Japan is famous for its mastery of ink art and tattoo fans often regard this country with admiration. But no matter how well regarded they are abroad, Japan is still very reticent when it comes to accepting tattooed people because of their connection with organized crime – the yakuza.
Tattooed people’s access in public baths or gyms is often refused throughout Japan. One of the most recent cases involved a tattooed Maori woman who was refused to use a hot spring on September 8 in Ishikari, Hokkaido, because her tribal tattoos violated the facility’s anti-tattoo policy, according to the international press.
“We realize tattoos come from many different backgrounds, but most of our customers do not understand that. If we make an exception, we will betray the trust we have built up over the years up to now,” the facility said.
Until recently, only yakuza members used to get tattoos, as a sign of bravery and toughness by gang members. But younger Japanese have started to get tattoos as well, unrelated, of course, with the yakuza gangs.
However, Japan still remains highly inflexible regarding this subject, with officials such as Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto announcing last year that he would remove any tattooed civil employees from jobs that require regular contact with citizens. At the same time, some beaches in Japan do not allow clients to expose their tattoos.
But Japan will have to learn to accept the ink art, as it is preparing to host the 2020 Olympic Games. For several weeks, Tokyo will host many cultures coming from all over the world, including more than a few tattooed athletes, officials and sports fans.
Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, said last week that private facilities have the right to run businesses by their own rules.
“But with people from various countries visiting our country for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, it is important to show respect for and further our understanding of various cultures. We must consider measures that are welcoming to foreign visitors,” he added.