Find Tattoo-Friendly Hot Springs, Gyms And Hotels In Japan

In Japan, many hot springs, public pools, sports clubs and hotels will not allow guests with permanent ink. A new website helps those with tattoos find welcoming establishments.

This sign states that those with tattoos (as well as gangster) are not welcomed at this establishment. Photo: Tamaki Sono (Creative Commons)

Other sites like this already exist, but what makes worth mentioning is that it also has an English language search option. The site lists onsen (hot springs), sento (public baths), gyms, hotels, inns, pools and beaches that don't shun those with tattoos.

Screenshot: Tattoo-Friendly

Miho Kawasaki, who used to edit the now departed Tattoo Burst magazine, runs the site. "Tattoo-friendliness should be one of the various individual preferences for amenities, just like pet-friendliness or wheelchair-accessibility," Kawasaki told The Japan Times. (Full disclosure: I write a monthly column for The Japan Times.)

Tattoos are not mainstream in Japan, nor are they typically flaunted openly, save for at certain festivals. I go into greater detail in my book Japanese Tattoos: History*Culture*Design, but I previously explained the reason for the stigma, especially with regards to public bathing:

There are several reasons for this [stigma]. One is the previously mentioned associations with organised crime. Another, however, is less obvious and is rooted in the Japanese subconscious.

Today, Japan is not a Confucian society, but Chinese culture has been extremely influential, especially from the 8th century to the 12th century. Ideas of filial piety continue to exist in modern Japan, which is why, even today, some people will say that they think getting their bodies inked is disrespectful to their parents who have bestowed said body.

In Japan, tattoos are often private. Traditional bodysuit tattoos, for example, are designed to be worn under clothing and covered. The rub becomes when those private tattoos enter a public space, such as a hot spring or bathhouse. You're naked. Everyone else is naked. Hiding extensive work is difficult, if not impossible.

Currently, the site has over 600 listings across the country. Hopefully, that number will increase.


    It's not to bad in Japan if your a foringner, I booked a capsule hotel "Hotel Dandy" I think it was called didn't realise that they had a no tattoo policy. I have a couple large tattoos and when I used the onsite public bath/sauna nobody complained, might be a mix of politeness and me being foreign.

    Some even compliment my tattoos at a different place, I checked from then on if I was going somewhere public or if I was going to use the facilities at the hotel if my tattoos were OK, I never had anyone say no.

    I never got to go to a Onsen though, so it might be different when your in a more relaxed public setting and your fully exposed compared to public bath house were your mainly trying to get clean.

    Bookmarking now. Will be useful when I eventually go back again. Thanks!

    Sitting at around 30 hours here. A lot of it visable and the only problem I had was at the airport when I had my sleeves rolled up. Security got me to roll them down. They loved me in Harijuku

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