Poll: Tattoos Are Still Taboo In Japan At Hot Springs

Poll: Tattoos Are Still Taboo in Japan at Hot Springs

Hot springs and public pools in Japan have long denied people with tattoos. But now it's 2015. The future! Are attitudes in Japan changing? Some are, but in one recent poll, the majority's opinion has not.

According to Nico Nico News, two hundred Japanese people (100 men and 100 women) in their 20s and 30s were asked whether or not the restrictions against people with tattoos at hot springs should be loosened.

Out of those polled, 39.5 per cent said it would be better if the restrictions were softened, while 60.5 per cent answered that it would be better if these restrictions were not loosened. (Keep in mind, this is merely one poll.)

In Japan, young and old alike visit hot springs. Since you are bathing, you are, well, naked. And since the bathing is typically communal, others will be able to see any tattoos you might have. That might make some uncomfortable. (The workaround is getting a room with a private bath, not bathing with others, and making sure you have no visible tattoos when checking in.)

NicoNico News includes comments from those who were polled, some saying they did not find tattoos scary or that all kinds of people should be able to go to hot springs. People who were against the loosening of regulations pointed out that kids go to hot springs, so there was concern about how this would impact them, as well as the fear that more gangsters would be frequenting hot springs.

Generally speaking, hot springs have signs and notices that state people with tattoos are not allowed (likewise, many swimming pools, water parks, and even sports clubs follow suit). There are several reasons for this, but the main one is that Japanese people think tattoos equal yakuza and yakuza equals scary.

Sometimes in Japan, there is a distinction between Western style tattoos, which people think are for fashion, and Japanese style ones, which are often unfairly seen as shorthand for gangsters. This distinction makes snap judgements about who gets what type of motifs done on their body.

This comes as Japan prepares itself for the 2020 Olympics — and possibly embarrassing international situations with either foreign athletes or visitors being denied entry at hot springs because of tattoos. Imagine the international news coverage if any Olympic athlete with a tattoo of the Olympic rings was turned away by a hot springs... This could really be a problem.

Poll: Tattoos Are Still Taboo in Japan at Hot Springs

Photo: Narongsak Nagadhana | Shutterstock

In the past few months, there have been reports of a Japanese hotel group's plan to dispense 8cm by 10cm stickers to visitors with tattoos so that their permanent ink can be covered. The rub is that some people will have much more extensive work.

Centuries before modern yakuza existed, criminals in Japan were branded with punitive tattoos. These were marks of shame so others could stay away. In the past and even today, there are concepts of filial piety at play with the notion among some being that you receive your body from your parents so defacing it is an affront to them.

Not everyone with tattoos in Japan, even full body suits, are gangsters. Some people are just into tattoos: They might have gotten inked with a Buddhist deity or a Shinto god for religious reasons, or just think tattoos are attractive. The country has a long and proud tattooing tradition. In Japan, even among many Japanese people, that tradition does not get the respect that it should. That's a shame.

Top photo: naka-stockphoto | Shutterstock


Comments

    TIL I'd be denied access to a Japanese Hot Spring because I have 2 Legend of Zelda tattoos and a Mega Man tattoo. :( Good to hear that some places are open to work arounds for this though.

      You may get away with it for the fact that most people would recognize it for what it is. I on the other hand have very "yakuza" style tattoos :/ Doubt I would be allowed into the country :P

        So they'll allow Otaku style tattoos but not Yakuza style tattoos?

        Edit: I was wondering... Considering they love attaching crap to girls (Wings, ears, tails, and other animal appendages) Would they become offended to a girl with angel wings tattooed on her back?

        Last edited 12/09/15 11:28 am

          What if you had tattoos of characters from the Yakuza games? Would they count as otaku tattoos or Yakuza tattoos? :P

    'you receive your body from your parents so defacing it is an affront to them.' That's the point of tattoos though. Haha.

    *disclaimer: I have a lot of tattoo coverage. It's more to me than just offending parents, but to be honest, the outsider culture of tattoos is something that makes it great.

    People who were against the loosening of regulations pointed out that kids go to hot springs, so there was concern about how this would impact themThanks, Helen.

    Meh we make women cover half their bodies in our bath. At least the Japanese are discriminating based on personal choices rather than things like physiology.

    Maybe if there more social institutions like Japanese bath houses people would think a little harder before defacing themselves with meaningless imagery.

      So people should be comfortable with their bodies but not comfortable with modifying their image as they see fit? You what mate?

        Quite the contrary. If one's culture involves ritually modifying one's image in a meaningful way, I'm all for that. I'm just not comfortable with the blind conformity apparent in the meaningless images many people choose for themselves.

        That and the countless people I know who can't even make it a decade before the regret sets in...

          Im gonna chime in and say that it is around half and half ratio, as to meaniful tattoos and just 'pretty pictures for the sake of it' [based on my own experiences with the tattoo industry]

          But i dont think its fair that someone be treated any differently because they have a different physical image. The world is changing, this much is true, people could use the open mindedness a little!

            You'd be pretty hard pressed to find anyone that's going to prevent a business from excluding people who choose not to observe their dress code though. It's not like people don't have a choice. Nobody forces anyone to get ink. And if cultural institutions, like bath houses, are important to you this should inform your decision.

            It's kind of like rocking up to a golf club in a t-shirt then complaining that they didn't let you play...

