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Tattoos and respect for Japanese culture

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Tattoos and respect for Japanese culture 2008/10/25 13:21
My husband and I are both heavily ( 50% of my body, 30% of his) tattooed and are leaving for Tokyo in March. We plan on wearing long sleeves and pants while there, but we both have tattoos on our hands that cannot be covered up. We have a great intrest in the culture and want to be as respectful of the people as possible. We are curious as to how we will be treated as heavily tattooed as we are...any help would be wonderful!!!
by Nikki  

Tattoos 2008/10/26 15:44
There is no denying that tattoos in Japan carry a stigma associated with yakuza, the Japanese underworld, especially full body tattoos like I assume yours are. On the other hand, assuming that you are not Asian looking, nobody will assume that you are actually yakuza. Especially since you are covering them them up, I don't think that anybody will take much exception and notice and if they do, they will probably just write it up on the list of 'weird gaijin'. You might have some trouble getting into onsen or communal baths like you find in hotels or ryokan; all in the name of preventing their guests from feeling uncomfortable.

All in all there is little you can do more than you are suggesting doing already and I would advice you to just enjoy your trip and accept the fact that an onsen or ryokan might point at a no-tattoo sign; but there is so much more to see and soak in that that should not spoil your trip.

by Kappa rate this post as useful

. 2008/10/26 22:39
I think it's a bit mis-leading that the reason the Japanese society ban tattoos is because of the yakuza image. It's not just about the yakuza, but I think that people in general are scared of those who are covered with heavy tattoos. Same goes with heavy body-pierces. People simply seem to think it's a bit scary that someone would go through all that pain.

That said, there are a lot of Japanese people who have their body covered with non-yakuza-type tattoos. You see a high percentage of them in the music industry. Also, I sometimes notice foreign tourists with heavy tattoos. And if you go to the old part of Tokyo, there are even ordinary craftsmen who are covered with yakuza-type tattoos. They all seem to be walking in broad daylight with no problem at all, and I don't really hear stories on TV about the musicians getting in big trouble just because of their tattoos. So I really don't think it's a matter of being Asian-looking or not.

However note that not only baths and pools, but also bars often have signs banning those with tattoos. So if you happened to be asked to leave, that's the rules, although I'm sure you'll still have plenty of fun in Japan. In fact, I would imagine that many people would even be attracted by your tattoos.

by Uco rate this post as useful

Tattoos and Baths 2008/10/27 01:54
Practically all hot springs and swimming pools I have ever seen in Japan have a sign or pamphlet saying that people with tattoos are not permitted. At some places it is even written that tattoed people already bathing can be asked to leave immediately. However, I have seen Japanese (or other Asians) with Yakuza type tattoos in some hot springs. The other guests didn't panic or tried to escape. It depends on the staffs whether or not you can take a bath or not. Some ryokans offer private use of public bath so you can experience hot spring if you stay at such a ryokan.
by OkinawaDolphin rate this post as useful

Tattoo confused... 2008/10/28 08:40
So does that mean ANY tattoos are banned from these bath houses? I have one word written in script on my shoulder...cause for banning? I'm on my way to Japan next month and was planning to take a dip..this is good info to know. I didn't know that was an issue.
by USAngel rate this post as useful

female with tattoo 2008/10/28 10:08
i'm sorry to intrude but my question is somewhat similar. what if a girl has tattoos? would she be descriminated more since she's a female? i'm a bit worried cause i have 3 tattoos and they are quite big. thanks!
by me.zyne.me rate this post as useful

hotspring tattoo 2008/10/28 12:36
I don't think the tattoo ban is exclusive to onsens. But, when you bathe, of course you're naked so there's no way to hide your tattoo.
I think if you're foreign and have a non East Asian face, you'll be fine. But it's because of the association of gangs people with tattoos usually don't get entry.

A sort of similar example would be the 1993 nation wide ban on foreigners because of the Russian sailors who were causing a ruckus. Fortunately, this isn't a problem as much.
http://www.zmag.org/znet/viewArticle/7438
The article's on a western perspective and seems more anti-japan... sorry...

