MINE is barely three inches long but gives people a case of the vapours at Japanese swimming pools. Invariably, a lifeguard will tut-tut from his high chair before demanding it be covered up. Tattoos come freighted with taboos in Japan. They have long been associated with “anti-social elements”, code for yakuza mobsters. That makes the law-abiding among us collateral damage in a cultural war against body art.
Gyms, pools and public baths typically ban them, or insist they be concealed. Some even provide bandages and sticky tape for that purpose. The mayor of Osaka, Japan’s second city, felt so strongly he launched a witch-hunt against tattooed civil servants in 2012. Employees were required to fill out a form describing their tattoos and exactly what part of the body they decorated.
For foreign business travellers, this can be a nuisance. Most of us can survive a few days off from the gym, but what about Japan’s matchless hot spring resorts? Every good guidebook recommends a soak in a country onsen but the best of luck getting in: a survey released last month by the…Continue reading