A willowy 22-year-old model and personality from Okinawa who goes by the name "Prince Ryuchell" recently announced via an SNS that he and his wife, Peko, 23, delighted to have become parents last month, had celebrated by having his wife's and baby son's names tattooed on his shoulders.
The reaction to his announcement was mostly negative, but Ryuchell, who's real name is Ryuji Higa, stood his ground, asking rhetorically, "What kind of biased society is this anyway?"
Nikkan Gendai also quotes him as saying, in way of explanation, "It wasn't my intention to show I was committed to protecting them by inscribing their names on my body, but rather they are inscribed in my heart."
A TV executive, however, told Nikkan Gendai (Aug 25) that "Okinawa-born vocalist Namie Amuro arranged to remove the tattooing she'd originally had done while in her 20s. It's become a common pattern among entertainers to regret what they'd done when they were wild and immature."
One reason Ryuchell is indifferent, he says, is that "I don't expect to go to Japanese hot springs or public pools" -- a majority of which refuse entry to people with visible tattoos. This is mainly due to a commonly held perception that associates tattoos with membership in organized crime syndicates.
This negative image, however, clashes with the growing popularity among foreign tourists to obtain "fashion tattoos" while visiting Japan.
As of 2016, hot springs offering overnight lodgings, according to the government's Environment Agency, numbered around 13,000 nationwide. In 2015, swimming pools, including both indoor and outdoor varieties, numbered some 30,000, according to a survey of facilities conducted by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.
And how many of these permit entry to bathers or swimmers with tattoos? For this information, Nikkan Gendai went to a site called "Tattoo Spot" (http://tattoo-spot.jp). Unfortunately the data does not appear to have been updated since July 2016, but at that time, there were at least 220 hot springs and 153 pools that either welcome people with tattoos or do so conditionally provided they apply a seal to conceal the offending tattoo.
Tattoo Spot's listing also includes saunas, public baths, sports gyms, tanning salons, amusement parks, yoga schools and swimming beaches.
According to Tattoo Spot, responses to a survey of 600 facilities around the nation found that 56% prohibited entry to people with tattoos, while 13% said they would accept them on condition the tattoos were concealed by a sticker. Those with no restrictions came to 31%.
"More places have been admitting people with tattoos in the hopes of boosting inbound business from overseas," says journalist Kenji Nagasaki. "More than tattoos per se however, the problem is that many foreigners don't understand bathing etiquette, and this is driving away the Japanese customers. In addition, the image of people with tattoos as being intimidating still persists to some degree. If rumors start circulating that 'yakuza like to hang out at that ryokan,' it can become a matter of life or death for the operator. So dealing with the situation has become a case of itashi kayushi (a pain or an itch, i.e., a choice between two evils)."© Japan Today