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Tattoo in onsen

KyushuWoozy

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I guess most people have heard that tattoos often aren't allowed in public baths or hot spring resorts (onsen) because of their association with Yakuza. In fact, we can sometimes see a "no tattoo" sign .

But my question is, does this apply equally to foreigners (who presumably aren't Yakuza)? I have a friend coming to Japan who has a couple of tattoos, one on the arm and one on the leg, and he would very much like to stay at an onsen resort.

How about if he just goes in the family bath with his wife? Would it still be an issue? Would it matter if they saw his tattoo when he checked in? Anyone with any experience of this matter?
 

Mike Cash

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Wouldn't it be best to call the specific onsen and ask directly?
 

Majestic

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Or cover them up with bandages (the stretch fabric kind)
 

KyushuWoozy

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I don't have a specific onsen in mind yet - just wondering what experiences others had of this situation.

Covering with bandages is a great idea. Never thought of that.
 

Mike Cash

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I don't have a specific onsen in mind yet - just wondering what experiences others had of this situation.
Generalities and anecdotes certainly have their place, but since this will be one onsen in particular it would be prudent to make a short list of candidates based on facilities, reputation, location, etc. and then go through and check each one to make sure there won't be any problems and then pick one. Especially considering they're (I presume) counting on you as a semi-host to sort of ramrod things and since no single onsen is obliged to operate in conformance with whatever anecdotes you collect here.
 

KyushuWoozy

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Well noted and much appreciated all your comments Mike.

However I come to forums like this to hear about other people's experiences and to share my own. Being a sociable person, it's one of the aspects of the Internet that I enjoy greatly. I was never intending to base my guests' travel arrangements purely based on what I read here.
 

Sane

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I am Japanese. I think if foreigner with tatoo enter an onsen, some Japanese may be afraid. It is real. But I think it is too strict. There are so many people with tatoo in the world. Some people get a tatoo as a traditional. If they try to enter an onsen and they are refused to enter, they may be sad or angry. I think Japan accept foreigner with tatoo.
 

Tanukisan

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In general it would be wise to assume that the no-tattoos rule applies to everyone everywhere. There are some exceptions but they are few. My local pool had no issues with it and neither do most private baths. Public ones are a different animal, but that is personally irrelevant as I do not enjoy the idea of bathing with strangers. Onsens are just not my bag
 

nice gaijin

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I would be prepared to cover tattoos or be asked to leave the bath. It may or may not happen, but a little preparation can prevent that from being an experience-ruiner.
 

KyushuWoozy

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As Sane-san mentioned the problem is that some people might not feel comfortable bathing together with someone with tatoo. I think I'll look for onsens with family (private) bath for my friends' trip to avoid any possible problems or complaints for bath / onsen owner.

It's a pity because i think fear of foreigners with tattoos is irrational.
 

Mike Cash

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Oddly, there is a move afoot to change the traditional Mark e used to indicate an onsen....and a large part of the reason given is to make it more readily understandable by foreigners.

One would hope this carries with it an intent on the part of the onsens to be more open to and accommodating of foreign guests. Otherwise, what's the point? Goodness knows there don't seem to be any Japanese people happy about the change.

温泉マーク なぜ変える?|NHK NEWS WEB

Some people sure as hell won't be pleased to go to an onsen and find it filled with gaijins, whether they have tattoos or not.
 

shou0525

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I guess that is serious problem. Japanese has a bad image about tattoo right. It implies us violence or something like that. That’s why an onsen owner don’t want them to accept. But I think we Japanese people should change our mind. because 2020, we have a Tokyo Olympic.
Many foreigners are going to visit Japan. so Japan must care about it soon.
 

nice gaijin

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It's more like there's a social norm of tattoos being taboo, so business owners will try to preserve the greater harmony and not to disturb the peace of mind of the other guests, at the expense of the few who have tattoos. It doesn't matter if anyone is actually bothered by them, it's the management playing it safe.

Changing the policies will encounter resistance, but will help lift the stigma and normalize tattoos eventually.
 

Glenski

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But I think we Japanese people should change our mind. because 2020, we have a Tokyo Olympic.
Many foreigners are going to visit Japan. so Japan must care about it soon.
By that logic, after the Olympics, it would be ok again to think the way they do now. Sorry. Wrong. Change your thinking now for a better reason -- that most people with tattoos are not yakuza. Period.
 
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