National

'Tattoo OK' hot spring map released in Rugby World Cup host prefecture

Kyodo

A hot spa resort area in Oita Prefecture, which is hosting next year’s Rugby World Cup, has created an online map showing onsen spots open to visitors with tattoos, typically stigmatized in Japan due to their association with yakuza.

The Oita city of Beppu has prepared the online map on the website titled “100 Tattoo-allowed Hot Springs” based on the understanding that tattoos are part of traditional culture in such countries as New Zealand, whose national rugby team will play in Oita, near Beppu, during the Sept. 20-Nov. 2 tournament.

“We don’t want to disappoint people who come all the way (to Japan)” from elsewhere given that operators of many public baths refuse guests with tattoos, a city official said, in explaining why the city created the map based on Google Maps.

On the map, colors are used to differentiate the hot springs and what they will permit. Blue means the facility allows visitors with tattoos at anytime, while orange facilities ask such guests to use private baths. At the dark blue facilities, those who have tattoos can soak their hands and feet in onsen tubs.

Beppu has more than 2,000 hot springs, according to the city’s website. But roughly 70 percent of inns and hotels in the city bar guests with tattoos from using their baths out of concern they could cause unease among other guests or even scare them.

“It’s difficult to distinguish” between gangsters and other guests when both have tattoos, said a representative for an accommodation facility in the area.

“There are a lot of foreign tourists who look forward to visiting onsen hot springs at inns and hotels,” said Tatsuya Kawamura, who works for B-biz Link, an affiliate organization of the city that created the digital map.

Kawamura, 34, said he will encourage the operators of inns and hotels that currently ban tattoos in Beppu to take measures such as designating times when tattoos are OK so more visitors can enjoy onsen.