More bathhouses allowing tattooed patrons, provided body art is 'patched'

posted on November 8, 2015

Due to their association with criminality, tattoos have long been stigmatized in Japan, but restrictions are loosening at public bathhouses around the country as facilities aim to benefit from the influx of tourists in the run-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Most venues still ban people with “irezumi,” or traditional full-body tattoos sported by yakuza, which can be hidden under clothes but are particularly conspicuous in nude situations such as bath houses.

However, some facilities are allowing tattooed people to enter, provided their ink is covered by patches.

Ofuro Cafe utatane, a bathhouse near Omiya in Saitama Prefecture that receives around 250,000 visitors annually, started providing stickers to cover tattoos in August. It said the patches have been a success with Japanese youth and foreign tourists, who wear their tattoos as fashion statements or for religious reasons and are unaffiliated with organized crime.

“We want to spread the onsen (hot springs) culture to many people,” the facility’s manager said. “I think there will be a lot of debate about this, and so we want to continue to assess whether or not there are any complaints or trouble.”

Tattooed bathers can take a dip as long as they cover up with a 12.8 cm x 18.2 cm patch, which costs ¥200 (about $1.60). Staff in the reception area and inside the dressing rooms check to make sure the tattoos are out of view.

The company operating Ofuro Cafe, Onsen Dojo, based in Tokigawa, Saitama Prefecture, said several bathers have used the patches since August, adding that some have also used them to hide surgical scars.

According to the Japan Tourism Agency, in the first survey of its kind released last month questioning Japanese inns and hotels, 56 percent said they do not allow body tattoos in their bathing facilities. But 31 percent said they do not turn tattooed bathers away, while 13 percent said body tattoos are permitted under certain conditions.

source by japantimes
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