Lonely Planet Writer

Japan’s hot spring operators urged to open doors to tattooed tourists

The Japan Tourism Agency has urged operators of onsen (hot springs) throughout the country to allow foreign visitors who have tattoos to use the facilities.

A Japanese onsen.
A Japanese onsen. Image by Jean-Marc Bolfing / CC BY-SA 2.0

Tattoos have long been associated with yakuza – organised crime gangs – and bathers with tattoos are typically turned away. However, a representative of the tourism promotions group has asked that onsen operators take into account the cultural background of their foreign guests, in a bid to give more overseas visitors the chance to enjoy the Japanese onsen experience.

Tattoo artists and body art aficionados make for Tel Aviv tattoo festival.
. Image by Lindsay / CC BY 2.0

There was some controversy in  2013 after a New Zealand woman with traditional Maori face tattooing was refused entry to an onsen in Hokkaidō. Read more: japantimes.co.jp