Have you dreamed of traveling to Japan, taking a journey around wondrous places and then being able to relax your tired feet and body in what Japanese call a traditional trip to the Sento (public bath or Onsen).
But then to be told……. “Sumimasen, No Tattoos.”
This to many people from other countries that people get tattoos for religious or personal expression can get very very frustrated. But before I let you know a few solutions to this problem let me take you back to the reason why Japan has always had a no Tattoo policy for many of its Onsens and Public Baths…..
You will see sign like this Stating that They will NOT accept you to bathe at this establishment if you have any tattoos.
This policy has been around for centuries. No one know exactly how far back tattooing goes back in Japans history but statues back in the 3rd century have been show depicted of sporting tattoos and in the 5th Century tattooing in Japan was used on criminals to brand them and shame them for any of their transgressions. There is even fact that Courtesans were tattooed to mark or tie them to their client lovers, kinda like now a days when people have their loved ones names tattooed someway on their bodies.
But the most well known reason for the ban of Tattoos in public baths or onsens happens to be the “Yakuza”!
The Yakuza is a very Organized Crime Gang that had many of the people in fear for their lives and their families if they didn’t cooperate with the groups demands. Yakuza had many distinct tattoos that if one were to see them that person would know who they were talking too or even whom they had upset. Yakuza have been around since the 17th century and even though it seems like their influence on society local plus international might be dwindling make no mistake they are still there, even though the numbers might be smaller and dispersed they still have influences to this day in Japan and internationally!
Tattoos were originally black but later in the coming, evolving times more colors were added like the color red. They say that the color Red meant strength or that you were tough. In many tapestries, paintings and even sculptures of Gods and some demons around Japan you will notice that they have tattoos. The tattoos on some of them can also represent the elements that they are associated with as well.
Here is a picture that I found from the following site that shows Yakuza group members posing for a picture. Yakuza Members Showing Their Tattoos If you want to read more about them click on the link, but I am not for sure on the site if the pictures are of the Yakuza or not. But I also will put in this link if you want to watch a brief video of a Yakuza Tattoo artist explain the significance of body art to the Japanese Mafia: Yakuza aka Japanese Mafia .
So, we come to the present day in time where more and more foreigners want to visit Japan. They want to Eat, Drink and experience everything that Japan has to offer; even the Onsen/Sento. According to the JNTO statistics since March 2017, there as been an increase of tourists into Japan that the growth rate was 2.2 million foreign visitors into Japan. That compared to March of 2016 is an increase of 9.8%! I know that is only going to get higher the closer we get to the 2020 Olympics that is to be held in Japan. Foreign Tourist Statistics
Now, on to the task at hand! First off, I am thinking about starting up a funding page to where I can travel around Japan to discover for people around the world places in Japan that will accept people with tattoos whether they are covered up or not. I honestly believe it will be a great help to those who plan on traveling to Japan in the near future or those who are saving up their coins to go during the Olympics. Either way it would be a great learning experience for my self but also help many others who have tattoos, that want to visit Japan but are afraid of the stigma of it.
If you are like me I have at least one tattoo, but it doesn’t matter how small or big it is there is a chance if you try to go into an Onsen with it showing they will either refuse you right there or after you have started getting undressed which happened to me. *Sighs* But that was my fault cause I forgot to put on the cover-ups earlier. Now, the cover-ups I a talking about are water resistant and last for a good long time. they are called “Hide Ink” Here is a link to the website: Tattoo covers
With these covers, you don’t have to worry so much about re-applying it over and over. One layer can last about two days, so if you plan on wanting to go to two different onsens or the same one twice in two days you will be covered. *heehee covered get it?*
I know, I know bad joke right? But in all seriousness it works. I know people who hate the fact that they are excluded from parks, swimming pools and even jobs because they have a tattoo; that is why I also am starting this Funding page for people who are wanting to go to Japan to experience these places but can’t because of tattoos or because we don’t know what they will or won’t allow. It will be on Kickstarter in a few days under “Tattooed Ultimate Guide to Onsens & Sentos in Japan.”
Here is the link to the Kickstarter: Tattooed Ultimate Guide Project