Japan Tattoo: Where You Can NOT Go, Where Can You Go with Tattoo in Japan?


Japan Tattoo: Where You Can NOT Go, Where Can You Go with Tattoo in Japan? (updated 2024 May)

do you have a tattoo?

Tattoo banned in Japan mostly all rights reserved by onegai kaeru
Warning sign in a locker room of a public bath. Tattoo banned in Japan mostly all rights reserved by onegai kaeru

Do you have an impressive tattoo that you're proud of?

Tattoos are a form of art and self-expression. We see many young and old with almost full body tattoos in the US or Europe.


In any culture, tattoo carries some meaning good or bad.

Some places let you in with tattoo and some do not. <<Tattoo Ok public bath/swimming pool list in Japan>>


In 2024 March we saw one news in South Korea, young gang members who displayed their tattoos and intimidated other customers at a restaurant have been arrested, thanks to surveillance camera footage.

The incident occurred at a restaurant in Chungcheongbuk-do, central South Korea, where several 20-something gang members were drinking.

When a staff member warned them about their loud behavior, they began removing their clothes and used their tattoos to intimidate those around them. They verbally abused other customers and were eventually kicked out of the restaurant.

In addition to their disruptive behavior, they overturned chairs and threw containers filled with water. As they left, they were even seen kicking a sign.

The police arrested three individuals based on this footage, suspecting them of obstruction of business.

Recently in South Korea, crimes involving young gang members intimidating random individuals have become a social issue, prompting calls for increased police attention.


Recently we also saw on news that some crime suspect in Japan had a big tattoo.  And some people commented that even though tattoo started being considered part of fashion it still carries a stigma about the "bad" people in the society. (Updated in 2024 May) 

This way, in Japan, many people have negative perceptions of tattoos.


This perception stems from the association of tattoos with the yakuza or gangs in Japan. The prevalence of tattoos among these groups has led to the automatic assumption that anyone with a tattoo is associated with criminal activity.


But do all people with tattoos cause trouble? Not necessarily. When we were kids, we once witnessed a man with a large tattoo causing a scene at a local swimming pool. Eventually, the police arrived and escorted him away.


It's also true that some gang members frequent public places and create disturbances or false complaints to extort money.


However, it's important to note that not all individuals with tattoos are troublemakers. We've also seen gang members with tattoos enjoying time with their children at public baths. Isn't it unfortunate that children might be separated from their parents simply because of their tattoos?


In Japan, public places like swimming pools, saunas, hot springs, and baths often have policies against tattoos due to their association with organized crime. This strategic approach aims to prevent disturbances caused by gang members.


While tattoos can be misunderstood in Japan, they remain a powerful form of self-expression for many individuals worldwide.


We have the list for those who wants to enjoy taking public bath/swimming pool etc.

 Check this Tattoo ok/friendly bath/swimming place list for Japan (and you can list if you find one for others with tattoo who want to enjoy public bath in Japan).  


Source: TBS news, Korea now


If public, no tattoo

You go to a public bath or swimming pool, you see this type of sign almost 100%
You go to a public bath or swimming pool, you see this type of sign almost 100% Source: Irasutoya

Where you most likely can not go with your tattoo in Japan?


A basic rule is anywhere "public" and where you become fully or partially naked.


Public Swimming pool including a hotel swimming pool

Public Sauna

Public Hot spring including the shared bath room

Public bath (or Sento)


<<Big Japan's Swimming Pool List You should NOT miss!! >>


Click to book Yusen Shidate, a ryokan with a private hot spring
Click to book Yusen Shidate, a ryokan with a private hot spring

If private, usually okay

You can go with your tattoo to basically anywhere "private".


Many may wonder..." there are many super stars out of Japan full of tattoos such as Johnny Depp. Where can he take a hot spring bath with his full body tattoo?". The probable only solution is to have a private one or rent a venue exclusively!


A private hot spring of your hotel room. 

Private sauna.

The swimming pool you fully rent.


<<Great Hot Spring - Private bath of hotels/ryokan in Japan for Spring and Summer>>


<<Great Hot Spring - Private bath of hotels/ryokan in Japan for Autumn and Winter>>

Why tattoo not allowed?

In public spaces such as swimming pools, saunas, hot springs, and public baths, venues often display signs stating "no entry for gang members" to deter criminal groups. Typically, these establishments are not concerned with individuals who have tattoos but are not involved in gang activities.


However, if a suspected gang member denies their affiliation, the venue can easily enforce the rule by stating "no tattoos allowed," providing a straightforward reason to refuse entry.


Therefore, the "No Tattoos" policy is a strategic and practical measure to maintain a gang-free environment in these public spaces.

tattoo in japan, public bath in japan
Well, if you have this big tattoo, it may be hard under the new rule too.. Source: Wikipedia.

New Tattoo Rule in Japan "Finally"

As of july, 2018, not too many public bath/swimming pools accept people with tattoo (Check this Tattoo ok bath/swimming place list for Japan ).  But something seemed to start changing (a bit). 


