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Can you get fired for having tattoos in Japan?


In Japan, tattoos have long been associated with the yakuza, or Japanese mafia. However, in recent years, tattoos have become more mainstream and popular among young people. Despite this shift in attitude, there is still a stigma attached to tattoos in Japan, especially in the workplace. Many companies have strict policies against visible tattoos, and employees may face consequences for having them. In this article, we will explore whether or not you can get fired for having tattoos in Japan.

The History of Tattooing in Japan

Tattooing has a long history in Japan, dating back to the Jomon period (10,000 BCE – 300 BCE). However, it wasn’t until the Edo period (1603-1868) that tattooing became associated with criminality. The government banned tattooing, and it became a punishment for criminals. In the 20th century, tattooing became associated with the yakuza, who used tattoos to mark their allegiance to their gang. Today, tattoos are still associated with criminality and are often seen as taboo.

Japanese Snack Box

Tattoos and Employment in Japan

Many companies in Japan have strict policies against visible tattoos. This is especially true for customer-facing roles such as sales and hospitality. Companies may require employees to cover up their tattoos with clothing or makeup. Some companies even require employees to sign contracts stating that they do not have any tattoos. Failure to comply with these policies can result in disciplinary action or termination.

Why Do Companies Have Policies Against Tattoos?

There are several reasons why companies in Japan have policies against visible tattoos. One reason is that tattoos are still associated with criminality and can make customers feel uncomfortable. Another reason is that tattoos may be seen as unprofessional or inappropriate for certain industries. Additionally, some companies may have international clients who are not accustomed to seeing tattoos and may view them negatively.

Do All Companies Have Policies Against Tattoos?

Not all companies in Japan have policies against visible tattoos. Some companies are more lenient than others and may allow employees to have visible tattoos as long as they are not offensive or inappropriate. However, these companies are the exception rather than the rule.

What Happens If You Get Hired With Tattoos?

If you get hired with visible tattoos, your employer may ask you to cover them up while at work. This could mean wearing long-sleeved shirts or using makeup to conceal your tattoos. If you refuse to comply with these requests, you may face disciplinary action or termination.

What If You Get a Tattoo While Employed?

If you get a tattoo while employed, you should inform your employer as soon as possible. Your employer may require you to cover up your tattoo while at work or take other actions such as moving you to a non-customer-facing role. In some cases, your employer may terminate your employment if they feel that your tattoo is inappropriate or unprofessional.

Are There Any Exceptions?

There are some exceptions to the no-tattoo policy in Japan. For example, professional athletes may be allowed to have visible tattoos if they are part of their personal brand. Similarly, musicians and other performers may be allowed to have visible tattoos if it is part of their artistic expression.

What About Foreigners?

Foreigners living and working in Japan may face different rules when it comes to visible tattoos. While many companies still have strict policies against visible tattoos, some may be more lenient towards foreigners who are not familiar with Japanese cultural norms. However, foreigners should still be aware of the potential consequences of having visible tattoos while living and working in Japan.


In conclusion, while attitudes towards tattoos are changing in Japan, there is still a stigma attached to them. Many companies have strict policies against visible tattoos, and employees may face consequences for having them. It is important for individuals living and working in Japan to be aware of these policies and potential consequences before getting a tattoo.

Additional Resources

For more information on tattoos in Japan and Japanese culture:
– “Japanese Tattoos: History * Culture * Design” by Brian Ashcraft
– “The Ainu: A Story of Japan’s Original People” by Kirsten Bell
– “Japanese Culture: The Religious and Philosophical Foundations” by Roger J. Davies and Osamu Ikeno

Does Japan discriminate against tattoos?

Tattoos are stigmatized in Japan and associated with organized crime, leading to a longstanding taboo against them. As a result, many places like beaches, hot springs resorts, and gyms do not allow individuals with tattoos, and some companies even prohibit job applicants with them.

Can foreigners show tattoos in Japan?

Japan places great importance on rules, and in most pools, hot springs, and gyms, tattoos are not allowed. If a foreigner with tattoos visible approaches the front desk, it is likely to cause worry. The solution is to cover up the tattoos, and this is deemed acceptable. If covering up is not possible, it is best not to visit these places.

Is it okay to get tattoos in Japan?

Tattoos in Japan are still considered uncommon, but they do exist. It is totally legal to get a tattoo in Japan, and just in 2020, tattoo artists have been approved by law to work without a medical license.

What is tattoo punishment in Japan?

In the Edo period, criminal offenders were subjected to irezumi kei, a form of punishment that involved getting tattoos. The placement and shape of the tattoo were determined based on the type and location of the crime committed, with thieves receiving tattoos on their arms and murderers on their heads.

Can I be fired for having tattoos?

Having tattoos is not a legally protected status, and employers are allowed to refuse to hire, promote or even terminate someone based on their tattoos, although there are some exceptions. Federal law does not classify having tattoos as a protected status.

Is hard to get a job in Japan if you have a tattoo?

In Japan, having a tattoo may be viewed negatively by many companies when considering job applicants. This is because tattoos are often associated with being anti-social or with involvement in anti-social groups, leading many Japanese companies to reject candidates with visible tattoos.

Tattoo Removal in Japan

For those who already have tattoos and want to work in a company with strict policies against them, there is an option to remove them. However, tattoo removal in Japan can be expensive and time-consuming. Laser tattoo removal is the most common method used, but it can take several sessions and cost thousands of dollars. Additionally, the process can be painful and may leave scarring. Therefore, it is important to carefully consider the decision to get a visible tattoo before doing so.

The Changing Attitudes Towards Tattoos in Japan

While tattoos are still stigmatized in Japan, there are signs that attitudes towards them are changing. More young people are getting tattoos as a form of self-expression, and some companies are becoming more lenient towards visible tattoos. In 2020, the Tokyo Olympics lifted its ban on visible tattoos for athletes, signaling a shift in cultural norms. However, it remains to be seen if this change will be reflected in other industries and institutions in Japan.

The Role of Tattoos in Japanese Art and Fashion

Despite the stigma surrounding tattoos in Japan, they have played a significant role in Japanese art and fashion. Traditional Japanese tattoos, known as irezumi, feature intricate designs and symbolism that reflect Japanese culture and mythology. Today, many Japanese fashion designers incorporate tattoo-inspired designs into their clothing lines. However, these designs often do not include visible tattoos, as they are still taboo in mainstream Japanese society.

The Future of Tattoos in Japan

As the younger generation continues to embrace tattoos as a form of self-expression, it is possible that attitudes towards them will continue to shift in Japan. However, it is also possible that the stigma surrounding tattoos will persist, especially in more conservative industries such as finance and law. Ultimately, the future of tattoos in Japan will depend on how cultural norms evolve and whether companies are willing to adapt their policies accordingly.

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