Should I Cover my Tattoos in Japan?

It depends if you are planning to visit public spaces. Japan is a largely conservative society, and tattoos can be considered obscene or inappropriate in temples, museums, and other historic sites.

If your tattoo is invisible with your clothes on when you’re visiting public spaces, then it doesn’t matter. But some blacks might see that as racist, so there’s nothing wrong with covering them, depending on how someone will take it from you.

Many tattoo shops in Japan won’t cover tattoos, either. They might just draw it out and then put some paper on it to hide the tattoo part, so that’s something you should ask about.

What Are the Traditional Japanese tattoos?

japanese tattoo

Japanese tattoos are an ancient tradition in Japan. It is believed that the symbols and images associated with traditional Japanese tattoos originated in China.

The oldest tattooed human remains date to 5,500 years ago, while some of the oldest known images of tattooed women represent fertility goddesses.

Possible designs include the family crest, patriotic slogans, tiger masks, or dragon heads.

The Kamejiji-Nohi (“stylist of written words”) were scribes who wrote texts to be tattooed onto Samurai warriors‘ skin during Japan’s feudal era; these texts typically extolled virtues of courage and strength.

Gangsters are tattooing themselves with yakuza crests and symbols.

The Japanese are creative and imaginative regarding tattoos, often making the idea of a tattoo as much about art and fashion as it is about personal expression.

The constant input from Western culture has given rise to some uniquely modern approaches to traditional designs.

In an age of manga comics, graphic design, and video games, there’s no limit to the imagination of Japanese youths.

According to traditional Japanese tattoos, symbols and images can be associated with various meanings.

In the past, tattoos were often associated with aristocratic Samurai warriors; now, they’re pretty much everywhere.

Smaller symbols are worn by young people and those in their later years; larger images may take up a whole person’s back or chest. Some people who have tattoos are celebrities, such as comedians and actors on Japanese television shows.

Why is Tattoo Bad in Japan?

Yakuza Tattoo

In Japan, tattoos are considered symbols of a person’s past and represent what they have done. If a person were to get tattooed, he wouldn’t have any other profession because they want to remain respectable in society.

The tattoos would be the first thing you see and the last thing you see in their character, making it very hard for someone with a tattoo to be in the public spotlight. It is a rigorous culture in Japan, and the tattoo would keep you from your goal of self-betterment.

In Japan, tattoos are usually given to people who have done some time in jail or prison.

In the tough guy’s code, if you go to jail for something small and come back out with a tattoo on your body, it would be considered a success. Of course, the tattoo has to have some meaning behind it, and usually, they are linked to crime or gang affiliations.

It is not uncommon for someone in prison to get tattoos from other inmates while serving time with them. It marks that person’s time in prison and expresses certain ideals of their life and way of living.

Can I get into Onsen with tattoos in Japan?

It is not illegal in Japan to have tattoos, but some people do not like them, so some Onsen will refuse entry.

However, if you plan to visit an Onsen in Japan, you should not be too concerned about being refused entry.

Before we go any further, I would like to point out that this article is only intended to give people interested in Japanese culture and have tattoos some information on the subject in Japan to prepare themselves for when they travel to Japan.

It is also worth noting that the information contained within this article focuses on tattoos in Japanese culture and Onsen hot spring baths.

Please do not use this article as a basis for deciding whether or not you should get any tattoos or removal of existing ones. This article is intended to be informative only and nothing more.

I have had many, many interactions with Japanese people regarding tattoos.

Unfortunately, the attitudes towards tattoos and those who have them can be split into two groups.

This is not an exact science, as some younger generations are more accepting of tattoos than their elders.

Generally speaking, you will find that those around 45 years old and above will likely have a problem with you having tattoos.

Also, the further north you go in Japan (Hokkaido, for example), the less tolerant people are of tattoos.

Onsen & Tattoos in Japan: Getting Refused Entry to Onsen Hot Springs

full back tattoo japan

As I stated earlier, not everyone likes tattoos, and some Onsen hot spring bathhouses may refuse entry to people who have tattoos or cover them up in the pool area.

I know this can be an issue for people but do not worry too much about refusing entry to an Onsen hot spring bathhouse.

Although many will refuse entry, it is better to walk away and find another Onsen that will accept you.

If the Onsen refuses entry to someone with tattoos, they will not adhere to any written law or regulation.

No law states it is illegal for people with tattoos in Japan; however, many Japanese see tattoos as “obscenities” and feel uncomfortable around them.

There are no laws that forbid tattoos in Japan, only feelings.

Staff may still question you, but this is more likely to do with the appropriateness of your clothes (for example, you might be asked to wear a swimming suit if you have a tattoo on your back).

Please note that I do not condone covering up tattoos with clothing, but this method is sometimes used to save people from being refused entry to an Onsen.

For your tattoo not to be noticeable, you might have to wear swimming trunks or a bikini. Do not worry too much about being turned away from an Onsen.

Many larger cities have dozens of small Onsen that are more tolerant of tattoos. Tattoos are not too popular in Japan, so you can find an Onsen that will accept you with little problem.

I have enjoyed meeting people with tattoos who have visited Onsen regularly during their stay in Japan. They never experienced being refused entry once, even though some were large and easily visible.


Can Foreigners get Tattoos in Japan?

Yes, foreigners can get tattoos in Japan.

How many tattoos can you have before being refused entry into an Onsen hot spring bathhouse, and how large must they be before refusing entry?

There are no laws, rules, or regulations that state how big tattoos can be.

If I have a tattoo on my back and wear clothes over it, will I be able to enter an Onsen in Japan?

Yes, the majority of people should not notice you have a tattoo. Some visual inspections may occur if you wear minimal clothing, such as swimming trunks or a bikini. However, only the people working at the Onsen will see your tattoo.

What is the best way to deal with being refused entry to an Onsen hot spring bathhouse?

Don’t worry too much; move on to another Onsen in the worst-case scenario.

Can I get a tattoo while staying in Japan?

You can get a tattoo in Japan if you go to an authorized Japanese (licensed) tattoo artist. There are many of these in Tokyo, Osaka, and other major cities.

How much do tattoos cost?

Generally speaking, most reputable tattoo artists will charge between ¥10,000-¥20,000 for a large tattoo (e.g., full back). Tattooists offering cheaper pricing tend to be of lower quality and are untrained (e.g., when you walk into a random barbershop).

Will I get problems with airport security because of my tattoos?

If your tattoo is large, possible, but it all depends on the airport and the individual members of staff working there. Tattoos are not yet illegal in Japan, and many Japanese airport security employees accept foreign tourists with tattoos.

Originally posted on July 22, 2021 @ 4:12 am

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As a lifelong traveler and founder of, I, Alex Deidda, have always been driven by my passion for exploring new places and cultures.

Throughout the years, I have had the opportunity to live in various countries, each offering unique perspectives and experiences.

My love for traveling led me to create, a website and blog dedicated to helping people plan their trips.

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