Tattoos in Japan ?

Is Tattoo allowed in Japan?

Tattoos are cool and very trendy in USA and western countries but what about tattoos in Japan? Does the culture allow this trend?

Japanese girl at the beach in Japan with tattoos
Japanese girl at the beach in Japan with tattoos, no, she is not a yakuza 🙂

Well, believe it or not, tattoos are prohibited in Japan in almost every institutions. Meaning, every where you will go they won’t allow you to enter if they notice that you have a tattoo, yep, trust my words, i have been trough this a couple of time, unless you hide it …

Tattoo arts have gained a lot of popularity amongst the youth of Japan due to Western influence in fashion. 1/10 of my Japanese friends in Tokyo and Osaka either have a tattoo even a very small size or think it’s beautiful but it’s true that depending of where you are working, having one will be totally useless if your purpose is to show it off (for those who get a tattoo for fashion only). On the other hand, tattoos are kind of spiritual and have a deep emotional meaning for many.

One of my friend in Tokyo has a huge monky tattoo on her legs, very beautiful but she must hide it in public.
One of my friend in Tokyo has a huge monkey tattoo on her legs, very beautiful but she must hide it in public.

Getting tattooed are getting very common since 10 years and it’s still increasing so it might be a little inconvenient for those visiting Japan.

Some known prohibited places:

Here few places you might want to avoid if you have a tattoo

  • Gold Gym
  • Almost every gym
  • Onsens
  • Night club (yes, it’s true)
  • Spa
  • Massage Salon
  • Health Salon

But Why?

Irezumi, the traditional Japanese tattooing art is one of the most beautiful in the world. In the old time (Edo period), tattoos was used as punishment. After a while, with the Chinese novel called Suikoden showing heroic men’s body with amazing decoration such as insane flowers, terrific dragon and religious arts, people change the way they perceived tattoos and soon it became more unique.

Then, fast forward to the modern age, the government wanting to protect the reputation of Japan and look good to the West by avoiding vulgar and outlawed tattoos. Unfortunately, since that period, tattoos have been adopted grandly by criminality.

I doubt it will happen but if you walk on streets of Japan and you see a man covered with tattoos, forming a “blouse shape”, then it is “probably” a yakuza gangster. But they normally wear a suit so …


The real reason why tattoos are prohibited in Japan is because they don’t want to scare customers in the place and obviously, they don’t want any troublesome.

As a note, if you wish to get tatted in Japan using the traditional way by a guru, there are some places but you will need a minimum knowledge of Japanese speaking. You can message me if you need some address, i can go verified and make sure before you go.


Close view at a tattoo artist in japan

yakuza gangsters with tattoos
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A foreigner is getting a tattoo using the traditional tool in Japan
view on a old style tattoo tool using the Nara Ink, the black color.
view on a old style tattoo tool using the Nara Ink, the black color.

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If you are curious about how or where yakuza get their tattoos, here a documentary but the place is not divulged.


megumi sato

I am a blogger located in Osaka and i like to share everything interesting about my own country which i love so much !

1 comment

  1. Staying at a ryokan, or traditional japanese inn, is a unique experience worth having. However, in traditional environments like ryokans, tattoos are not looked on favourably. This remains the case even in an ever-changing, more modern Japan. Although the Japanese Tourism Agency is urging more ryokans not to discriminate against tattooed foreigners, it still happens. In order to avoid being turned away when you show up at your ryokan, it s best to know their policy, and to cover your tattoos for good measure. Even a ryokan that is aware you have a tattoo and has allowed you entry will likely appreciate it if you keep your tattoos covered when in shared areas of the inn.

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