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Why Tattoos Are Not Allowed in Japan? Are They Illegal?

why tattoos are not allowed in japan?Japanese Life & Travel

Hi, it’s Junko from Japan! People with tattoos can’t enter public places and facilities such as swimming pools and hot springs in Japan. Why tattoos are not allowed?

Having tattoos itself is not illegal in Japan. You can freely have tattoos if you want, and I see Japanese people in younger generations enjoy tattoos as fashion.

But many Japanese people regard tattoos as the symbol of YAKUZA (Japanese mafias). As a result, having tattoos is almost equivalent to belong antisocial forces. That’s why most facilities keep people with tattoos out.

Why Tattoos Are Regarded Negative in Japan?

Then why do Japanese people regard tattoos as something bad and negative? The reason is in Japanese history. In old age, tattoos were used as a punishment for sinners. Tattoos had been symbols of one’s sin for a long time.

The tradition of using tattoos as a penalty was prohibited in 1872. At the same time, the Japanese government forbade carving tattoos as fashion as well. It was 1948 when tattoos became legal.

To put it the other way around, people with tattoos clearly broke the law until the 1950s. During the Meiji period (1868-1912) in Japan, YAKUZA guys proactively got tattoos to show their loyalty to the mafia groups. They preferred to get gorgeous tattoos of dragons, tigers, koi fish, and Buddhism gods in vibrant colors, and these designs eventually became what symbolize mafias.

Even if it’s legal now, tattoos remind most Japanese people of criminals or scary outlaws.

Should I Hide My Tattoo in Japan?

We know foreign people have tattoos as fashion. So I think it’s not necesarry to hide your tattoos. However, it’s true that we feel scary and overbearing impressions against tattoos.

Some facilities, such as hot spring houses and SENTO (public baths), don’t accept tattooed visitors. However, how to manage fashion tattoos in public is becoming a social issue in Japan, and the situation is changing. Some places began to allow tattoos with conditions added. Yet I think you should be aware that Japanese stores may restrict tattooed guests from entering.

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