The Japanese are renowned for their love of fish, with almost every species on the planet available in their restaurants, but they have also acquired a taste for Shisha (Hookah). This is flavoured tobacco that is smoked using a waterpipe, which many believe gives it intense amounts of smoke and a unique taste. The tobacco is mixed with chemicals (for flavour) and charcoal, the latter being an important ingredient in the Shisha world. Charcoal is needed to help burn the tobacco and give it sustained life, often in excess of an hour. This long-life allows people to share their Shisha with friends and it is thus a sociable recreation, enjoyed in Shisha bars across the world.
Café Layla in Japan is one such bar
Something that most Hookah lounges share is their Middle Eastern furniture and decorations, and Café Layla is no exception. This is officially a coffee/tea shop and Shisha bar, except they regularly have live music and belly dancers! One of the reasons this venue is so popular is that it was founded by Mohannad Alkayem, the very first person to introduce Hookah to Japan. This restaurant is located in Tokyo and it has already proven to be a popular haunt with locals and tourists, thanks to its amazing entertainment and unique Hookah mixtures.
Perhaps more in line without Japanese culture is the Bonji Bar
The Bonji Bar is another popular Hookah lounge and it too offers tea/coffee in a variety of flavours, often to complement the Shisha. Some of the mixtures on offer here include Sudan Goza, Yemen Boori, Syria Algile and Narikela. This café is also situated in Japan’s capital city, but it differs from Café Layla in many ways. These differences are subtle but an obvious one is that Bonji Bar serves alcohol as well as tea. They both have an Arabian décor and the atmosphere is always welcoming and hospitable, something synonymous with Shisha venues around the world.
Japan seems to have embraced Shisha with open arms
Unlike a lot of countries, Japan has welcomed Shisha and allowed people to relax and enjoy their favourite recreation without feeling the need to prohibit its use. A lot of countries are introducing smoking bans, the UK and US included, so the future of Hookah is unknown in these countries. It’s nice to see Japan welcome Shisha, particularly since it’s one of the more sociable pastimes, unlike alcohol which can tend to lower people’s inhibitions and make them more hostile. There are currently no laws in place to prohibit smoking of any sorts in Japan, indoors or in public places, so the future of Hookah looks promising here.
What about the health concerns of Shisha?
Shisha does contain toxins, just like regular cigarettes, but since the people who use it are aware of these risks it doesn’t seem like a huge concern. Consenting adults should be free to enjoy Hookah and socialize with others who also enjoy it. Some governments disagree with this and it does seem like a hypocritical attitude, since these governments allow the sale of tobacco without any issues. But at least the Japanese government has adopted a different attitude to those in the West, and anyone in the country can enjoy their Hookah freely, without fear of repercussions. In some other countries health concerns of tobacco based produced products including hookah are being overcome with the use of electronic versions. In Hookah’s case this is known as E-Hookah or E-Shisha and these are becoming popular in both the US and Europe.