Why don't the Japanese get stoned?
September 9, 2005 12:48 AM   Subscribe

Why is the marijuana usage rate in Japan (0.05%) so much lower than anywhere else?
posted by Tlogmer to Society & Culture (36 answers total)
 
Well, I imagine that it's much higher than 0.05% but Japanese laws are extremely harsh (I have read stories of three months in prison for one roach) and mainstream Japanese society generally frowns on drug use of any kind. I imagine smoking marijuana just never acquired much of the rebellious cachet it acquired in the West in the later half of the twentieth century because it's kind of impossible to rebel in this society without being ground into the dirt.
posted by dydecker at 1:07 AM on September 9, 2005


A quick google search turned up this link. Why do you ask?
posted by number9dream at 1:10 AM on September 9, 2005


Also -- and I'm guessing here -- it's pretty hard to grow the stuff when you live in cities which are just miles and miles of endless concrete.
posted by dydecker at 1:10 AM on September 9, 2005


mainstream Japanese society generally frowns on drug use of any kind.

Except getting absolutely falling-down brain-fryingly what's-my-name-again? destroyed all the time on alcohol. That's encouraged.
posted by pracowity at 1:15 AM on September 9, 2005


I imagine that it's much higher than 0.05%

Not according to this (though of course I'm willing to be corrected). I have a feeling it's cultural, but I'm looking for history and specifics.
posted by Tlogmer at 1:15 AM on September 9, 2005


Er. For some reason I missed the last 90% of dydecker's response.
posted by Tlogmer at 1:15 AM on September 9, 2005


I don't know about Japan and marijuana that much, but I do know that Asia itself is a very different world as far as drugs are concerned.

In Singapore or Indonesia you could be in jail for years for pot, in Cambodia there isn't much enforcement at all but not much abuse and it is, in fact, considered an old man's habit.

Meth use is a far bigger concern.

I am really shocked about those stats about pot and japan, seems like it is perfect ground for a pot loving culture.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:25 AM on September 9, 2005


I'm thinking 0.05% is low because I got offered pot by four different Japanese at a party the other week so someone is not being counted.

But wow, that graph says the NZ rate is 22%. I guess the real question is why do NZers settle for such shitty drugs? :p
posted by dydecker at 1:25 AM on September 9, 2005


Don't know the answer, but you'd have to think about how they measure it as well - if they take a survey, it's just going on what people admit.
posted by lunkfish at 1:51 AM on September 9, 2005


Drug use is underreported everywhere. The extent may differ. There was a recently publicized study which measured levels of cocaine metabolites in the sewers in an Italian province. Those results indicated consumption of 40,000 doses daily. The survey indicated 15,000.
posted by Gyan at 1:53 AM on September 9, 2005


Remember what happened to Paul McCartney there?
posted by brujita at 2:04 AM on September 9, 2005


Japanese are loyal to the concept of being part of a group - uchi - and so unless the group wants to smoke pot, the individual within the group (school chums, co-workers, rock band, whatever group it is) will not likely break with group to pursue individual desires. More likely that the group will go out and get plastered on beer - culturally allowed in Japan - than pot, which is also seen as something very non-Japanese.

I stopped smoking pot (after 30 years of near-Rastafarian consumption) soon after I started living with a Japanese woman who didn't smoke. I had a choice: I could have a wonderful, loving woman beside me in life, or I could continue to hang with my musician buddies stoned at 2 am in some backstage bar. I chose the first option.
posted by zaelic at 3:02 AM on September 9, 2005


dydecker> But wow, that graph says the NZ rate is 22%. I guess the real question is why do NZers settle for such shitty drugs? :p

You're assuming that the 22% of people smoking marijuana in New Zealand aren't using other drugs as well?
posted by snarfodox at 3:05 AM on September 9, 2005


This is what number9dream was trying to point to. I guess it sort of helps.

Am I right to remember that magic mushrooms were legal and rather popular in Japan until about 2 years ago?
posted by grahamwell at 3:29 AM on September 9, 2005


grahamwell, yes. Though you can still buy mescaline and all matter of unregulated chemicals over the counter in Tokyo head shops.
posted by dydecker at 3:33 AM on September 9, 2005


My buddy who spent three years there says it's because they don't grow it locally, so all you get is really crappy powder that most would not recognize as actual bud.
posted by furtive at 5:29 AM on September 9, 2005


Also -- and I'm guessing here -- it's pretty hard to grow the stuff when you live in cities which are just miles and miles of endless concrete.

Japan actually has plenty of countryside, especially outside of the east coast. If one really wanted to grow pot in an empty area there are hundreds of miles in Hokkaido with no one around.

When I lived there I did notice a lot of stickers and lunch boxes with marijuana leaves printed on them. It seemed to be more a celebration of the "free lifestyle" rather that pot itself. I think the explination for the low marijuana usage is Japan's thorough crack down on foreign citizens from countries likely to export pot to Japan, especially countries like Iran . This country has no shame in using racial profiling. Pot is also insanely expensive in Japan.
posted by Alison at 6:54 AM on September 9, 2005


Pot is also insanely expensive in Japan.

