Tackling two major issues in Japan, the tattoo acceptance and the economic loss that comes with tattooed visitors!
Back in April one of the largest hotel companies in Japan, Hoshino Resort Co, announced it was taking action to tackle the issues of tattoos and bath houses in Japan. Tourism in Japan is a major pillar of the economy but the tradition of Japanese bath houses and onsen (hot springs) banning those with tattoos from entering has become a real stumbling block in the tourist market. For the most part the negative connotations of tattoos in Japan come from the Yakuza crime families and their own tattooing traditions, but times are changing and so is Japan!
The Japanese Tourism Agency recently announced it had begun a large scale survey of public baths and onsen and their tattoo policies. Around 3,700 different facilities have received the survey which hopes to establish where the banning of tattoos began and by whose authorization, i.e. the police or the local politicians. Japan Tourism Agency Commissioner Shigeto Kubo shed further light on the nationwide survey;
“Many of the foreign tourists have tattoos for fashion and ethnic reasons. Onsen is an important resource for tourists to learn the Japanese way of living and culture. We would like to get a better grasp of the situation and deal with it,”
The move is seen by many as tackling two major issues in Japan, the acceptance of tattoos and the economic loss that comes with tattooed visitors to the country being limited on where they can go and what they can do. In 2013 an elderly Maori woman was stopped from entering an onsen because of her traditional Maori facial tattoos, and it is incidents like this the Japanese government is now trying to avoid and resolve.
Although Japan's current tattoo attitudes do not only effect tourists. A number of military personal stationed in Japan often find it hard to visit swimming pools and bath houses because of their tattoos. For the most part they have to research where they can go and what extent of tattooing is accepted!
Thankfully with actions such as the survey Japan is slowly overcoming its tattoo troubles and body art is moving away from its Yakuza ties and into the wider social context of every day Japan.