For Japanese, it is because tattoo is often associated with Japanese mafia. You may see a lot what we mean in the movies of Ken Takakura and Bunta Sugawara. Many public baths and swimming pools ban those with tattoo from entering them. The prohibition even extends to tattoo stickers. 


There was an outcry in Japan, when one indigenous person( an Maori person from NZ) was not allowed to take a public bath in Hokkaido because of her tattoo in 2013. This may be because the venue thought it would not stop someone with tattoo who claims that they are from the indigenous background in the future.  


<<Private hot spring hotels/inns have no problem with tattoos! Check the list>>

Use Tattoo CONCEALER Stickers?

Tattoo concealer looks like the above.

With increasing number of tourists from overseas, some public baths trying to change the rules as they understand that tattoo(esp. of those of foreigners) does not always mean mafia, rather mere fashion. 


For example, this public bath in Saitama near Tokyo announced to run one month trial(from 1st of August, 2015 till the end of August, 2015) where it allows those with the tattoo cover-able/hide-able by their sticker 12.8cm x 18.2cm to enter. You can not bring your own sticker, the bath operator provides its own official sticker. If the trial goes "smooth", it will officialize the rule.  



And this famous hotel resort operator Hoshino resort also starts the similar rule from October, 2015. This hotel's sticker is 8cm x 10cm.

To grasp what we mean by how Japanese perceive Tattoo in public, you can watch this comedy clip above.  Seems some Taiwanese person put on youtube from an old Japanese comedy show on TV. Source: Drifters

Useful tips for those with tattoos in Japan

The size of sticker is different from one another but you can somewhat expect from 8cm x 10cm. You can cut some paper in this size and put it over your tattoo. If completely covered, you can enter at least the above public bath in Saitama and also the hotels of Hoshino resort.


It seems some more public bath/hotel/ryokan operators follow this new rule. But still it is expected that the change will not be fast.

Thus, for those who would like to enjoy Japan trip and have tattoos, we put some tips to enjoy the bath with tattoos. The rule of thumb is to find a bath which is not public in a public venue:


1) find a place with a private bath. Many hotels/ryokan(Japanese inns)/minshuku( guest houses) have private bath tubs attached to the room where nobody other than you( and your family etc.) can access. Even some public bath( not hotel) have the private rooms equipped with baths ( for which you need to pay extra). This is usually an expensive option.

Note: Many minshuku( guest houses which are reasonably priced) tend to be small and are with no private baths. 


2) find a place with a bath which you can keep for yourself( and your family etc.). We came across some hotels/ryokans/minshukus where you can keep the bath room for yourself for some time. The system works like this. For this type of bath, you see a plate hanging on the door of or around the bath saying "occupied" on one side and the other side "available". This is usually not as expensive as 1).


3) find a public bath/swimming pool/sport gym which are "said by its users" to accept people with tattoos on this website Kimono Rocket TATTOO Ok list. On this website people post the place which can accept tattoo bearers and reviews.  


NOTE: Onegai Kaeru team is not convinced by the accuracy of this info in general. We visited several places and saw the signs "No tattoo".  


4) find a place from the Tokyo Sento(public bath) Association list. This association, consisting of the public bath operators in Tokyo area, announced to allow people with tattoo being in their places. Their website has the easy instruction how to take public bath in Japan basis of which you can apply to all baths in Japan.


(Unless your tattoo are one of these wearables as we suggested! ) either, you take any option 1), 2) or 3), you must send email or call up the place and explicitly ask if okay to come with tattoo. 

Useful Japanese sentence if you have tattoos

Useful Japanese sentence:


The example of sentence you can say is "Konnichiwa, Sochira ha Tatuu( Irezumi) Ookey desuka(Hello, with Tattoo, Okay there) ? 今日は、そちらは刺青大丈夫ですか"  


If the answer is "Okay", "Hai, Daijobu desu はい、大丈夫です" or "Daijoubu desu 大丈夫です", you can "possibly" go in. ( If otherwise, better find a hotel with private hot spring bath from here:  Great hotel and Inn with private baths for Spring and Summer in Japan and Great hotel and Inn with private baths for Autumn and Winter in Japan. )


Note: There are always a lot of ambiguity with Japanese expression, better say these in English and get the clear okay, or let a Japanese speaking person ask. If the answer is positive, always remember to keep the name of the person on the other end of the line just in case.

Useful list for Tattoo people in Japan

Click to book Seikansou, a ryokan with a private hot spring
Click to book Seikansou, a ryokan with a private hot spring

We made and keep updating a list for those who wants to enjoy taking public bath/swimming pool etc.

 Check this Tattoo ok/friendly bath/swimming place list for Japan (and you can list if you find one for others with tattoo who want to enjoy public bath in Japan).  Again there is no guarantee that you can get in. Even if you call up one of these places from the list, the staff may say "NO" as "an official response" even where you can in fact. 

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Source: Wikipedia


Disclaimer: Even though we try to make the info as updated and accurate but the accuracy of the information herein is not guaranteed by us. If you have any uncertainty, please contact the information source.

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