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Friday, March 20, 2009

Tattoo Bans in Japanese Onsen & Public Baths


Many Japanese hot spring onsen resorts and public bath houses routinely ban people with full body tattoos (irezumi 入墨) as these are associated with Japan's mob - the yakuza.

The sign below at Hirugami onsen in Nagano prefecture clearly states that those people with full body tattoos will not be allowed in.

No tattoos!

If you have a small western style tattoo or designer tattoo it is not really a problem, as people will understand you are not a feared mobster.

© Japan Visitor.com

© Japan Visitor.com


  1. The tattoo ban is in name only. At my many public baths in Kyoto, members of the local mob enter, bathe, and leave freely. And they have full body tattoos.

    The issue is enforcement: would you attempt to prevent them from entering?

  2. It's not just at onsen, it's at public pools too.
    And from what i understand, it's not because people are afraid you may be Yakuza.
    One of my friends here in Tokyo (an american girl) has to wear a wet suit when she takes her kid to the pool, because they don't allow tattoos (only what they refer to as one-point tattoos, meaning a small ass tribal and things like that).
    I haven't gone to a pool or onsen in Japan ever, mainly because i would be incredibly offended if i was not allowed to enter.

  3. The ban isn't really in name only, it's just that some allow them and some don't. I have a medium size tattoo on my arm so I can only go to the ones that allow tattoos (and so there are always Yakuza there).
    The original reason was to prevent Yakuza but obviously they "can't discriminate" so it is a blanket ban. But do you really think they would say anything to an actual Yakuza? Don't think so.
    If you are looking for a nice little onsen retreat, I recommend Kinosaki, a little town where there are tons of onsen and tattoos are ok.


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