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Do the Japanese not like tattoos?


Tattoos have been a part of various cultures for centuries. However, in Japan, tattoos are often associated with the Yakuza, the Japanese mafia. This connection has led to a general negative perception of tattoos in Japanese society. In this article, we will explore the reasons behind why the Japanese may not like tattoos.

The History of Tattoos in Japan

Tattoos have been a part of Japanese culture for centuries. The practice of tattooing, known as irezumi, was initially used to mark criminals as a form of punishment. Later on, tattoos became popular among members of the working class and were used to represent their affiliations with various groups. However, during the Meiji period in the late 19th century, tattoos were banned as a way to modernize Japan and make it more appealing to Western countries.

Japanese Snack Box

The Connection between Tattoos and Yakuza

The association between tattoos and the Yakuza is one of the main reasons why many Japanese people do not like tattoos. The Yakuza often sport elaborate tattoos that cover their entire bodies, making them easily identifiable. As a result, anyone with visible tattoos may be perceived as having connections to the criminal underworld.

The Perception of Tattoos in the Workplace

Many Japanese companies have policies that prohibit employees from showing their tattoos while at work. This is because tattoos are seen as unprofessional and may negatively impact the company’s image. Furthermore, customers may feel uncomfortable or intimidated by employees with visible tattoos.

The Influence of Traditional Values

Japan is a country that places a lot of importance on tradition and conformity. In this context, tattoos are often seen as a form of rebellion or nonconformity. Additionally, Japan has a collectivist culture where individuals are expected to prioritize the needs of the group over their own desires. Tattoos may be viewed as a selfish act that goes against this ideal.

The Stigma around Tattoos

The negative perception of tattoos in Japan has led to a stigma surrounding the practice. People with tattoos may be discriminated against or judged by others based solely on their appearance. This stigma can make it difficult for people with tattoos to find jobs or participate in certain activities.

Legal Restrictions on Tattoos

Although there is no law prohibiting tattooing in Japan, tattoo artists are required to have a medical license in order to perform the procedure. This requirement has made it difficult for aspiring tattoo artists to enter the industry and has contributed to the high cost of getting a tattoo in Japan.

The Rise of Tattoo Tourism

Despite the negative perception of tattoos in Japan, there has been an increase in tattoo tourism in recent years. Many foreigners visit Japan specifically to get traditional Japanese tattoos or to attend tattoo festivals. Some argue that this trend is helping to change attitudes towards tattoos in Japan.

Tattoo Removal Services

For those who regret getting a tattoo or want to erase their connection to the criminal underworld, there are tattoo removal services available in Japan. However, these services can be expensive and may not completely remove the tattoo.

Changing Attitudes towards Tattoos

There are some signs that attitudes towards tattoos may be changing in Japan. More young people are getting tattoos and there has been an increase in mainstream media coverage of tattoos. Additionally, some companies are starting to relax their policies on visible tattoos.


The negative perception of tattoos in Japan is complex and deeply rooted in history and culture. While there are signs that attitudes may be changing, it is unlikely that tattoos will become widely accepted anytime soon. However, visitors to Japan should not be deterred from getting a tattoo if they so choose. It is important to respect Japanese customs and traditions while also being true to oneself.



Are tattoos acceptable in Japan?

Even though tattoos are not widely popular in Japan, they are still present. Getting a tattoo is legal in Japan, and recently in 2020, tattoo artists have been allowed to practice without needing a medical license.

Why does Japan not allow tattoos?

For a long time in Japan, tattoos have been viewed negatively because of their connection to criminal activity. In more recent times, tattoos have been associated with the country’s largest criminal organization, the Yakuza, but the negative perception of tattoos in Japan dates back much further.

Do Japanese girls have tattoos?

Additionally, according to Hilary, Japanese women tend to get small tattoos in areas of the body that are not typically visible outside of private spaces or hot springs, and this is supported by Yuriko’s own tattoo.

Can Americans show tattoos in Japan?

Although tattoos are not prohibited, they may hinder visitors from experiencing the complete Japanese culture. Travelers with visible tattoos should be aware that their body art could be seen as offensive to some Japanese locals, especially when using public transportation like trains.

Are tattoos a big deal in Japan?

In Japan, tattoos are considered taboo and are often associated with organized crime. As a result, many establishments such as beaches, hot springs resorts, and gyms do not allow individuals with tattoos. Additionally, some companies have policies that explicitly prohibit job applicants with tattoos.

Can I get a job in Japan if I have tattoos?

Having a tattoo may negatively impact one’s chances of being hired by a company, particularly in Japan where many companies have a policy against hiring individuals with tattoos. This is because tattoos are often associated with anti-social behavior or groups.

The Role of Religion

Religion also plays a significant role in the negative perceptions surrounding tattoos in Japan. In traditional Japanese religions such as Shinto and Buddhism, the body is considered sacred and should be kept pure. Tattoos are seen as a defilement of the body and may be viewed as disrespectful to these religious values.

The Impact of Pop Culture

While tattoos may still be stigmatized in Japanese society, they have become more common in popular culture. Many Japanese celebrities, musicians, and artists have visible tattoos, and their influence has helped to make tattoos more mainstream. However, this acceptance is often limited to the entertainment industry, and people with tattoos may still face discrimination in other areas of society.

The Future of Tattoos in Japan

It is difficult to predict how attitudes towards tattoos will evolve in Japan. While there are signs of progress, the negative perceptions surrounding tattoos are deeply ingrained in Japanese culture. It will likely take a generational shift for tattoos to become widely accepted in all areas of society. In the meantime, visitors to Japan should be aware of cultural sensitivities and respect local customs regarding tattoos.

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