Never thought that delicate butterfly tattoo on your back could get you into trouble? Think again.
Tattoos may have become a big part of mainstream culture, but not every culture shares the same view of body art. In Japan, our love of tattoos could actually get us banned from certain places, including the hugely popular onsens — the Japanese hot springs which are one of the major reasons many tourists visit the country.
More than half of Japanese hotels will not let visitors with tattoos enter their public bathing areas, according to a government survey.
The survey, conducted by the Japan Tourist Agency in 2015, found that 56 percent of hotels and inns questioned across the country did not allow those with tattoos to enter public bathing areas.
Another study conducted by Japan Tourist Agency in 2014 found that one-third of foreign tourists indicated onsens were one of their main reasons for visiting the country in the first place.
The reason for this hardline stance against tattoos in public places is that, because in Japan, tattoos are associated with yakuza — or members the Japanese mafia. Many public institutions ban people who have them as a way to keep gangsters out.
But the Japan Tourism Agency wants times to change, at least when it comes to foreign tourists. Last year, the government agency pleaded with onsen operators to give more consideration to the cultural backgrounds of tattooed non-Japanese tourists. For Japanese visitors, the ban could still apply.
With the number of tourists to Japan on the rise, Shogo Akamichi, a Japan Tourism Agency official in charge of tourism promotion said that the agency hoped the change could mean that all tourists “can fully enjoy onsen in Japan," according to English-language Japanese newspaper The Japan Times.
In 2013, the cultural clash garnered a lot of media attention after a Maori woman was turned away from a public bath in Hokkaido because of her traditional face tattoos.
Almost a third (31 percent) of hotels and inns in 2015 survey said they wouldn’t ban tattooed visitors at all and more than one in ten (13 percent) said they would allow guests with tattoos into onsens if their tattoos were covered up.