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Tattoo acceptance at less touristy area 2021/11/9 13:22
Hi all, I've seen questions about tattoos are posted here. It relieving to know that tattoo culture is getting more common or accepted to certain degree at big cities like Tokyo, especially if worn by foreigners. However I wonder how people at a more rural area or smaller city will react.

I don't have tattoo. My partner is, visible tattoos on neck, both arms, and back of palm. This will be the first time we're travelling together. We are fully aware of the limitation at onsen or ryokan and should not be an issue if we stay on Tokyo or touristy area like Kyoto. However I enjoy travelling to smaller cities which probably see lesser foreign tourist flow, passing by local shops or neighborhood areas run by elderlies. I wonder if the presence of a tattooed person will be uncomfortable for them. We are Asians and at a glance could be mistaken as a locals. Travelling during cold season probably is safer but we'd love to hear some inputs to know our options and possibility.

Thank you.
by Moccy  

Re: Tattoo acceptance at less touristy area 2021/11/9 18:35
Even though tattoos are still quite rare in Japan - the biggest problem that I've heard most people suffer from is getting into swimming pools, gyms, onsens and the like.

It's true that some people in the Japanese countryside (mainly older people) may be more judgemental of certain characteristics such as nationality, tattoos, body size and such but this will be easily evened out by the warmness and hospitality of rural Japanese people in general.

I've found that it can be a little bit more difficult to get to know Japanese people in the main cities as everyone is used to giving each other space and keeping to themselves. However - rural Japanese people are some of the most hospitable people I have met. The number of times I've had an old man or lady in a country town try to speak to me in broken English about general stuff is uncountable.

So to put it simple - unless it's a major face tattoo which would be seen as odd in a Western country or a country such as Singapore you will be totally fine. You'll probably have more problem people thinking you speak Japanese with older people who may have bad eyesight.

Or to explain it in Singaporean lingo - you have the same chance of someone stealing your tissue packet on a table at a coffee shop as having major discrimination in Japan due to having tattoos.

Someone who is a local can explain some of the nuances a bit more than I.
by mfedley rate this post as useful

Re: Tattoo acceptance at less touristy area 2021/11/10 06:32
I would say it would be worse.

In a less touristy rural area, you are more likely to stand out.

The age demographic is much higher and therefore more inclined to be of older ways of thinking.
by H (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Tattoo acceptance at less touristy area 2021/11/10 06:42
Agree with the above. I am pretty heavily tattooed. I don't have anything on my neck like your partner but I do have both of my hands done and my tattoos are very visible to anyone who looks at me for more than half a second. Honestly I've never noticed that it has made anyone visibly uncomfortable, and in fact I would say that I tend to have way more genuinely friendly encounters with locals in rural areas than I do in cities like Tokyo. My general impression is that most people recognise that my tattoos are essentially not much more than a fashion statement and as a result seem to treat me more or less like any other foreigner. I've had lots of nice encounters with people curious or excited about my reasons for visiting, where I've come from, etc. I'm sure my tattoos are deterred one or two people from talking to me but on the whole, no problems.
by LIZ (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Tattoo acceptance at less touristy area 2021/11/10 18:31
Thank you for the replies! It's heartwarming to know that rural people are quite accepting. Totally agree on the hospitality, after experiencing the warm interaction with the people in smaller city/rural area, frankly I wasn't too excited staying too long in big city like Tokyo or Osaka, usually just for few days at the end of the trip to do shopping. I'd like to bring my partner, who loves Japan culture but never been there, to experience the warm hospitality, but we also try to be careful not to offend or creating uncomfortable encounter for the people due to his ink.

@mfedley: We are from Singapore too, and even as people with ink are growing in number, my partner's heavy tattoo still occasionally draw attention. He may look intimidating but he's polite and quite shy. He can speak a little Japanese so I wish some little conversation can break the ice. Love your anecdote with the tissue paper stealing, LOL!

@LIZ: I've been reading the discussions on this forum about tattoo, always love to read your comments and experience with tattoo in Japan. It's relieving to know that inks are gradually accepted way better than we thought. My partner has blackout design on his arms so it's often mistaken as patterned arm sleeve. It looks intimidating but hopefully sets a perception that it's a body art. You have a point there, the tattoos might be a conversation starter! :)
by Moccy rate this post as useful

Re: Tattoo acceptance at less touristy area 2021/11/10 22:58
More foreigners especially S.E Asian are living in rural areas today, you just don't know because they usual work mid night and not seen by tourists. As a result, rural people are getting used to different culture and mostly know that meaning of tattoo is different in Japan and outside Japan. No worry.

One more thing (off topic though) you will feel kindness and hospitality in Tokyo as well if you luckily encounter native Tokyo, most Japanese people living in Tokyo today are not Tokyo people.
by Inakamon (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Tattoo acceptance at less touristy area 2021/11/11 05:25
Many people are unaware (or completely unwilling to accept) that there is a lot of xenophobia in Japan, and if anything tattoos may trigger more negativity on the part of people who are already xenophobic. And in fact, the xenophobia may be even stronger towards other Asians than it is towards non-Asians. But you aren't going to change that, any more than your partner can get rid of his tattoos. So don't be surprised if you encounter some people who appear unfriendly or even overtly hostile. You will encounter many more people who are friendly, or at least polite, and especially on a short trip you are fairly unlikely to experience direct discrimination (such as being told a restaurant is closing and no seats are available when that is clearly not true). If you approach the country and its people with a realistic but open mind, and are genuinely interested in having positive interactions with natives, you will have them. So don't worry about the tattoos, and definitely don't worry about offending people. If you encounter animosity without having done anything to provoke it, then just shrug it off and move on.
by Kim (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Tattoo acceptance at less touristy area 2021/11/11 19:52
The TOKYO 2020 games this summer featured a lot of tattooed athletes, so I'm sure locals throughout the world including Japan are starting to recognize that that's nothing special.

One more thing (off topic though) you will feel kindness and hospitality in Tokyo as well if you luckily encounter native Tokyo, most Japanese people living in Tokyo today are not Tokyo people.

Actually, as a person born and mostly raised in Tokyo, I just wanted to express my gratitude to Inakamon for recognizing it. I guess people just tend to be more "alert" when they're outside their hometown. But to be fair, the beauty of cities around the world including Tokyo is that people tend to honor your space by leaving you alone. That's just another way of expressing kindness.
by Uco rate this post as useful

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