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Are tattoos allowed in Japan now?


Japan has a long and complicated history with tattoos. For many years, tattoos have been associated with criminal gangs, and people with tattoos are often discriminated against. However, in recent years, attitudes towards tattoos have been changing, and more and more people in Japan are getting tattoos. In this article, we will explore whether tattoos are now allowed in Japan.

The history of tattoos in Japan

Tattoos have a long history in Japan, dating back to the Jomon period. However, during the Edo period, tattoos became associated with criminal gangs known as yakuza. Because of this association, tattoos were banned for many years.

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The changing attitudes towards tattoos in Japan

In recent years, attitudes towards tattoos have been changing in Japan. Many young people now view tattoos as a form of self-expression and are getting them as fashion statements. This change in attitude has led to a relaxation of the laws surrounding tattoos.

The current state of tattoo laws in Japan

It is not illegal to get a tattoo in Japan. However, it is illegal to perform a tattoo without a medical license. This means that most tattoo artists in Japan operate illegally and are at risk of being fined or arrested.

The impact of the Olympics on tattoo laws in Japan

The 2020 Olympics were supposed to take place in Tokyo but were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Before the postponement, there was concern about the strict tattoo policies that would be enforced during the games. However, it remains to be seen what the impact of the Olympics will be on tattoo laws in Japan.

The rise of tattoo-friendly businesses

Despite the legal restrictions on tattoos in Japan, there has been a rise in tattoo-friendly businesses. Some hotels and hot springs now allow guests with tattoos, and some companies are even relaxing their dress codes to allow employees to show their tattoos.

The yakuza and tattoos

The yakuza still use tattoos as a way to identify themselves as members of the gang. Because of this association, people with tattoos are often discriminated against in Japan.

Tattoo culture in Japan

Despite the negative associations with tattoos in Japan, there is also a thriving tattoo culture. Many Japanese tattoo artists specialize in traditional Japanese designs like dragons and cherry blossoms.

Tattoo tourism in Japan

Because of the popularity of Japanese-style tattoos around the world, there has been a rise in tattoo tourism to Japan. Tourists come to Japan specifically to get traditional Japanese-style tattoos from famous artists.

Tattoo removal in Japan

For those who regret getting a tattoo or need to remove one for professional reasons, tattoo removal services are available in Japan. These services can be expensive and painful.


In conclusion, while it is not illegal to get a tattoo in Japan, there are still legal restrictions on who can perform them. However, attitudes towards tattoos are changing, and more and more people are embracing them as a form of self-expression. Whether or not you decide to get a tattoo while visiting Japan will ultimately depend on your own personal beliefs and comfort level with potential discrimination.

Can I still go to Japan if I have tattoos?

Before diving into specifics, the straightforward response to the inquiry presented in the title of this article is that individuals with tattoos can certainly visit Japan. This was confirmed on August 31, 2022.

How long were tattoos banned in Japan?

For many centuries, tattoos were associated with criminality and shame. However, in Japan, tattooing became an art form during the Edo period and was popular among people of all social classes. It was eventually outlawed during the Meiji era and remained banned until 1948.

Is it ok to get a Yakuza tattoo?

It is possible to get a traditional yakuza tattoo without running into trouble, as the yakuza does not use tattoos as a means of identifying their members. These tattoos are typically based on Japanese legends, symbolism, and art, and are a personal choice.

Does Japan care if foreigners have tattoos?

Although tattoos are legal, they may inhibit individuals from fully experiencing Japanese culture. For instance, tourists with visible tattoos should be mindful that their ink may be seen as offensive by some locals when using public transportation, such as trains.

Do foreigners have to cover tattoos in Japan?

When exploring urban areas, it’s acceptable to walk around uncovered, but when visiting traditional sites like temples, shrines, and ryokan, it’s important to conceal any tattoos as a sign of respect, even if it’s not explicitly stated.

Is it OK to wear shorts in Japan?

In Japan, it is acceptable to wear casual clothing such as shorts, jeans, and camisoles, especially outside of Tokyo’s business district. However, if you plan on visiting religious sites, it is important to dress appropriately.

It’s worth noting that the Japanese government has been taking steps to change the perception of tattoos. In 2019, a ruling was made that civil servants with tattoos could not be discriminated against in the workplace. This was a significant step forward in recognizing tattoos as a form of self-expression and not automatically associating them with criminal activities.

The rise of social media has also played a role in changing attitudes towards tattoos in Japan. Many Japanese influencers and celebrities proudly display their tattoos on their social media platforms, helping to normalize them in the eyes of the public.

Despite these positive changes, it’s important to remember that discrimination towards people with tattoos still exists in Japan. Visitors to Japan should be aware of this and consider covering their tattoos in certain situations, such as when visiting traditional public baths or other places where showing tattoos may be considered inappropriate.

Overall, while there are legal restrictions and social stigmas surrounding tattoos in Japan, the cultural significance and beauty of traditional Japanese tattoo art continue to thrive both within Japan and around the world.

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