A large majority of hotels in Japan do not allow guests with tattoos to use public saunas and thermal pools, according to a survey conducted by the Japanese government.
Although Japan welcomes nearly 20 million tourists from all over the world every year, the country gives its visitors, especially Western tourists, a hard time when they want to use public pools, hot springs or saunas. While 56 percent of all hotels and similar establishments in Japan strictly ban people with tattoos from using their public baths and pools, 31 percent of the establishments indicate that they are against allowing people with tattoos to use public baths and pools. Only 13 percent of hotels and other managements allow their visitors with tattoos to use their public pools as long as they are not seen by other people.
The social stigma against tattoos runs deep. This issue was first made public in 2013 when a Maori woman from New Zealand was not allowed to enter a public sauna due to her traditional facial tattoos. Moreover, the mayor of Osaka launched a campaign against tattoos, demanding that all city workers have to strip down and reveal whether they have tattoos or not – an order that moved the issue from a social stigma to a violation of privacy and human rights. Many in Japan are frightened or discomforted by tattoos because of their association with members of criminal organizations who were notorious for them. As they mostly see tattoos on people who are members of the Yakuza, the Japanese organize criminal organization, people have no tolerance for it.
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