No tattoos in the onsen in Japan!

Posted on February 21, 2007 | Posted by evankirby

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No tattoos

Many onsen (public baths) in Japan have very strict rules about tattoos: nobody with a tattoo is allowed in. The picture above is from the onsen we often take students to, close to the school. The text above the evocative picture says 入れ墨禁止 (irezumi kinshi, or tattoos forbidden).

Tattoos forbidden in onsen
This picture was the only English text visible in the entrance of an onsen!

The original reason for this ban was to keep out ヤクザ (yakuza), or members of other 暴力団体 (violence groups). However, this obviously doesn't apply to most foreigners. While onsen employees obviously don't perform full-body checks before letting people in, there is still a chance that you would be asked to leave if another patron complained about your tattoo. In one case, a young, red-haired English girl we know was thrown out of an onsen because of a small tattoo on her lower back, despite her obviously not being a member of a violence group. If you have tattoos and you're coming to Japan, you may have to apply a band-aid before you go for a bath...
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Posted by ダン | March 10, 2009 | 00:20:34

I await the day that Japan realises that 99.9% of tattooed 外国人はヤクザではないよ!


Obviously with a full sleeve on my right arm and a half sleeve on my left arm there will probably be a lot of prejudice towards my appearance. I don't actually want to go to Onsens and water parks etc, they don't interest me, it's just the judging of someone by appearance which annoys me. I love Japanese culture, especially 入れ墨!BUT, they really need to get in touch with other cultures and realise that their tattoo taboo is pretty ridiculous in today's age.

入れ墨 will always be, in my opinion, the greatest art to ever come out of Japan. More Japanese should realise how much it is loved in Western culture.

Posted by Ink | March 17, 2010 | 16:35:41

I think one of the reasons why tattoo bodies are not allowed is because of the art being associated with gangs in Japan. And generally it make people uncomfortable fearful and uneasy. So if Onsen is a place for relaxing,then customers should deserve a peace of mind with everyone there.

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