I guess what I'm trying to say is that gang members are associated with violence and disrespect and usually have tattoos. So if one were to enter with a tattoo with a Japanese motif on it... you get the idea.

by UreshiiMiko rate this post as useful

Details not important 2008/10/28 15:53
It doesn't matter what the tattoo is or who has it, some onsens and gyms will enforce the tattoo ban. You are unlikely to have any other problems due to the tattoo, but the potential to be asked to leave a pool or an onsen is there.
by Sira rate this post as useful

Female Tattooed 2008/10/29 05:31
I have 2 half sleeves & purple/black/red hair & go to Japan often. I personally have never had anyone treat me weird; in fact they always want to see my tattoos and touch them & ask me about them & have been super nice & friendly towards me. Some places will not let you in like people have mentioned before me (you will see signs). There are also plenty of tattooed Japanese people too. (I met a guy who showe me a huge piece he had on his stomach so you will be surprised) Just be polite and Im sure you will be fine.
by A rate this post as useful

... 2008/10/30 21:17
I have been to Japan twice and I have my entire back tattooed as well as another small Tattoo on my wrist.
Personally I have never had any problems because I my tattoos, if anything people were curious about them. I did of course cover them as best I could but in the summer sometimes a cornor or something shows and I have been approached by people wanting to see the tattoo.
Of course this was only my experience and I can't speak for everyone.
by kittywheaty rate this post as useful

small female tattoo 2008/11/1 21:38
I have a small tattoo on my shoulder, and told the staff at the hotel pool entrance about it and asked if I should not use the pool. They gave me some medical tape (the one which is very similar to masking tape) which was a terrible solution because as soon as I got in the water it went clear and started peeling off.

I'll just sit by the side from now on.

by Barb rate this post as useful

Um... 2008/11/4 12:50
In the japan forum someone said kinf of the same thing. And it was both negative and positive. Some people said that they went to japan and had tattoos and were fine, and some said that if you have a tattoo you will be treated like a ganster cuz of them. They even posted a pic of a sign in front of a hotspring that said that no tattoed people were allowed. but I'm guessing it's just where you go.
by JVT rate this post as useful

re tattoos 2008/11/5 01:02
I've been living in Japan for 4 years now and have 2 tattoos and basically the only time you may have a problem is if you go into the public hot springs. I've found that in most of the touristy areas nobody bats an eyelid at my tattoos and ryokans that are popular with tourists expect it but the bigger chain-type ones have strict rules. Sometimes the best thing to do, if you're worried about the bath situation, is to find a ryokan with a private onsen, which are not as expensive as you'd think.
by loopyloo rate this post as useful

thank you 2008/11/5 01:40
I thank you very much. i was thinking over getting some tattoos because I really want to go to an onsen, but I was scared they would throw me out, so now if I get tattoos and visit Japan I won't be in trouble? Thank you!
by JVT rate this post as useful

SHOCKED! 2008/11/6 11:49
I'm sitting here with my mouth open. I had NO idea that tats were such an issue in Japan. I'm going back later this month and I will carry my tat with me (joke) so I'll let you guys know how it goes when I get back. I love my tat and sport it on my shoulder proudly. I will be respectful of the culture, of course, but nothing I can do about the tat. I am staying at my first ryokan too so I'm a bit worried now. We'll see. :~(
by USAngel rate this post as useful

depends on what you want to do 2008/11/6 14:57
Japanese are aware that other cultures have a different outlook when it comes to tatoos. so places that are more international (like tokyo) you will have little problems. the only thing you will be restricted from will be use of gyms, hot springs, and some massage places but anywhere else and as far as general treatment you'll be fine.

