With the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games a little more than a year away, it's time for Japan to turn the page on tattoos. It's hard to argue with a straight face in this day and age that tattoos are exclusively used by members of the yakuza and ex-criminals. It's a no-brainer.

Many of the foreign athletes and spectators who are expected to come to Japan for the games have tattoos of various shades, and operators of the country's numerous hot springs, swimming pools and gyms are facing increasing pressure to welcome them with open arms.

Why does Japan fear tattoos so much? According to "Modern Encyclopedia of the Yakuza" (2004), the government in 1720 decided to reduce the punishment on some criminal offenses. Criminals would no longer have their noses or ears removed. Instead, their crimes would be identified with tattoos on the skin, usually the arms.