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Why Tattoos Are Forbidden in Japanese Public Baths April 24, 2020

Koreatown, Manhattan
Why Tattoos Are Forbidden in Japanese Public Baths, Manhattan, New York

While tattoos are widely accepted in Western culture today, they once belonged exclusively to niche groups, including sailors, bikers, soldiers, and gang members. In countries like Japan, this history bleeds into the present-day view of body ink. If you’re considering tattoo removal, understanding the different cultural implications of tattoos can be the push you need to get the procedure. If you’ve always wanted to visit Japan’s famous hot springs (onsen), bathhouses (sento), or other public facilities, be prepared with the quick guide below.

Why Are Tattoos Seen as Taboo in Japan?

tattoo removalThe reason tattoos are stigmatized in Japan has to do with the country’s history with them. Throughout Japanese history, particularly during the Jomon-Yayoi and Edo periods, tattoos, or irezumi, were associated with criminal groups. 

They were used as a form of punishment in the 7th century, and later embraced by the yakuza, or Japanese mafia. For yakuza members, who are often covered in elaborate ink, tattoos symbolize rebellion and loyalty to their groups.

How Do People With Tattoos Enjoy Hot Springs in Japan?

Due to this history, tattoos are banned in most public bathing spaces.

Many tourists with visible ink have to look for tattoo-friendly facilities. Some spas also have rooms with private open-air baths that allow visitors to bathe with only the people in their party. However, some of these still don’t allow guests with visible tattoos. Read customer reviews to learn about previous experiences, and stick to hotels that see foreign tourists more regularly, which may increase your chances of finding a tattoo-friendly option. Your best bet is to describe the placement of your ink and ask if it’s permitted before booking, regardless of the facility you choose.


If your tattoo gets in the way of your lifestyle, schedule removal at Bared Monkey Laser Spa – Penn Station in New York City. Their tattoo removal experts are highly trained and experienced, and their facility uses technology that targets a range of pigments. Call (212) 256-9777 to schedule a consultation, or learn more about tattoo removal on their website.

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