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Worried about appearance 2009/5/16 10:33
Hi there, this is the first time i have ever used a web chatty thing so bear with me.

For the purposes of work I will soon be entering japan for around 6 months. I'm a barman by trade and I have enjoyed three years of travelling the world for free with a drinks company that uses me for promotional value. Its a brand of drinks using alternative styles for marketting and so have always used punks, metal heads and goths for photoshoots and in promotional placements.

I'm going to be working short shifts in lots of bars to promote the drinks. However i have become increasingly worried about my personal time while i am there.

You see the reason I was hired is purely because of my appearance, I am 6'9 (about 206 cm) I am litterally covered head to toe in tattoos and have several piercings.

When i say covered this includes everything from my hands, face and neck right the way to the soles of my feet, tongue, ears....etc etc

Being inspired by asian art in general alot of my tattoos are japanese themed, including dragons, koi and the kanji for slave and master under my right eye amongst other facial design work.

On top of this I have knee length hair (yes im male might be worth pointing that out) dyed numerous colours and metal capped teeth.

Note im not posting pictures im not here for attention rather genuine help.

I have done alot of this kind of work and travelling i have met mostly curiosity with very little fear or hate.

Then friends explained to me the whole historical context of tattoos in japan and now im terrified.

Believe it or not im incredibly gentle soul and i hate confrontation.

People have been telling me all sorts of stuff like there are even places i wont be allowed in because of how i look and the police will be all over me like a rash.

As I will only be working an average of 15 hours a week I really need to know how badly this might go down, I always havee a huge amount of personal time.

The amount of make up required to cover visible stuff up is not in my budget, tried before and failed, and even if i wear gloves, a polo neck, a mask and the biggest trousers in existence there will be visible work, ears mostly.

So i really need to know how bad it's going to be, i got first choice on this assignment but i can defer to other staff however I always wanted to visit japan just didnt have the negative info on hand, i always do alot of touristing when im travelling for work.

I may be blowing reactions out of all proportion and im hoping so because i really want to go however i dont want to spend 6 months in hotel rooms hiding either.

Basically I'm looking for realistic opinion on what I can expect. I wont go for example if im going to be hounded by police and refused entry to everywhere however staring and odd conversations i can handle; i dont mind really just no confrontation.

Any help, experience or ideas that will give me a greater understanding of what i can expect would be amazing.

Thank you for your time.

by Wednesday Llyons (guest)  

Judging from my experiences 2009/5/16 18:04
Coming from my own personal experiences of how Japanese people are, this is what I think could be expected.

Firstly, I'm not sure where exactly you're going to be but if you're going to be in Tokyo, things will be a little better for you. On the other hand, if you're in most other parts of the country, you're going to be in for a long trip unfortunately.

Secondly, with your huge frame and tattoos, it's probably going to be inevitable that most Japanese folks will be scared of you. I don't want to scare you or anything but it may be a bit difficult to make friends or become acquaintances with Japanese folks. (Of course, foreign folks would be a completely different story...)

Thirdly, with a body covered in tattoos, you're probably not going to be allowed into most hot springs, public pools, and public bath houses. Unfortunately, that's just how things are in Japan and how their conservative attitudes never "go with the flow of time."

That being said though, I think this would be a good learning experience for you to experience a new culture and figure out how people react to you. Obviously, it may turn out to be a great trip, it may turn out to be hell for you. That being said though, I would say that if you always had an interest in Japan, it's a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spend 6 months there. Good luck!
by Ralph (guest) rate this post as useful

You have to come! 2009/5/16 19:40
Wednesday Llyons,

Wow! No wonder they hired you! What great promotion value! I clapped my hands reading your post. I'd love to go to your bar. I wonder how I can find you. I'm quite a drinker and rock fan myself.

So, what "historical context of tattoos in japan" did your friends explain to you? If you're talking about the yakuza thing, apparently you won't look yakuza. Yakuzas don't pierce their bodies head to toe, and their hair is as short as a GI. If you're non-Asian that gets you even further away from that category.

Have you realized that Japan has a big fan base of "alternative styles including punks, metal heads and goths"? Have you realized that that is the reason your employer was able to market here in Japan? Are you aware that Zakk Wylde and Slipknot have been here repeatedly? No, make that Avenged Sevenfold. They didn't seem to have any problems.

As mentioned, most baths and gyms do not allow tattoos and that is their rule. If they allow one tattoo, they'll have to allow another, so you have to deal with that sometimes. But you won't be in trouble unless you try to argue with them, and your accomodation will most likely have a personal bath in your room.

I see Japanese tattooed guys handing out Western-style tattoo shop flyers all the time. I even see real yakuza at beaches. The police aren't "all over" them. Carry your ID, and the police won't mess with you.

Toshiyuki Terui is my favorite Japanese bassist, and he owns a clothes shop. He seems to be doing okay.

And please don't wear a mask over those tattooed pierced ears unless you have the flu. It will only make you look more suspicious. Be yourself. Mothers with kids might say, "Don't look." but you'll probably attract a lot of fans. Either way, you've been traveling for free. You can always spend some extra flight ticket money if you ever happen to want to go back home after arrival. But try Japan. You'll like it.
by Uco, local resident (guest) rate this post as useful

you will certainly stand out 2009/5/19 17:32
i am sure you stand out where ever you go. That is going to be even more so here but aAs long as you are in Tokyo or Osaka then I don't really see a problem.

