If you’ve got friends in Japan and know how they treat those with tattoos, then this article will definitely be of interest. Tattoos on the body have long been frowned upon and it’s that same societal stigma which has caused many to be denied entry into public bathhouses, but that’s all about to change.
The popular resort, Hoshino Resort Company, just recently announced a new policy that will allow people to cover their tattoos with a free sticker at their hot spring resorts. Though it has not been fully accepted, this small step is still big news. According to management, they fear that “normal” people would be frightened, intimidated or discomforted by tattoos. Much of that fear is because of their fear that those who are “marked” are associated with members of criminal organizations who wore them. However, nowadays tattoos are no longer reserved for criminals.
The social stigma against tattoos runs deep. The mayor of Osaka, Toru Hashimoto, even demanded that all city workers reveal whether they have tattoos. That demand moved the issue from stigma to violation of privacy rights. It seems anomalous that what is more or less a fashion statement could serve as a reason to deny someone work, or a simple bath.
One motivation to change the ban is tourism. Hoshino Resort runs many different types of bathing facilities at hot springs all over Japan, and so is in the customer-service industry. Banning foreign tourists, whose numbers reached well over 13 million last year, from entering hot spring baths, saunas, gyms, swimming pools, public baths, or tanning salons no longer makes much economic sense.
Though it’s highly doubtful that many Japanese will ever become highly tattoo friendly, the breaking news of Hoshino Resorts is breaking new ground in that regard, and discarding old beliefs at the same time.