A unique and compelling aspect of traveling throughout Japan is sampling the various "onsen" (hot springs) and "sento" (community bathhouses) available. Both terms refer to public baths, the difference being that an onsen is fed by natural geothermal springs while a sento (generally) uses heated tap water. To maintain the distinction, there are legal restrictions on onsen requiring that they contain at least one of 19 specific natural chemical elements, like iron or sulfur.
Another restriction, unofficial yet still regularly enforced, is against customers with tattoos.
A short history of tattoos in Japan
Tattoos — and their attached taboos — have been in Japan for as long as onsen have been popular.
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