I live in the country side and i have one tattoo on my back its fairly small and i have been kicked out of hotsprings before. i have most of the time been able to get away with it though. Many tatoos may be harder but again if you don't look japanese then most people wont even speak to you because they are afraid to use english so you could get away with it though you will be heavily stared at. it depends on your comfort level really.

other than that in japan people are really kind and should not openly treat you with any kind of contempt because of tatoos.

by sakuraneko rate this post as useful

Kanji for 'no Tattoo' 2009/12/16 04:47
Hi,

I just wanted to ask if someone could give me the Kanjis for 'no tattoos' or what ever it would say if tattos weren't allowed.

Could somebody translate for me 'I'm sorry, I have a small tattoo, is it okay [to go in?]'? I will only be in japan for 4 week on holiday, but I would like to make a good impression to the locals.

Other than that, my tattoo is on the inner side of the ankle, 3 latin words in a thin writing, most people don't even notice it's there till I show them. My aikido sensei f.e. noticed it a half year later. Do you still think someone would feel botherd by it?

Would you really recommend me to use band-aids? Imo it would look pretty strange to use them, everybody would know there had to be a tattoo underneath it?

by mio (guest) rate this post as useful

Have a nice stay :) 2009/12/16 08:15
Mio,

As far as I know "no tattoos allowed" signs come in different expressions but always has the two letters 刺青 (meaning "tattoo") in it. I hope you can read the font correctly. Keep in mind that sometimes Japanese signs are written vertically.

As for asking, you can just point at your tattoo and say "Tattoo okay?" because the word "tattoo" is now common among the Japanese and because simple expressions are always the best when trying to communicate over language barriers.

You can also take your chances by entering without mentioning your tattoo and wait until a staff politely asks you to leave within 10 minutes or so.

Would people be bothered by your tiny tattoo? You never know. There are all kinds of people. But at least I can say that tattoos much bigger than that are getting common among the youth here in Japan.

by Uco (guest) rate this post as useful

My experiences of tattoos in japan! 2010/5/12 21:45
Hello there,I've been living in Tokyo for nearly 2 and a half years now so I thought I'd share my experiences so far. I have 5 tattoos although 1 is only half visible between my upper arm and elbow.

Onsens:I've given up on onsens. I went to universal studios in Osaka,went on the spiderman ride and bought lots of spiderman goodies from the shop. After retiring to the universal hotel I wanted to go into the onsen so I asked first if my spiderman tattoo was ok and they said no!(obviously I'm not that hardcore of a fan haha!) instead I recomend going to hakone and getting yourself a private onsen. They're much better anyway.
Bars:I've never ever had a problem. Like mentioned before if people do talk to me about them it's because they're interested and have quite a positive inquizative attitude towards them.
Gyms:I guess this applies only to people wanting to live here or hardcore fitness fanatics. This is a tough place to go. I've been rejected from 2 big chains and I've also given up.
People in public:some will stare but there's not much you can do about that!I'd avoid showing/telling older people or any kind of business people you may be meeting.

I think in 10-15 years a big change in attitudes will come. More younger Japanese are getting into it and there's some awesome tattoo places (ink rat,Tokyo hardcore tattoo etc) and in my experience people understand western people think of tattoos as fashion.

by Wayne (guest) rate this post as useful

. 2010/5/13 04:47
I often think some people are missing the point. Japan is a has been, done that country and the people have given the judgment on the tattooed people by their history/experience.
It is not the business controlling the tattoo bearing people. It is because their reputation is at stake by their regular client's (meaning Japanese)complaints, talks to their family/friends/travel agents/etc. Once they get a negative feed back, their business may suffer for a long time or may never recover in the fiercely competitive market. What would you do, if you are running a business? You might get away at some places some times and you may attract a few curious people(socially low) but unless the majority of Japanese change stereotyping the mindset of those go through the tattooing process. Yakuza is still doing a good job keeping that way and it is considered tainted or masochistic mind. Yakuza knows what they are getting into the underworld for life. Some ignorant foreigners, instead want to show off. There is a huge perception gap. It is best to stay clear of communal onsens to avoid embarrassment/confrontation(banned/escorted out) and soak in a time reserved or in-room onsen in peace.
by amazinga (guest) rate this post as useful

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