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Do Japanese hot springs allow tattoos?


Japanese hot springs, also known as onsen, are a popular destination for travelers who want to experience the country’s traditional culture and relax in natural hot water. However, many people wonder whether they can enter an onsen if they have tattoos. In this article, we will explore the topic of tattoos in Japanese hot springs and answer the question: do Japanese hot springs allow tattoos?

History of Tattoos in Japan

Tattoos have a long history in Japan, dating back to the 3rd century. They were initially used as a form of punishment and later became popular among criminals and gang members. However, during the Meiji era (1868-1912), the government banned tattoos because they were associated with criminal activities.

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Tattoos in Modern Japan

Today, tattoos are still stigmatized in Japan, and many businesses, including hot springs and gyms, prohibit customers with visible tattoos from entering their facilities. This is because tattoos are still associated with gang culture and are often seen as a sign of rebellion.

Why Do Japanese Hot Springs Prohibit Tattoos?

The main reason why Japanese hot springs prohibit tattoos is because of their association with yakuza, or Japanese organized crime syndicates. Yakuza members often have full-body tattoos that depict their gang affiliations, which can be intimidating to other customers. As a result, many onsen owners have implemented a no-tattoo policy to avoid any potential conflicts.

Exceptions to the Rule

While most Japanese hot springs prohibit tattoos, some establishments have relaxed their policies in recent years. Some onsen now allow customers with small, discreet tattoos to enter their facilities as long as they cover them up with bandages or stickers. Other onsen have designated specific times or areas for tattooed customers to use.

How to Find Tattoo-Friendly Hot Springs

If you have tattoos and want to visit a Japanese hot spring, you can do some research online to find tattoo-friendly establishments. There are several websites and guides that list onsen that allow tattoos, so you can plan your trip accordingly.

What to Do If You Have Tattoos

If you have tattoos and want to visit a Japanese hot spring, it’s important to be respectful of the establishment’s rules. If the onsen has a no-tattoo policy, don’t try to sneak in or argue with the staff. Instead, look for a tattoo-friendly onsen or consider covering up your tattoos with clothing or bandages.

Alternatives to Onsen

If you have tattoos and don’t want to risk being turned away from a Japanese hot spring, there are other ways to experience the country’s natural hot springs. Some hotels and resorts have private onsen that guests can use, and there are also outdoor hot springs that are not regulated by the government.

Tattoo Culture in Japan

Despite the stigma surrounding tattoos in Japan, there is also a growing community of tattoo enthusiasts who view tattoos as a form of self-expression rather than a symbol of criminal activity. Many Japanese tattoo artists create intricate designs that incorporate traditional motifs and techniques.

Legal Status of Tattoos in Japan

While tattoos are not illegal in Japan, they are not officially recognized as an art form and are not regulated by the government. This means that tattoo artists operate in a legal gray area and may face discrimination or harassment from authorities.

The Future of Tattoos in Japan

As attitudes towards tattoos continue to shift in Japan, it’s possible that more onsen and businesses will become more accepting of customers with tattoos. However, it’s also possible that tattoos will remain stigmatized in the country due to their association with organized crime.


In conclusion, the answer to the question “Do Japanese hot springs allow tattoos?” is not a simple yes or no. While many onsen prohibit tattoos due to their association with yakuza culture, there are also tattoo-friendly establishments that allow customers with small, discreet tattoos to enter. If you have tattoos and want to visit a Japanese hot spring, it’s important to do your research and be respectful of the establishment’s rules.

Can you go in Japanese hot springs with tattoos?

Historically, Japan’s onsen (natural hot springs) have not permitted people with tattoos to enter due to a long-standing connection with organized crime. However, this practice is starting to shift and more onsen are becoming more flexible, sometimes making exceptions to allow tattooed foreign visitors to enter.

Why don t Japanese hot springs allow tattoos?

Going to a sento is an opportunity to unwind in a large, heated bath or sauna and interact with others. Unfortunately, this social aspect caused many onsen and sento to ban guests with tattoos. The Japanese cultural aversion to tattoos is linked to their connection with members of Japanese criminal organizations.

Can you go in a hot spring with a new tattoo?

To protect your new tattoo, avoid immersing it in water such as lakes, rivers, hot tubs, and baths until it has fully healed.

Can I go to onsen if I cover my tattoo?

If your tattoo is small, you can easily conceal it and not face any issues. Some hot springs even provide cover-ups for their guests. While it may not be mandatory to cover them up, if you prefer, using plasters is a reliable solution to bypass any tattoo regulations.

How to hide tattoos at onsen?

If you can’t afford a private onsen, there are other options for hiding your tattoos in Japan. You can buy body stickers and patches that blend in with your skin tone, but these coverings are usually small in size.

Are Japanese hot springs clothing optional?

To use an onsen in Japan, being completely naked is mandatory. Clothes, towels, and any other items that may be worn are seen as unclean and should never be taken into the onsen. While nudity is required, it is not a major issue.

It’s worth noting that attitudes towards tattoos in Japan are changing, particularly among younger generations. Many young Japanese people are embracing tattoos and see them as a form of self-expression rather than a symbol of criminal activity. However, this cultural shift is not yet reflected in mainstream society, and many businesses, including hot springs, continue to prohibit customers with visible tattoos.

For tourists visiting Japan, it’s important to be aware of the cultural significance of tattoos and to respect the rules of any establishments they visit. It’s also important to note that some hot springs may require customers to be completely nude, which can make covering up tattoos more challenging. Ultimately, it’s up to each individual establishment to decide whether they allow tattoos or not, so it’s always best to check beforehand.

Despite the challenges faced by tattoo enthusiasts in Japan, there is a thriving tattoo culture in the country. Japanese tattoo artists are highly skilled and renowned for their intricate designs and traditional techniques. Some tattoo studios even offer visitors the opportunity to get a traditional Japanese-style tattoo, known as irezumi, which involves using a hand-held needle to create intricate designs on the skin.

In recent years, there have been calls for Japan to officially recognize tattoos as an art form and provide legal protections for tattoo artists. However, this is likely to be a slow process due to the deeply ingrained cultural attitudes towards tattoos in Japan.

Overall, while tattoos are still stigmatized in Japan, there are signs of change and an increasing acceptance of tattoos as a form of self-expression. For travelers with tattoos who want to experience Japanese hot springs, it’s important to do your research and be respectful of local customs and rules.

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