Oct 4, 2009

General Info: Part 2 - Tattoo Ban

Tattoo ban signboards at the entrance of day visit onsens in Kanagawa and Tokyo. They say "People with tattoos or tattoo stickers are not allowed to enter regardless the size of tattoo" (left) and "People with tattoo can't take a bath here. If you don't follow, we will call police" (right).

This is a controversial topic, but most day visit onsens in Japan ban people with tattoo. Tattoos used to be a symbol of criminals and still being associated with Yakuza or violence group, at the same time the number of young people with tattoo just as fashion is increasing recently.

A manager of a day visit onsen once told me "We ban all kind of tattoos, even a tiny one, because sometimes it's difficult to distinguish a fashion tattoo from a scoundrel tattoo".

According to a newspaper's report a few days ago, a boss of a violence group or Yakuza was prosecuted recently for ignoring "tattoo ban" sign and a manager's petition to leave at least twice at a bath house.

Of course some onsens aren't strict about tattoo ban, and I know many foreign visitors with tattoo have enjoyed onsens in Japan without any trouble. But I feel it's getting stricter and I see the "tattoo ban" signs more often than a few years ago.

If you have a tattoo and plan to visit onsen, you'd better recognize there is a risk that you will be cordially asked to leave. I suggest people with tattoo to go to the onsens with private baths that you can share the bath just among your group.

I don't remember any tattoo ban signboard at ryokans. So I called the Japan Ryokan Association to confirm if the tattoo ban applies for ryokans as well. A young lady answered "There is no uniform consensus among the member ryokans about guests with tattoo, it depends on each ryokan's decision".


  1. Also tattoos are allowed at most sento, at least ones that are members of the Public Bathhouse Association in their prefecture.


  2. Lucky I don't have any bit of tattoo.. so I won't get kicked out then :)

  3. I've never been kicked out, but I only go to remote mountain onsens, never the big ones in the city. It's such an outdated rule. It applies to gyms as well.

  4. I just went to the Yunessun in Hakone. They have tons of outdoor baths, such as a coffee, wine, sake, green tea, etc baths. The place is split into two areas, one that is coed and people wear bathing suits and the other is seperated for men and women and no bathing suits. If you go to the bathing suits area you could always wear a rash guard to cover your tattoos like I did (they even have rentals, but they are Japanese size). Another option is to tape it up with waterproof bandages, but be careful that it doesn't show up when wet or peel off.


Anonymous comments not accepted.