When is a tattoo permissible?

Regarding the Sept. 15 article “Tattooed Maori barred by bath in Hokkaido“: I have mixed feelings. I suppose that the difference of perception and mind-set regarding tattoos between Japanese and others is so great that such incidents will occur more frequently as the Olympics approaches.

As this article points out, traditional Japanese “yakuza” or gangsters used to tattoo their body to intimidate people so that they could have the upper hand in negotiations and their business. When I was a child, I would often see these tattooed guys in public baths and they behaved as if they were a ruler in a local area. Nowadays, we seldom see such people tattooed in a traditional yakuza style thanks to the cracking down on them by authorities; on the other hand a lot of young Japanese people are enjoying what is called “fashion tattoos.” However, Japanese people’s impression of tattoos is still negative. People are not allowed to enter either public baths or pools, even if they have fashion tattoos, to say nothing of traditional permanent tattoos.

Business operators and citizens have been making efforts to shut these racketeers with tattoos out from their places, so it is hard for them to tell which tattoo is antisocial or not. I believe that the central government and municipalities should make certain resilient guidelines to avoid the recurrence of such an incident as happened in Hokkaido as soon as possible, since hot springs and public baths are some of the great tourist resources in Japan.

shuichi john watanabe
tokyo

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.