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Dance of the fireflies

January 30, 2009

There’s an urban species of ‘firefly’ you’ll spot by their tiny, glowing orange light on apartment balconies, in driveways, in gardens.  These are the hotaru zoku, or the firefly tribe.

Japan, as you may know, is all about its groups.  There are many zoku, the best known of which is probably the bousouzoku (‘violence running tribe’), the unruly and sometimes violent teenage motorcycle gangs. A lot of other zoku though are simply media inventions to describe social trends.  One of these, and perhaps then the loneliest of all zoku, is the hotaru zoku.

This group consists mainly of middle-aged men who, like my neighbour, have been banned from smoking in the house, and have been banished outside for a puff.  At night, all you’ll see of them is the occasional amber glow from the end of their cigarette.

Japan is still a smokers’ paradise.  Cigarettes are still very cheap, a very large percentage of people smoke (about 50% of men and between 10 and 15% of women), and public non-smoking areas are few.

The government is slowly beginning to accept the inevitable, and is beginning to enact and enforce a few anti-smoking initiatives.  And as more offices and public buildings go non-smoking, more and more will join the ranks of the hotaru zoku.

One Comment leave one →
  1. February 25, 2009 12:04 pm

    I too have now joined the ranks of the Hotaru Zoku since I moved to a house where there is no smoking, and it sucks. pretty soon I will have to quit Japan and head back to NY having lost one of the major attrations to life here.
    Good article!!!


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