Why Tattoos are Forbidden at Hot Springs

spa, hot spring, onsen Japan

In the past few years, there has been a lot of talk about people with tattoos. They are being denied to enter into all public baths and hot springs facilities. The fact that our lifestyles are changing, it is probably a factor in the controversy over the rejection of tattoos. But let’s take a look at the roots and reasons why tattoos are being rejected from public baths and hot springs in Japan.


Looking at the history of Japan, it was thought that people were tattooed in the Jomon period based on the patterns of clay figurines. After that, tattoos came to be used to recognize who they were and where they came from. Around the Nara period (710-794), tattoos became a form of punishment. In the Edo period (1603-1868), tattoos were given to criminals as a form of punishments. The content of the tattoos varied from region to region.

It is interesting to know that in Wakayama Prefecture, criminals were tattooed with the word “evil” on their arms . In addition, criminals who repeatedly committed crimes would have characters such as “大” or “犬” tattooed on their foreheads. Later, in the Meiji era (1868-1912), to establish a modern state, the Dajokan ordinance of 1872 abolished the practice of tattooing and banned the practice of tattooing for decorative purposes.

Until 1948, tattooing was outlawed in Japan. This historical background is thought to be the reason why tattoos are still considered anti-social . The reason why the ”negative image” of tattoos has been established in Japan.

Bad image


Even after tattoos were banned in the Meiji era (1868-1912), they were still used by gangsters to show their loyalty to the organization. As a result, the image of “tattoos = gangs” was created, and it can be said that tattoos were used to intimidate the people around them.

Also in the past, not every household had taken their showers. Therefore, for the safety and security of the general public, many public bathhouses and hot springs facilities (especially those in the private sector) still, restricted the entry of people with tattoos.

The Case of Fashion

The Case of Fashion

The problem here is that people who have tattoos as an art form or fashion items may also be subject to entry restrictions. It may be difficult to draw a line between those who are gang-related and those who are not. In addition, even if small tattoos are allowed, they had  made other customers uncomfortable, and it may be difficult to control this kind of situation .So  it may be more reasonable for public bath and hot spring facilities to prohibit all people who have tattoos.

Recently, there have been cases where people are allowed to enter as long as they wear a swimsuit like a rash guard that hides their tattoos, and some hot spring facilities in tourist areas accept people with  tattoos.

Rather than prohibiting the entry of people with tattoos, it may be a good idea to take some measures (such as wearing rash guards, or banning people from bathing if they cause trouble) to ease the entry of people with tattoos.