Back in 2008, the Tobacco Industry of Japan discovered, via a shock report, that having cigarette vending machines in the street meant that under-age people could buy them.

Anyway, since that revelation they have introduced the ID-check system of Taspo cards.

In order to buy cigarettes (from Taspo-enabled machines) you must swipe your card over the sensor (or press your wallet against it), and in order to have that card you need to have applied and been approved for one.

Here are the details of how to do that.

Any idiot can get a Taspo; you just need to be 20 or over.

The application is free. Here's the application form (Japanese only, but not complicated).
You must complete and return that form, along with

  • A copy of one of your forms of Japan-issued photo ID: your driver's licence, health insurance card, gaijin card, pension book, welfare cetificate or residency certificate,
  • One photobooth photo.
Send to the address printed on the application.

Two weeks later, your card should have arrived. YAY!

Of course you can pay by cash in vending machines, but you can also credit money to your Taspo card (for some reason referred to as "pidel"). You can charge the card and use your pidel at machines where you see the icon to the right.

  • Convenience stores/supermarkets/tobacconists.
  • You may well find some machines without the Taspo sensor (apparently 2%). Go nuts.
Happy smoking.

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