by Shigeru Aso
Growing up in Japan, I never had a problem obtaining good weed. Hashish and dried cannabis are both prevelent in Japan. It grows wildly there too, believe it or not. The self defense force spends a lot of money every year erradicating this wild cannabis, burning something like a million plants a year. What a waste of money and even bigger waste of good commercial weed.
I first smoked weed when I was 14 at an International School in a decent size city in Japan. I had a son of a movie star as a roommate, and he was spoiled rotten. He introduced me to weed for the first time. He got the stuff from his mom, who was some sort of talent agent. These type of people are well known to have weed in Japan. We used to smoke out together and listen to music, giggle all night, just like any other pothead does so.
Back then, perhaps 25 years or so ago, Filipino weed was very popular in Japan. This stuff was rough, meaning that it had a lot of stems and seeds, and tiny tiny buds. But it worked. Back then, Filipino weed cost about 3000 yen (about $30) per gram retail, and extremely good Thai weed (yes, including Thai Stick) cost just a little more. Weed was weed, and the quality didn’t seem to matter so much. We were just lucky to have it. Or it seemed so at the time. Basically, back then it was all about availability and the weed’s quality didn’t affect the price so much. I pretty much stayed stoned all through high-school. Well, until I got kicked out for using other illicit substances.
Hashish, on the other hand, has always been high quality in Japan. Hashish is definitely bigger in the Tokyo area, and regular bud is more popular among the streets of the greater Osaka area. A lot of the good hashish used to come through Nepal, India and other hippie spots via backpackers and post-draft International travelers who sold jewelry on the streets.
Now the market is dominated by syndicated foreign interests and of course, the Yakuza. In my day, it was the norm for us to have to go see a local Yakuza representative or a made member, just to buy some weed. Nowadays, everybody grows their own. This is the greatist difference I see in the Japanese pot scene in the last 25 years. The wholesale price used to be about 900 yen ($9) to 1500 yen ($15) per gram depending on where the merchandise came from and how much you bought. Popular weed was from Hawaii, such as Maui Waui and Hawaiian Red Beard. This stuff cost up to 5000 yen ($50) a gram, but would keep you stoned all day long. Unpopular was Black Indian Hashish which is surprising because this shit was good and cheap, around 2000 yen ($20) a gram. This stuff was rock hard, and stamped with a dragon on each brick. Oxidized and turned black on the outside, the inside is actually light green when fresh. I’ve seen many variations of this hashish with various stamps, but the dragon was by far the most popular. Well, now I’m talking Tokyo circa ’89, when the Japanese famous ‘bubble’ economy was booming, and I heard even absurd prices such as 12000 yen ($120) a gram for some super bomb shit from Cambodia, aka Cambo in Roppongi area of Tokyo. As for the Indian Hashish, this stuff was so potent it spun me like a top.
Now my friends in Japan are struggling to even give away the shit, let alone sell it, because the market is so flooded. In Japan, it is no longer that hard to find pot anymore. You just have to know the right people. Or know where to look. Plus you gotta remember, everybody’s paranoid, because the laws are so strict. For example, for simple possession of any amount for any reason, medical or not, you will go to jail. If you’re caught cultivating, you will go to jail. You do anything with pot, you face up to 5 years in prison, 7 if it’s considered
with intent to distribute, and 10 or more for special highly felonious charges. First time offenders will eventually get off with a suspended sentence, but it is hard jail in Japan, even compared to the United States. Atleast, that’s my opinion after experiencing both quite extensively. They both suck hard in different ways. 5 years in a Japanese jail is a very long stretch, and the government hits pot smokers with senteneces that compare to rape and assault
charges. I’ve seen people get 5 years for murder. So be very careful, especially if you are on a suspended sentence. There is no second chance – if you catch a charge while on suspended sentence, you will do the time for the initial sentence plus the time for the new charge. This is how most pot smokers go from jail to prison.
American prisons are fucked up, because they have become such hostile environments. Japanese prisons are fucked up because of the ultra strict rules and regulations. At ant rate, it is best to avoid jail in any country. Usually jail sucks. It’s just not worth it to go to jail over a little bit of reefer – or any amount for that matter.
Japan has a big time meth problem. Crystal Meth was invented by a Japanese scientist and was used during the war to promote Kamikaze style piloting, and after the war to promote hard labor to rebuild the country. It is an unfortunate problem that sometimes the suppliers of
weed are the same ones who spread methamphetamine throughout the Japanese society. This problem is gradually being solved, because as I said before, most pot-heads in Japan turned to indoor and outdoor cultivation.
The internet played a big role too. Access to information regarding pot has become readily available to the Japanese public, and therefore there are more and more pot heads every year.The internet has extensive information about how to grow indoors, outdoors, in various mediums. This changed the game quite a bit.
There is also a huge reggae and hip-hop scene in Japan that played a big role in spreading the word about cannabis. Many Japanese Rastafarians moved to the country side to grow pot. There was some sort of a hippie movement prior to this, but I am too young to know about it. Perhaps my parent’s generation knows a little more about this subject.
But don’t forget – in Japanese society it is taboo to even openly discuss the subject matter of cannabis. If you stand out of a crowd, you have a great chance of getting busted. Being a foreigner (well I’m half American) doesn’t help either. Racial profiling by the police is very common in Japan. The police will target foreigners and confront them, and may ask (or order you) to empty your pockets. YOU DON’T HAVE TO FOLLOW THEIR ORDERS. Remember, such cooperation with the police is purely voluntary. But they are tenacious as hell, and it is common that if you argue with cops, you may end up wasting hours of your time.
At any rate, the Japanese pot scene is changing dramtically. More than 3000 citizens are busted for cannabis related charges every year. It is estimated that more than a million Japanese have tried cannabis in one form or another. As the Japanese travel abroad, they often bring home the practice of smoking pot back to their country. Hopefully the laws will change in the near future – Japan has a rich history with this plant, dating back to 10000 years ago, and we were stripped of the right to smoke weed by the American occupying forces, also known as the GHQ (general headquarters) right after the war. Until then, we even had medical marijuana sold as tincture in pharmacies.
The legal battles will go on, and some day we shall restore cannabis back into our mainstream culture to the fullest extent.