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Why are tattoos unpopular in Japan?

Why are tattoos unpopular in Japan?

Tattoos have been around for centuries, but the culture surrounding them has changed dramatically over time. In some parts of the world, tattoos are seen as a symbol of rebellion or self-expression, while in others they can be seen as taboo or even illegal. In Japan, tattoos have long been considered unacceptable and even controversial. This article will explore the reasons why tattoos are unpopular in Japan, examining both historical and cultural factors that contribute to this trend.

Historical Context of Tattoos in Japan

Tattooing has a long history in Japan, dating back to at least the Jomon period (14000 BCE – 300 BCE). During this period, tattoos were used to mark criminals and outcasts from society. This practice continued into later periods of Japanese history; during the Edo period (1603–1868), criminals were tattooed with their offenses as a form of punishment. As such, tattoos quickly became associated with criminality and social outcasts.

Japanese Snack Box

The Cultural Connotations of Tattoos in Japan

In addition to their historical associations with criminality, tattoos also have strong cultural connotations in Japan. Many Japanese people view tattooing as an act of defiance against authority or tradition. This is due to the fact that many traditional Japanese styles of tattooing involve large designs that cover large portions of the body—something which is seen as disrespectful by many conservative members of society. Furthermore, some religious groups view tattooing as an affront to their beliefs and traditions; for example, many Buddhist temples ban visitors with visible tattoos from entering their premises.

Social Stigma Against Tattoos in Japan

The negative connotations associated with tattoos have led to a strong social stigma against them in Japan. People who are visibly tattooed may be viewed negatively by their peers or even discriminated against in certain situations; for example, some employers may refuse to hire someone who has visible tattoos on their body. This stigma is particularly strong among older generations; many elderly people view tattooing as an act of disrespect towards themselves and those around them.

Legal Implications for Tattooing in Japan

In addition to these social stigmas, there are also legal implications for getting a tattoo in Japan. Currently, it is illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to get a tattoo without parental consent; furthermore, there are strict regulations on where and how one can get a tattoo done legally. These regulations make it difficult for those who wish to get a tattoo legally and often force them into underground parlors where safety standards may not be up to par.

Popularity of Tattoos Among Younger Generations

Despite these negative connotations surrounding tattoos in Japan, there has been an increase in popularity among younger generations who see them as fashionable or trendy accessories rather than symbols of defiance or criminality. However, this trend is still relatively new and is often seen as controversial by older generations who continue to view tattoos negatively due to their historical associations with criminality and disrespect towards tradition and authority figures.

The Impact of Western Culture on Japanese Tattooing Practices

In recent years there has been an influx of Western influences on traditional Japanese art forms such as painting and sculpture—and this trend extends into the realm of tattooing as well. Many young people now opt for more modern designs inspired by Western trends rather than traditional Japanese motifs when getting a tattoo done; this has led some traditionalists to criticize this “Westernization” of Japanese art forms including tattooing practices.


In conclusion, there are several reasons why tattoos remain unpopular in Japan—from historical associations with criminality to cultural taboos against body modification—all combined together create a strong stigma against those who choose to get a tattoo done legally or otherwise.Despite increasing popularity among younger generations however,it seems likely that these negative connotations will persist into the foreseeable future.

Resources and Further Reading

Tokoyama,Charles R.” The History & Culture Of Tattooing In Japan.” The Insider’s Guide To Living In Tokyo,2019, / culture – living – japan / history – culture -tattoo-japan /.

Why tattoo is not allowed in Japan?

Laws against tattoos were enacted after the outbreak of war between Japan and China in 1936. Tattoos were strictly prohibited. The Japanese government believes that tattooed people are a problem. Not until tattoos were legal again.

Are tattoos still frowned upon in Japan?

Actually tattoos are ok in Japan. They are not illegal at all. Especially in Tokyo you can sometimes see people walking around with tattoos. Some Japanese men have tattoos but tend to hide them under their clothes.

Why is there a stigma against tattoos in Japan?

The current stigma surrounding tattoos is largely due to their association with Japanese organized crime groups or yakuza.

Are tattoos popular in Japan?

Tattoos are still considered unusual in Japan but they are. Tattooing is legal in Japan and as of 2020 tattoo artists are legally allowed to work without a medical license.

What happens if you show your tattoos in Japan?

In Japan showing ink prohibits entry to certain areas such as hot springs (bathrooms) gyms and many ryokan (Japanese inns).

Can I work in Japan if I have tattoo?

Although it is true that many companies prefer candidates without tattoos in Japan some non-traditional industries do not. Of course the creative industries are more forgiving when it comes to expressing yourself in ink.

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