This sign states that those with tattoos (as well as gangster) are not welcomed at this establishment.
Photo: Tamaki Sono (Creative Commons)

In Japan, many hot springs, public pools, sports clubs and hotels will not allow guests with permanent ink. A new website helps those with tattoos find welcoming establishments.

Other sites like this already exist, but what makes Tattoo-Friendly.jp worth mentioning is that it also has an English language search option. The site lists onsen (hot springs), sento (public baths), gyms, hotels, inns, pools and beaches that don’t shun those with tattoos.

Screenshot: Tattoo-Friendly

Miho Kawasaki, who used to edit the now departed Tattoo Burst magazine, runs the site. “Tattoo-friendliness should be one of the various individual preferences for amenities, just like pet-friendliness or wheelchair-accessibility,” Kawasaki told The Japan Times. (Full disclosure: I write a monthly column for The Japan Times.)

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Tattoos are not mainstream in Japan, nor are they typically flaunted openly, save for certain festivals. I go into greater detail in my book Japanese Tattoos: History*Culture*Design, but I previously explained the reason for the stigma, especially with regards to public bathing:

There are several reasons for this [stigma]. One is the previously mentioned associations with organized crime. Another, however, is less obvious and is rooted in the Japanese subconscious.

Today, Japan is not a Confucian society, but Chinese culture has been extremely influential, especially from the 8th century to the 12th century. Ideas of filial piety continue to exist in modern Japan, which is why, even today, some people will say that they think getting their bodies inked is disrespectful to their parents who have bestowed said body.

In Japan, tattoos are often private. Traditional bodysuit tattoos, for example, are designed to be worn under clothing and covered. The rub becomes when those private tattoos enter a public space, such as a hot spring or bathhouse. You’re naked. Everyone else is naked. Hiding extensive work is difficult, if not impossible.

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Currently, the site has over 600 listings across the country. Hopefully, that number will increase.


Kotaku East is your slice of Asian internet culture, bringing you the latest talking points from Japan, Korea, China and beyond. Tune in every morning from 4am to 8am.