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article imageJapanese spas urged to accept tattooed foreigners

By Lucky Malicay     Mar 19, 2016 in Lifestyle
Tokyo - To attract more overseas visitors, tourism authorities in Japan have asked spa operators to open their doors to tattooed foreign tourists wanting to experience the onsen, the Japanese term for hot springs.
The Japan Tourism Agency (JTA), in a first-of-its-kind move, has urged spa owners to allow tattoo-sporting non-Japanese tourists into their facilities, saying they should consider the cultural and religious backgrounds of foreign visitors, the Japan Times reported.
Shogo Akamichi, a JTA official, said the request is not binding and that the decision is ultimately up to the spa operators.
In a country where tattoos are often associated with gangs, many bathhouses in Japan reject tattooed customers, fearing they scare away other patrons.
But Akamichi said the no-tattoo policy by many spa operators is discriminatory since many people, including foreign visitors, wear tattoos for religious, cultural and other reasons.
With Japan experiencing an increase in the number of foreign tourists, the agency hopes more overseas visitors can enjoy the country’s onsen, suggesting that spa establishments should implement measures such as giving tattoo-wearing foreign customers certain time frames to bathe or providing them with stickers to cover their tattoos.
The ban on tattoos at bathhouses has been raising concern in Japan, where a large presence of yakuza operates, and differing views on body arts have become a source of tension between foreign tourists and spa operators.
In 2013, a tattooed language lecturer from New Zealand was barred from a public bath in the northern island of Hokkaido. Erana Te Haeata Brewerton, a Maori woman attending an academic meeting on indigenous languages, was refused entry to the bathhouse because of her traditional facial tattoos.
Despite protest from Brewerton’s group, an official from the bath said the decision was being made to avoid making other customers uncomfortable.
The incident happened just hours following the announcement that Tokyo had been awarded the rights to host the 2020 Olympics.
Bathing facilities and inns around hot springs are very popular across Japan and have become a central feature in the promotion of the country’s tourism industry.
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