Photo/IllutrationA woman stubs out a cigarette despite cleanup work in the area around the statue of Hachiko at Tokyo’s Shibuya Station. (Ryo Ikeda)

Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward is considering imposing harsher penalties to prevent ill-mannered smokers from polluting the popular Hachiko meeting place with secondhand smoke and discarded cigarette butts.

Smoking is prohibited in the bustling area centered on the statue of faithful dog Hachiko outside Shibuya Station. In December, the ward set up three signboards, each measuring 61 centimeters by 92 cm, warning people against smoking and providing directions to nearby smoking areas.

But many smokers still puff away in the area and toss away the butts.

The problem surfaced after the ward removed a 45-square-meter smoking corner in the area in November.

Store operators had urged the ward government to ban smoking around the Hachiko statue to improve the atmosphere, given the many overseas tourists who visit Shibuya.

The ward government is now receiving complaints about bad manners and litterbugs at the former site of the smoking corner.

Some people continue smoking and flicking the butts in shrubbery around the Hachiko statue and elsewhere even when workers from a ward-commissioned cleaning company are picking up the litter.

“People have a smoke here even after we finish cleaning,” a worker said. “It’s like a cat-and-mouse game.”

In 2004, the ward government designated areas within 300 meters of Shibuya, Harajuku and Ebisu stations as special zones where smoking, including while walking, outside approved areas is strictly prohibited.

The smoking corner in the Hachiko plaza was set up that year.

A Shibuya Ward ordinance stipulates that people who throw away cigarette butts on the streets face a fine of up to 20,000 yen ($172), but people simply smoking on public roads are not subject to the penalty.

Ward officials said they are considering revising the ordinance to impose a penalty against street smokers.