The Media Mix column headlined “News outlets tiptoe around tattoo controversy” in the Jan. 13 edition reminds me of the saying, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” That holds true in Japanese society.

Foreigners — rugby players or fans — should follow the rules on how to soak in hot-spring baths.

Tattoos have a long history and are still regarded as negative and antisocial, as shown in this article. So, we can’t accept them the same as pierced ears and dyed hair, even though some celebrities have them.

In order not to cause any trouble, newcomers should understand this custom in detail, before coming to Japan. Also, people with tattoos can enjoy a virtual reality version of the onsen experience.

Indeed, attracting more guests from abroad is important, in terms of Japanese tourism, but a strategy to accept tattooed patrons is never a wise choice in the long run. Given safety and security, many Japanese patrons will quit such a place, one after another, by word of mouth. Then, it might soon be deserted.

In summary, the onsen is one of our most important remarkable cultural treasures, so I flatly say, “When bathing, do as the Japanese bathers do.”


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.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.