Tattoos and Onsen
Replies: 16 - Last Post: Oct 8, 2012 11:21 AM Last Post By: amazinga
Oct 4, 2012 7:56 PM
Tattoos and OnsenOld question, slight different angle...
Is it fine to cover up my arm tattoo before entering an onsen (elbow to shoulder)? We are staying at a fancy Ryokan in Takayama, and I dont want to be disrespectful. I know clothing is frowned upon, so is a linen covering on the arm ok?
Oct 4, 2012 8:06 PM
Oct 4, 2012 8:22 PM
Oct 4, 2012 8:45 PM
Oct 4, 2012 9:15 PM
Oct 4, 2012 9:15 PM
5I don't have tatoos, but totally agree with acc's suggestion to go at non peak times.
Monday nights are not likely to be busy in the first place, but often after nine pm or so there is noone in the onsen. After dinner, and often before dinner is often packed. If they have a rotenburo, hang out there. Keep your onsen towel over it.
I am not sure about asking the office staff though. I often find the answer to a question about whether something is OK to do, will be no... And having been told no, it kind of removes it as an option.
Oct 4, 2012 11:27 PM
6I'll agree with Tokyo_girl. It has 22 rooms but hopefully a Monday night will be fine especially if you are happy to go later in the evening. As she suggests, avoid asking about it, and I'd be inclined to remain covered while you are there. A few of the listings for the ryokan mention "Guests with a tattoo may not be permitted to enter public bathing areas and other public facilities."
Oct 5, 2012 5:48 AM
7Thanks for the advice guys. I will try to slip in unnoticed later in the evening;) What Im really nervous about is when we are in the Hakuba region for 4 days after Takayama...one of my top goals is to sit in the hot springs with snow monkeys...are these springs more laid back?
ps...I will look like an obvious white tourist (from Canada)...my tan will be gone by then lol.
Oct 5, 2012 6:56 AM
Oct 5, 2012 7:06 AM
Oct 5, 2012 7:12 AM
10#8...your comment is hilarious. By me asking it shows it matters to me. If I didnt care, Id do what many tourists do (so Ive read recently) and thats just go in and hope to not be asked to leave! Some onsens have signs saying no tattoos, some allow it, so obviously they are not all the same. The ski hill especially where there is a higher percentage of tattoos, Im sure its a bit different, but I could be wrong....but thanks for the tip Umami!
Oct 5, 2012 7:42 AM
11#10 I applaud the fact that you don't want to make people uncomfortable. But come on, your original question was how to hide your tattoo, which you wouldn't need to do unless there were rules against tattoos.
If you want to enjoy an onsen without making people uncomfortable and getting caught, then cover up your tattoo. (That's probably what I would do.) But if you want to talk about "respecting the culture" in Japan, sometimes that means following arbitrary rules, even if they seem ridiculous and they're inconvenient to you.
Oct 5, 2012 7:52 AM
12There are many angles to look at this...some say its because they associate it with gangs, or the underworld (sorry, forgot the Japanese term), and so forth. Im a white tourist with a non threatening tattoo, so its fair for me to wonder if this would be accepted by the many, and maybe even by the few. If I was told its not approved, I would not question it. Also, I said we would go when the onsen was empty, so again, this should not offend anyone, and at the same time, respecting others ideologies.
If I arrive at a full onsen, I will ask if its accepted or even turn around...if its empty, I will enter it and be very discrete. My original question was asking about any alternatives because I do want to embrace this side of the culture.
Oct 5, 2012 8:20 AM
13There really aren't that many angles - the main one is that in Japan tattoos are very strongly associated with yakuza, perhaps especially in the sensibilities of older people who are likely to stay in fancy onsen. So even though logically one might think things through and decide that a Caucasian-looking person with an elbow-to-shoulder tattoo might not be a gangster, one's instant first association would still be with yakuza.
Onsen ban people with tattoos because that's the easiest (and only practical) way to ban yakuza from their establishments.
If other patrons see your tattoo, they might also be uncomfortable because you're clearly breaking the rules, even if you're not likely to be a gangster. If you're breaking that rule, then who's to say what other rules of polite society you refuse to follow.
If staff become aware that you have a tattoo, then they really have to worry about what the other patrons will think, and say, whatever their own personal opinions of tattoos might be.
All that said, if you want to enjoy an onsen, and your tattoo is fairly large, then do your best to avoid other patrons, and don't put the staff in an uncomfortable position by asking them.
Oct 5, 2012 8:54 AM
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