Wisps of smoke rise up through the air, enveloping the room in a cloudy fog. The dim, colored lights illuminate the smoke, giving it shades of blue or red. Music pours through the house speakers, but never loud enough to override the sound of bubbling water coming from all places.
This is what one can expect to find in a hookah lounge. Although the concept of the hookah lounge has been ubiquitous in the Middle Eastern world, it has only spread recently to other areas of the globe. Its popularity has soared in the western world with college-aged adults.
A hookah is a water pipe from which flavored tobacco or shisha is smoked. The shisha (which can also be made from herbal ingredients or be substituted by flavored stones) is placed in a bowl and placed at the top of the pipe’s stem. Resting at the bottom of the stem is a base filled with water. A heating element is put on top of the bowl, usually coals, and the pipe is smoked through a detachable hose. The smoke travels from the bowl and through the stem down into the base. The water filters the smoke and it is then passed through the hose and into the smoker’s mouth.
Due to a greater social acceptance of smoking in Japan compared to the west, one might think hookah lounges would go over very well here. However, it seems they’re very few and far between. Some Middle Eastern style restaurants or shops may have hookahs on display, but as for going to a lounge where one can smoke, that’s a different story.
Icchome No Don is the exception to this. Located in the Chuo Ward of Fukuoka City, it can be a bit difficult to find. The lounge is found in the basement of the Sun Selco building, located on the corner of Sumiyoshi-dori and Watanabe-dori.
The place brought back memories of hookah lounges I used to visit in America. A wide selection of hookah pipes line the walls and the bar and the low lighting helps grant the place a very relaxing atmosphere.
Icchome No Don works a lot like other hookah lounges in that it charges per hookah, per smoker. The menu includes two tiers of pricing based on the type of shisha chosen. Al Fakher shisha is a basic type of hookah tobacco that Icchome No Don charges ¥1500 per session. The more premium tier is ¥1800 and includes shisha from Fumari, Starbuzz, Haze, Khalil Mamoon, and Hookahfina.
Flavors range all across the spectrum. There are standard flavors like double apple, mint, kiwi, lemon, blueberry, grapefruit, and more. The premium shishas have some more unique flavors that are difficult to discern from the name alone. For an added
¥100, flavors can even be mixed. There’s also a pretty decent drink selection, so you can enjoy your smoking session with a beer or cocktail.
Although a bit pricier than lounges in America, options are very limited for hookah smokers in Japan. And when that’s taken into account, Icchome No Don does a much better job than other places. If you’re in Fukuoka and in the mood for a smoke, it’s worth the effort to locate.
Icchome No Don can be found at Chuo-ku Watanabe-dori 1-1-1 on the basement of the Sun Selco building. They’re open at night from 6:30-12:00, although they prefer if customers arrive before 9:50.