Much like the West, it's becoming increasingly common that Japanese smokers are banned from smoking indoors and have to light up outside. The Japanese have coined a rather poetic and appropriate term for these legions of office workers: Hotaru-Zoku or in English, literally, the Firefly Tribe.

It's a particularly apt moniker for office workers wanting to light up on both sides of the pacific pond. You've seen them. Small groups of people huddled together for warmth on loading docks or in alleys. They certainly do look like tribal, putting on their best "us versus them" face, and the glowing ends of their cigarettes certainly do look like fireflies.

As far as tribes go, the Hotaru-Zoku make up a pretty large number in Japan. Roughly 50% of Japanese men smoke a pack a day.

Zoku, which means tribe, is a popular semi-satirical collective tag in Japan for other loosely connected individuals. Many of these zoku terms get coined by Japan's popular tabloid newspapers and gossip magazines. Other examples are
  • Rolling-Zoku- off-road motorcyclists.
  • Drift-Zoku - street racers who like to spin their wheels.
  • Roulette-Zoku - hotrodders who like to speed around circular highways .
  • Vanning-Zoku - people who like to slowly cruise around in their stereo-laden vans.
  • Suwarikomu-Zoku - kids who hang out on street corners, doing not much of anything but sitting around.
  • Zoku-Giin - Political influence peddlers.
  • Bara-Zoku - homosexuals (literally the Rose Tribe).
  • Shinkansen Joso-Zoku - Cross dressers. (So called because apparently lots of cross dressers can be found on the Shinkansen bullet trains going from Tokyo to Osaka. Cross dressers can find stores catering to their cross dressing needs in Osaka versus more uptight Tokyo.)
  • Smurf-Zoku - Japanese workers who work in very specialized, albeit totally inconsequential fields like wedding planning, color trend forecasting, depaato elevator operators, etc.

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