No Tattoos Sign

This sign on a sento (public bath house) says “Irezumi no kata okotowari shimasu.” (People with tatoos are not permitted).

A lot of non-Japanese people with tattoos worry about whether they will be allowed into sento or hot springs, but it’s not usually a problem. There is a distinction in Japan between “irezumi,” Japanese-style tattoos done with traditional methods, and “tatu,” modern tattoos done with electric tattoo machines. As long as a person isn’t covered with them, there shouldn’t be a problem because the “no tattoos” rule seems to be just a polite way to say “no yakuza.”

Here’s a really interesting thesis written by a woman who studied traditional tattoing in Japan. At first she tried to visit tattoo studios and talk with yaks, but she recounts how she had more success working in a hostess club and getting gangsters to talk about and show off their tattoos there! It’s pretty long and academic, but full of interesting information: http://www.nootrope.net/koi/tattooing_in_japan.html

If you’d like a shorter, easier read, try: http://www.vanishingtattoo.com/tattoo_museum/chinese_japanese_tattoos.html

0 replies
  1. Brian
    Brian says:

    I’ve been turned away before. My arm is covered in Japanese style tattooing. If I hide it, and then get into the bath on the sly, it’s never been a problem. Thanks for the link, I’ll read it when I’m sober.

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