So why should pot be so much more expensive there than in other countries?
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:24 AM on September 9, 2005


70$ a gram? Talk about a buzzkill. That's reason enough to abstain.
posted by prostyle at 7:34 AM on September 9, 2005


nebulawindphone, economics of supply. It's not harder to grow marijuana but even with the vast rural areas in which you could theoretically grow marijuana -- it's nothing compared to the vast rural areas of America, Mexico and Canada. Here you have two countries with a large border and laxer laws on pot. Japan is an island away from large marijauna producing countries (sans Australia, New Zealand perhaps). I'd reason that even if pot was legal everywhere it'd still be a lot more expensive in Japan than here simply because they have to import it by ship.
posted by geoff. at 7:43 AM on September 9, 2005


Damn $245 an 1/8th? I need to move to Japan and grow weed. One plant in the rural areas and you'd be a millionare.
posted by geoff. at 7:44 AM on September 9, 2005


whoa whoa whoa. Can you seriously buy mescaline over the counter in Japan? I have trouble believing that.
posted by Dr_Octavius at 7:47 AM on September 9, 2005


Expense can't be the real reason long term. It's not hard to grow pot indoors, using hydroponics and the fact that pot is more valuable by weight than gold would provide a very significant incentive to do just that.

Obviously people don't however. Might the simple explanation be that organized crime in Japan is just not interested and by implication, without the involvement of organized crime you don't get much of a market in pot?
posted by grahamwell at 7:58 AM on September 9, 2005


Dr_Octavius, it's probably like the Netherlands. Smart shops which sell peyote buttons for ornamental purposes (wink, wink).
posted by Gyan at 8:03 AM on September 9, 2005


Good thread. I think if they got a taste, the Japanese would go for it, big time -- but the herb's very much forbidden there, in the mainstream, reenforced as zaelic describes. I've read horror stories of neighbors getting a whiff and calling the police, who arrive and bust without mercy. "Drugs" in their culture is very like the USA situation, with no distinction made or understanding of the difference between hard and soft, and no comprehension of the possibility that their legal drugs might be worse (Japan being one of the most tobacco-friendly cultures on earth). What's interesting is one observes the leaf here and there now, as Alison describes; but in fact the hemp leaf inspired a traditional textile print-pattern called asanoha which has been around for ages, just as the plant's fibers have been used, formed into ropes and lines, even in Japan, since antiquity.
posted by Rash at 8:54 AM on September 9, 2005 [1 favorite]


But wow, that graph says the NZ rate is 22%. I guess the real question is why do NZers settle for such shitty drugs?

Ahem. 22% seems a bit high. I grew up in NZ and the use rate was way lower than in Canada, where I live now. As for 'shitty drugs'... two things: 1. NZ pot is considered about the best in the world, and 2. Other drug types are stratospherically expensive. For example, one can expect to pay as much as $80 for a single tab of e, which is just retarded. Sounds as if the Japanese have the same economic hurdle with pot.
posted by BorgLove at 9:10 AM on September 9, 2005


I'd reason that even if pot was legal everywhere it'd still be a lot more expensive in Japan than here simply because they have to import it by ship.

That's right. Japan is also really zealous about searching ships from countries with reputations for shipping drugs. Despite the fact that there are rural areas, people are much more likely to report their neighbors. People have no problem calling the cops on a loud party and they will certainly have no problem notifying the authorities if there is suspiciton of drug use.

Because so few people have any experience with pot in Japan they seem to mix it in with other hard core drugs. There is no social saftey net outside of the family for drug abusers and therefore users are often seen as "troublemakers". It carries a much higher social stigma than in the United States.
posted by Alison at 9:28 AM on September 9, 2005


FYI, "magic mushrooms" were legal 5 years ago when I was last in Japan. $50 for 5 grams as I recall or there abouts in a head shop we found in Tokyo. Supposedly "not for human consumption" or something like that... Although they were allowed to be legal as they had some history in the shinto religion as I recall. As I read a few years later, the government then made them illegal due to too much use outside of the religion.

You can find a picture of bag of Japanese mushrooms here. If anyone can translate the kanji, I've always wondered what it said and would love to know (email or comment here, please.)
posted by pwb503 at 10:38 AM on September 9, 2005


植物

Shyakubutsu = plant



futokoro = pocket; purse; breast



moto = source

I think I have the third character wrong, but I can't see it too well.
posted by Alison at 11:16 AM on September 9, 2005


[fixed number9dream's link]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:27 PM on September 9, 2005


In japan mushrooms are illegal, but currently peyote is not controled. As for weed it's probably safer and cheaper to fly to cambodia and party there.....

IMHO the most psychedellic substance in japan is okonomiyake unless you like a healthy dose of mortality with your ingestants.
posted by lalochezia at 3:15 PM on September 9, 2005


I wouldn't take the 0.05% claim too seriously, either, because it's based on what people report about their own behavior, and I have the strong feeling that in Japan people tend to underreport what they feel to be embarassing activites.

I could be talking out of my ass, but my feeling is based on a survey I saw which had the Japanese reporting having sex less than half as much as any other nation. Somehow, it just seems more likely to me that they're underreporting than that they really have that much less sex. But I could be way off base.
posted by louigi at 8:09 PM on September 9, 2005


Wow, only one mention of meth?

Japan literally has an underground culture surrounding meth:

"A rather large underworld is still associated with the drug in Japan, with some people being associated with a society separate from most of the law abiding citizens of Japan based purely on this chemical."

Pots not that common, no. More drinking--although, you'll hear rumors of pot every once in awhile. I asked a Japanese friend of mine how drug deals usually went about, and it's a very big hassle, because it's so strict, so that tends to discourage people.
posted by Lockeownzj00 at 11:01 PM on September 9, 2005


For example, one can expect to pay as much as $80 for a single tab of e,
Beg pardon? We must shop at different supermarkets.
posted by Catch at 5:37 PM on September 10, 2005


Sorry, to clarify that remark, I have never heard of anyone paying that much for a tab in NZ.
posted by Catch at 5:40 PM on September 10, 2005


I was under the impression that pot is so popular in North American because of the influence of 60s hippie culture, no? Is that movement influential in Japan?
posted by lemur at 8:50 PM on March 15, 2006


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