I presume you like attention and you will get plenty. Some of it will be shock but i don't think much of it will be negative. I think you will find people do move away from you though.

Sure you can't go to a public bath but i lived here 5 years before i worked up the courage.

Are the police going to hassle you? - I don't think so. They may ask to see your passport but that is their right.

If I see you on the train, I'll say hi. How will I recognise you?
by pete (guest) rate this post as useful

.. 2009/5/19 17:48
I used to promote particular brands of alcohol so I know how fun that can be. Certainly seems very interesting what you get to do! I envy you.

Make sure you carry your Alien Registration card or your passport with Working Visa at all times.
Immigration have been really hitting the bars targeting illegal workers. While you will not be illegal, it will be inconvenient for you if they want to take you away while they verify your status because you could not prove on the spot.
And have a great time! By the sounds of it you will.
by .. (guest) rate this post as useful

! 2009/5/20 23:47
Im well jealous mate.

do you work for Jager or summat?
by TomD rate this post as useful

learn the language and culture 2009/5/23 07:23
Hi there. My husband is in the US Navy and we were transferred to Japan a year ago. We live in Yokohama, about an hour south of Tokyo. I love it here!

I agree with what everyone said about how Japanese people will react to your appearance. But even if you weren't as tall or had so many tatoos, Japanese people seem to be a little stand-offish with foreigners. So you'll have just that much more of an obstacle to overcome. But you can do it! :)

You seem like a very sincere and nice person, and if you show that to the Japanese people, they'll appreciate it.

The best advice I can give you is to learn a few key phrases of the Japanese language. You'd be surprised how much they appreciate you trying to speak their language. As soon as they hear you trying, they are VERY willing to help with anything. And be sure to read up on the culture.

A few things to remember:
1. Never talk on your cell phone on the train. It's considered very rude.
2. And when you're standing in the train, face the people sitting down. In the States, most people turn away, but it is considered rude to put your butt in the face of the person sitting down.
3. Learn NOT to point (I have trouble with this), as it is considered rude. If you are pointing something out, simply use your whole hand to gesture in a direction rather than pointing with a finger.
4. NEVER have your chopsticks standing up in your rice. This references death and is considered rude.
5. Don't pour soy sauce on your rice. Instead, dip your rice in your soy sauce.
6. When someone hands you a business card (called meishi), take the card with both hands and keep it out for a while. Meishi is considered a personal representation of that person. So don't put it in your back pocket, then sit down! :) If you're at a table, place it in front of you and put it away after the person leaves. And don't ever write or deface the card in any way.
7. Always show respect for the people, culture, and traditions. When I'm on the train, I always give up my seat to someone who is elderly or disabled. And I tell them "dozo," which means please.
8. If you have trouble communicating in simple English, try writind your question on paper and show it to a young person. Younger people are more likely to know/remember English than older people, as they have more recently finished school.
9. Tipping is not customary, including taxis, restaurants, hotels, etc. However, in some western-style hotels you might tip. When I am not sure, though, I ask if it is customary or not.
10. Google "traditional Japanese toilets." Although, most places have at least 1 western-style toilet, I have been stuck a few times with having to use a traditional one. This might be difficult for you, as you're so tall.

Most of all, enjoy your trip! Have an open mind and welcome any experience. People will thrive on your great attitude. And gratitude goes a long way.

Here are the two books that I've found most helpful. I suggest you get them before you leave for Japan, as they will be able to help you at the airport.

Japan - The Original "Point and Speak" Phrasebook For some reason sells it for $40, but you can get it Japan for 1500 yen (about $15). So maybe you will want to wait and buy it once you get here. Just go to a large bookstore and look in their Foreign section.

Japanese Phrasebook by Lonely Planet It's only $8.99

I rely on these two books immensely. Of all the Japanese books I have, these two are the best. I never leave home without them.

Wow, this is super long. So sorry! But I hope it's helpful. Best of luck to you! :)
by bingo983 rate this post as useful

go and enjoy 2009/5/23 10:25
Go and enjoy. If you have always wanted to go to Japan, this is great for you. I'm sure no matter where ever you go people look at you. That is normal for you now. Japan will be no different. The older crowd will no doubt stare a little lomger. But I'm sure they would stare at you anyway because you are so tall.
I am 6'3" and big. The old folks always stare at me when in Japan. (It's kind of funny really, but doesn't bother me at all.) And people always stare at my tattoos, but not really in a rude way. They are always very intrested.(except the old crowd) I have been to Japan 7 or 8 times the last 4 years and have never had a policeman come a talk to me. They look at me, but never have been hassled. Japanese are mostly very friendly & polite people. If you smile and are polite they will be the same. I make new friends everytime I go there and keep in touch and visit them when I return.
So go and enjoy yourself, don't worry. Learn some Japanese words. (make a little "cheat sheet" of everyday words and keep it with you) And if you're in Tokyo area, go to Harajuku on the weekends during the day time. So will surely make friends there. (look up Harajuku on this site or on the web) You won't make into the pool or hot springs, but there are many other things to do, so don't worry about it. go and enjoy......
by Daz88 rate this post as useful

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