              Is Kotaku just getting even more prejudicial and even less educated? Seems so. Everything you said is absolutely ridiculous. You don't get to discriminate or judge based on something that has nothing to do with you, that you don't understand, is not harmful in any way and is completely cultural. Sickening how little people use to differentiate themselves from what the must see as riff raff.

                Yeah, it's pretty ignorant and uneducated for people to expect acceptance from society when they make conscious choices to present themselves in a way which challenges the status quo. I'm glad that you can see the error in your logic. And you're absolutely right, it's a lack of education and deeply ingrained prejudices which lead people to believe that it's okay for them to force their personal beliefs and ideals onto society at large.

                That's why I'm not allowed to present myself naked in public. Regardless of my personal beliefs regarding clothing, not wearing clothes is something which may be offensive, confronting or disturbing to a large chunk of the general population. It's also why people who are opposed to clothing like the hijab cannot force people to remove them. It's also why businesses are able to enforce a dress code, such as collars and ties, or no visible tattoos.

                That's why my friend, who teaches at a Catholic school, accepts that she must completely cover her tramp stamp, the ink on her chest and her leg and arm sleeves while she's representing her employers. That's the appropriate attitude for an educated and open minded person to take when they have made lifestyle choices which might be taboo or open to negative interpretations.

                Last edited 14/09/15 4:29 pm

                  Not necessarily.
                  It is almost ridiculous to assume about a person's identity or attitudes based on things as trivial as their outward appearance.

                  The old, dont judge a book by its cover.
                  If i wish to have a round of golf in my shorts and tshirt then it is unfair to be told no because someone else prefers slacks, polo shirt and a sweater draped over their shoulders

            Can't reply to your latest comment for some reason :)
            It is almost ridiculous to assume about a person's identity or attitudes based on things as trivial as their outward appearance.
            The old, dont judge a book by its cover.

            Not really though. You have to ignore whole areas of society in that case. You have to ignore things like security profiling at airports, "random" drug tests by police, just about every job interview ever.

            The old adage doesn't stand up to science because it consistently shows that you can infer a lot about a person based on their outward projection of self. It's really fascinating because the only way to be a true individual in a modern society is to make yourself as average as possible. As soon as you select to associate with a social brand by conforming to its archetypes you're putting a big sign on your head informing the world of the kind of person you are and which group you belong to.

            So yeah, "don't judge a book by its cover" might be applicable to books. But it most certainly isn't to people. It's a nice sentiment, but has no basis in reality.

            If i wish to have a round of golf in my shorts and tshirt then it is unfair to be told no because someone else prefers slacks, polo shirt and a sweater draped over their shoulders

            Sure and if you own a golf course, then you're more than welcome to enforce whatever dress code you wish upon players. Much like if you owned your own Japanese bath house you'd be completely within your rights to offer your services to people with tattoos.

            That's the point: You're saying that you should be free to make your own choices with little regard to how they effect other people; and that people should just accommodate you and respect your rights as an individual regardless of how it restricts their rights.

            I'm saying that's an incredibly narrow-minded and selfish attitude.

            Last edited 16/09/15 12:54 pm

              How is someone getting tattoos or dressing a particular way affecting anyone ever?

              I do tattoos for a job, and you learn very quickly, to not assume anything of the people who walk through that door wanting work done. You get kids, teachers, crack heads, police officers and accountants and everyone in between.

              Would it then be safe to say, that because they all have tattoos, that it is fair to assume the same thing about their character of them all?

                No I said nothing of fairness and everything of reality.

                Yes, in a perfect world, you wouldn't judge a book by its cover. But I'd wager that you wouldn't get many teachers coming in to get tattoos on their neck or some other body part that's going to be visible while they're at work. That in itself should tell you something.

                And are you honestly suggesting that how someone presents themselves has no effect on the people they interact with? So if I walk through a Jewish neighbourhood dressed in Nazi regalia, the local community has no right to react to this? Or if I wear blackface, people of colour should just accept that and not say anything?

                That's a ridiculous suggestion.

                Last edited 16/09/15 2:09 pm

              Also;

              I never said this
              You're saying that you should be free to make your own choices with little regard to how they effect other people; and that people should just accommodate you and respect your rights as an individual regardless of how it restricts their rights

              No ones rights should be restricted, especially because of the way they look.
              If they are filthy and dirty, by all means refuse them entry. But if they are clothed and clean, there should be no issues.

    I'm sure there's more offensive things to see at a communal hot springs than tattoos...

    Have to wonder about those people that have those "japanese/chinese symbols" tattoo'd on them. "It says 'Peace' " only to find out later that it's either meaningless jibberish or even better has some weird phrase. (My favourite I've read on a 'tattoo translation' website was a pile of symbols that translated to "Happy to be the Ding Dong")
    So, perhaps the tattoo ban is also protecting the dignity of those fools.

    As a new resident of Australia, I see strong correlations between this and Australian anti-bikie laws. Perhaps I'm taking those two things out of context, but so to, perhaps, is this article. Not saying either of them are good or bad, just saying the similarities are interesting.

      To be fair, "anti association" laws have been around for quite a while, criminal bikie groups fall into the same category as any other criminal organization, according to the law.

    It's a survey involving a mere 200 people, can hardly base an entire country's opinion on such a tiny sample size.

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