balcony I threw the boiling oil out over the whole garden.
The howling of those who were burned was Kusakabe's sign to start shooting.
They wailed and shrieked in terror....
Clearly they had not expected us to be so prepared for them. Carrying
away their injured, for the moment they withdrew. But the doorway had
been set alight, and smoke was starting to fill the house.
"Such warm consideration for a smoke-loving home" said Kusakabe, in
a fit of coughing. "But I'd rather not burn to death. Let's get out
"The garage door is very flimsy," I said, as we climbed into the car,
sensing that there were people on the street outside. "Just drive straight
Kusakabe's car was a Mercedes Benz, as tough as a tank. My son had
been using my car as his own, and had driven it with my wife when they
moved to her parents' house.
The Mercedes set off, crashed through the garage door and flew onto
the street. Without slowing down we turned and headed for the main road.
We had run over several of the cameramen and reporters gathering like
garbage in front of the house, but we weren't too bothered about that.
"Well, that was pretty exciting!" Kusakabe laughed as we drove away.
When I think about it now, we did very well to get to Tokyo while avoiding
all the roadblocks on the highroad. After all, the fires at our houses
would certainly have been broadcast on TV and radio, and both the A.S.L.
and the police were after us. We drove all night and arrived at Tokyo
in the morning.
Kusakabe's secret safehouse was in the basement of a magnificent apartment
in Roppongi. About twenty people from all over the country whose houses
had also been burned to the ground were gathered there. It was a luxury
club of which Kusakabe had been a founding investor, and the owner was
also one of those present. Here we pledged our solidarity and resistance
to the enemy. We worshipped the god of tobacco and prayed for victory
in out struggle. Of course the god of tobacco has no physical form,
so we worshipped by smoking huge numbers of cigarettes, with the Lucky
Strike red circle as the symbol on our flag.
A description of how our struggle developed over the following week
would be far too tedious to relate in detail here. Briefly, it would
be fair to say that we fought relatively well. Our enemies were not
only the Anti-Smoking League and the police and Self Defence Forces,
who had by now become nothing more than agents of the A.S.L., but also
the World Health Organization and the Red Cross who were supported by
the common sense of the whole world—these were the fiends we were fighting
against. In the face of this, the only support we could hope for would
be from gangsters running secret tobacco sales. Asking for help from
those sorts of characters would have been against the noble spirit of
Our comrades fell one by one until there were only the two of us left.
Finally, after being chased to the top of the National Diet Building,
we sat smoking all the cigarettes that we had left, when Kusakabe asked
"You and I experienced all the horrors of the War, but as the world
grew more and more affluent, laws and restrictions expanded, discrimination
increased, and somehow we lost our freedom. Why did this happen? Does
it mean that humans actually enjoy this sort of thing?"
"I suppose it does" I answered. "It seems that the only way to stop
them is to wage war."
At that moment, Kusakabe was hit in the head by a canister of tear
gas fired from one of.the helicopters above, and fell silently to his
death. The swarming crowd on the ground below, many of them drinking
sake as though they were at a flower-viewing afternoon, gave a loud
cry, then jeered in unison:
"Only one left! Only one left!"
A very long two hours later I was still clinging to the top of the
Diet, which was quite a feat by my standards. I didn't mind using up
all my strength, since I knew that I was going to die whatever happened.
Suddenly it seemed that the ground below had become completely silent.
The helicopters had vanished. Someone was speaking through a microphone,
and I could faintly hear the words:
"... would be the result. By then it will be too late for regrets.
This would be a great loss. He is now a valuable artefact of the Smoking
Age. He should be designated as a precious natural asset and a National
Human Treasure. He must be preserved. We implore you. We repeat: This
is the Society for the Protection of Smokers......"
I shuddered. No way was I going to be protected. That would only be
a new sort of abuse. Everyone knows that whenever people start trying
to protect animals the species immediately becomes extinct. They are
exhibited to have their photographs taken, they are given injections,
put in isolation, their bodies are messed about with and their sperm
collected. In the end, they just wither away and die. As if that weren't
enough, they are then stuffed and put on display. I wasn't going to
die like that. Quickly, I decided to jump.
But it was already too Iate. A safety net had been secured on the ground
below. From the distant sky, two helicopters with a net spread between
them, sIowly descended and moved towards me.