In response to our Nov. 6 column (“If you need to bring drugs to Japan, sort out the paperwork — or else”), regarding how to find tattoo-friendly onsen, a few readers wrote in with their public bathing experiences.
“Apart from private baths as you mention,” suggested SA, “one obvious solution would be to go to sentō (public baths) or onsen that yakuza use. . . . I know a few near where I live and presume many cities must have them. I have often bathed with old guys in full body suits with missing fingers. How to find them is a different question.”
LA said: “I live in Japan and visit onsen regularly. I have a small tattoo on my lower back. I’ve been to more than 20 different onsen and only once have I been told tattoos are prohibited, but they let me stay and just told me not to return. However, since that time I have purchased some large Band-Aids, and I cover my tattoo if there is a ‘no tattoo’ sign. It seems to satisfy everyone.”
DB was also able to find a tattoo-friendly sentō.
“In all my travels in Japan, including a year living there, I’ve seen many tattooed men, particularly in sentō, never giving a thought to covering up,” he writes. “When I lived in a very old apartment, I was dependent on my local sentō because I didn’t have a bath at home. My neighborhood had six sentō and while I tried all of them, the one I chose to use did not prohibit tattooed customers. The local yakuza (identifiable by full body tattoos) were usually there. Other than the fact that no other man in the place would talk to them (and the sentō was a pretty friendly place — I had to fend off lots of conversation) there seemed to be no problem with them being there.”
“I was recently in Kyoto at a sentō in a neighborhood near Nijo,” DB added. “I saw plenty of young, working-class guys come in with tattoos.”
Tania Mellis is searching for her old friend, Yuko Yamamoto: “I was a resident of Osaka and Kobe in the ’90s and left 13 days before the Kobe earthquake. I then visited monthly for seven years as part of the flight crew for Ansett International until 2001.
“Yuko is from Yamamoto, Yao, Osaka, and she would be in her mid-40s now. I lost contact with her and am planning a trip to Japan with the sole purpose of finding her. The last I heard from her she was living in Kitano-cho, Kobe, and running her own coffee shop, but her parents lived in Yamamoto. She lived near Kawachi-Yamamoto Station. Also, when I knew her she had a boyfriend named Shinichi Tanaka from Kitano-cho, Kobe. He owned a motorbike business selling Triumphs and other replica classic bikes.
“Please help me find her as we were so close and I want her to meet my daughter.”
If you know of Yuko’s whereabouts, please email Tania at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tania has photos of Yuko and her family that may help jog somebody’s memory.
Christine found a camera on a local beach in Bowen, north Queensland, Australia, which she believes belongs to a Japanese couple.
“It was in a waterproof bag and the memory card is in perfect condition. I looked through the photos and it appears to belong to a Japanese couple holidaying in Australia. It looks like they arrived in Australia on Sep. 27, went to Lone Pine Sanctuary, caught the train to the Gold Coast and got to their Xbase hostel around 10 p.m. The next morning they flew to Ayers Rock (Uluru) and stayed at (I think) Outback Pioneer Lodge for two days, Sept. 28 and 29.
“On Sept. 30 they flew to Hamilton Island with Jetstar, went to Daydream Island and then back to Airlie Beach where they stayed at Xbase hostel. I believe they lost the camera sometime after this. I found it on the beach nearly four weeks later. I would like to find the owners so that I can return the memory card to them.”
If you can help, please contact Christine McNamara at email@example.com.