No Tattoos Allowed? Why Hot Springs in Japan Don’t Accept Individuals with Tattoos?
I always recommend foreigners to go to hot springs if they visit Japan. But there are two concerns when it comes to Japanese hot springs.
One: you have to be naked and cannot wear swimsuits in most hot springs.
Two: your entry may be rejected if you have a tattoo.
Why hot springs in Japan care about tattoos?
Do you know what Love Hotel is? → Where is Love Hotel?
Let’s learn etiquette when meeting Japanese → Is First Impression Important in Japan?
Main Reason Why Japanese Hot Springs Don’t Accept Tattoos
You might wonder WHY WHY and WHY Japanese hot springs reject people with tattoos.
The main reason is because tattoos are related to Japanese gang, Yakuza.
The members of yakuza tend to have tattoos all over their bodies.
When Japanese think about a tattoo (called Irezumi in Japanese), they automatically associate it with the gang.
An example of Yakuza members with tattoos all over their bodies
It probably sounds unreasonable for you, but that’s Japanese culture. It’s been like this over 300 years since Yakuza was formed during Edo period (1603-1868).
Is There Any Hot Spring that Accepts Tattoos?
Small Tattoos are Maybe OK
Don’t feel desperate even if you have tattoos! Depending on tattoos and where you go, you might be able to enjoy natural bath.
Although almost all hot springs in Japan have a sign stating that they don’t accept people with tattoos, some are generous and don’t reject you.
For example, if you have a couple of small tattoos on your body, hot springs may accept you (or I should say they are not concerned).
In reality, they don’t check all of your body. So as long as your tattoos are small, it should be no problem!
Try Private Hot Springs
If you have bigger tattoos or many (small ones) on your body, you might want to consider going to private hot springs.
Not all but some hot springs have private natural bath where you can enjoy without any interruption.
Again, they don’t check your body.
Because staff doesn’t want to show people with tattoos to Other People, they are not concerned as long as the tattoos are not seen by other guests. For this reason, if the tattoo is in an obvious part of your body, such as face, arm or neck, they MIGHT reject you to take natural bath.
Another Suggestion if You Have a Tattoo
Another practical suggestion from me is to get Onsen (Hot Spring) Bath Powder. Use it when taking bath at home and imitate Onsen experience.
There are various kinds of power and some are named after famous hot springs, such as Kusatsu and Gero hot springs.
No one will talk about tattoos and you can enjoy as much as you want at home.
Because I’m in Canada, I don’t think a tattoo is a big deal at all.
In Japan, however, people do care. Especially older generations would get shocked to see people with so many tattoos on their bodies.
They would feel uncomfortable to see the Irezumi and take hot bath with them.
Such Japanese culture has been changing because more and more foreigners visit Japan. I guess it takes time to relax existing rules but hope guests with tattoos can somehow enjoy hot spring.
Do you know what Love Hotel is? → Where are Love Hotels?
Let’s learn etiquette when meeting Japanese → Is First Impression Important in Japan? What are Don’ts?
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