Should Onsen Tattoo Restrictions Be Relaxed to Promote Tourism in Japan?

  • Having a tattoo is usually associated with a bad reputation in Japan though a few people have already accepted it. This recognition comes from a historical background related to illegal gangster organizations and somehow being part of an anti-social system. This tradition has been affecting many travelers who display their tattoos as a form of art. This cuts off tourists’ interest in visiting places such as hot springs. Hence, the government has provided some solutions for this.

    History of the Tattoo Ban

    The question “Why are people with tattoos banned in a Japanese onsen?” has been repeatedly asked. Well, not all the time, but most of the time they are not allowed to dip a toe in. Its history dates back to the period where people feared the yakuza, the organized mafia in the country. They are known for having full-body tattoos recognizable by people, though most of the time they hide it in public. Since onsen is a place for relaxation, having people with tattoos tends to disrupt the onsen users’ relaxing atmosphere.

    The Government’s Solution

    In line with this issue, the government’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism has encouraged hot spring establishments to relax their no-tattoo policies. This will make Japan a more attractive place and a great destination for tattooed tourists. However, some traditional hot spring operators are quite reluctant to change their policies, thus, the government suggested that they encourage people with tattoos to cover their ink while bathing. Another solution is also to allow them to use a private hot spring bath as it is not open to the public anyway.

    The number of onsens has been increasing in Japan per year and it may seem rude to deny people with tattoos access to them. This new attitude has been accepted and respected by local people. Hence, relaxing the restrictions is not believed to increase the presence of yakuza in the hot springs.

    So what do you think? Should tattoo restrictions be eased or not in Japanese hot springs?

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