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Chef at top Tokyo sushi restaurant wins lawsuit after being fired for maybe having a tattoo

24 Comments
By Oona McGee, SoraNews24

With a long history of tattoos being linked to crime and the underworld in Japan, even the smallest inkings on local individuals can elicit negative reactions here, especially from members of the older generation.

So when the manager of a high-end Tokyo sushi restaurant heard that one of his employees had a tattoo, he likely feared the ink would upset their high-end customers and decided to fire him. However, this turned out to be a mistake the business would end up paying dearly for, as the Tokyo District Court ruled on Sept 1 that the dismissal was unlawful.

According to reports, the 20-year-old employee had been working as an assistant chef in a customer-facing position at the restaurant counter of Kyubey at Hotel New Otani in Chiyoda Ward.

On July 26, a friend of the male employee hinted to Kyubey’s manager that the employee had a tattoo. Two days later, the manager fired the employee, without confirming whether he did have a tattoo or not, and at the end of the month, he was also asked to leave the dorm where he’d been living in Suginami, presumably having been put up there by the company.

In August, following his dismissal, discussions took place through attorneys, where the employee was told that as long as he had a tattoo, he would only be able to work in a food preparation role at the restaurant.

The employee took the matter to court, where Kyubey was ordered to pay 5.8 million yen for lost wages and damages, including the costs involved in forcing the employee to move from his accommodation. The man’s lawyer supported the ruling by saying, “Work regulations do not prohibit tattoos, and the dismissal, based on hearsay that the employee had one, was unlawful.”

Kyubey said, “We are rectifying the situation accordingly after being made aware of the unlawfulness of the dismissal through discussions related to the case. It’s very regrettable that it had to involve the labour tribunal.” Kyubey confirmed it intends to pay the damages as instructed once they receive details regarding the compensation.

While the employee’s attorney refused to disclose whether the man actually had a tattoo or not, the ruling sets a precedent for other work disputes involving employers with a dislike for tattoos. And with the issue of body ink remaining a divisive issue for businesses, even in modern-day Japan, now might be an appropriate time to revisit the legality of tattoo bans at Japanese onsen hot springs.

Sources: Yahoo! Japan via Jin

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

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-- Master sushi chef effortlessly slices and dices vegetables while blindfolded【Video】

© SoraNews24

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

24 Comments
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If his tattoo is not visible, what’s the problem?

13 ( +14 / -1 )

If the tattoo IS visible, what's the problem? As long as it's not unsightly, on the face etc, I don't see any issues at all. Tattoos have a long history in Japan, not just with the digitally challenged mob.

If his tattoo is not visible, what’s the problem?

2 ( +11 / -9 )

The tattoo bans were a clever way of keeping the mafia out of legitimate business without infringing on the rights of anyone else because it used to be no one else got tattoos. Unfortunately now people besides yakuza are getting tattoos making it difficult to keep yakuza out.

If only there were a clever way to keep the government out it would be even better though. The yakuza are not all bad and the government is even further from all good.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

maybe his friend helped out on this, knowing that he could get some cut of the payment that would obviously come.

Otherwise why would the chef's friend tell his friend's boss that he had a tattoo?

-6 ( +2 / -8 )

With a friend like that, who needs enemies?!

13 ( +13 / -0 )

why would the chef's friend tell his friend's boss that he had a tattoo?

Because he's not a friend. Either a mistranslation, or a misapprehension on the part of the man who was fired.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

On July 26, a friend of the male employee hinted to Kyubey’s manager that the employee had a tattoo.

Some friend, eh?

Tattoos are for the armed forces, prisoners, gangsters, some cultural traditions.

On anyone else they are a vulgar display of a total lack of class by the owner.

Vote me down, haters!

-8 ( +5 / -13 )

The yakuza are not all bad...

The government is even further from all good

I don't know what planet you've been living on but that's the silliest comment I've read today. The Yakuza organizations have too much power over Japan, which is why they can still stay relevant today. Most of the big cities are owned by the Yakuza. They also are hired to protect big businesses such as TV networks and real estate. Many politicians are Yakuza members themselves. Cops fear to intervene with Yakuza crime. What does that remind you of? They also recruit anyone who want in so there are countless numbers of them. You can easily find the young violent assholes as who you would call a "チンピラ" on the beach just acting like douchebags showing off their tattoos. They're garbage and any country would've gotten rid of such organization if they could but it's too late now.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

Tattoos are for the armed forces, prisoners, gangsters, some cultural traditions.

On anyone else they are a vulgar display of a total lack of class by the owner.

Dont have a tattoo but disagree completely. Much depends on the kind of tattoo and who has it...you realize a number of western royalty, presidents etc had / have tattoos ( no need to mention the myriad of fashion icons, actors, athletes etc..many of whom have more class than anyone on this forum.

Also what constitues lack of class is quite subjective...for example i think silly looking combovers are the opposite of class yet one is about to become a PM here :)

2 ( +6 / -4 )

20 or 30 years ago, if one had a tattoo, they were in the minority & stood out.

These days, people like me without a tattoo are the minority.

Tattoos are now fashionable

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

Open the mind..

Tattoos are not bad..

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Friend? Or mistranslation of coworker?

Either way, if the customers weren't complaining who cares about a tattoo?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Tattoos are now fashionable.

We are all judged for our personal choices, whether they are our appearance, the clothes we wear, or the company we keep.

You have the right to cover yourself in ink, and everyone else has the right to judge you for it, and no amount of self-righteous indignation will change that fact.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Good for the chef and the judge. Tattoos are no longer the exclusive domain of yakuza. Furthermore Japanese tattoos are considered the best in the world.

So much for those who think Japanese courts and judges are "out of touch".

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Sometimes I forget it is still the 1800’s in Japan, until something like this comes up, of course.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I'm not a fan of tattoos, at all, but if the tattoos are not visible, why not?

Ultimately it is the business owner's right to hire and fire his employees. Nothing evil or "Japanese" about that.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

Unnecessary prejudicial, deleterious, based on the tittle-tattle whispers and skinder of a co-worker masquerading as a comrade and friend.

The shame, humiliation embarrassment for Kyubey’s manager, and frankly the Hotel New Otani in Chiyoda Ward is complete.

A melange of unlawful prejudice, and the act of a subjugating oppressor.

Wrong on so many levels, it is an appalling absurd travesty.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Tattoo removal is trending in West these days although expensive but still not openly available in Japan. So remove it before getting embarrassed with your family, children.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

Ultimately it is the business owner's right to hire and fire his employees. Nothing evil or "Japanese" about that.

@ Old man - sorry, you missed the whole point of the ruling : that dismissing the man for allegedly having tattoos was unlawful. It is NOT the right of an employer to fire employees for simply having tattoos.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I hate tattoos but ludicrous to fire someone without checking. My step-sister is a pharmacist in the US and they made her cover it up while she worked. (reasonable regardless of the position)

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Still living in the Stone Age.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Also what constitues lack of class is quite subjective...for example i think silly looking combovers are the opposite of class yet one is about to become a PM here :)

And one had already become president in another country almost 4 years ago.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If the tattoo IS visible, what's the problem? As long as it's not unsightly, on the face etc, I don't see any issues at all. Tattoos have a long history in Japan, not just with the digitally challenged mob.

Their long history in Japan is precisely the reason they are still banned in many places in Japan.

It is understandable if an employer's dress/appearance code includes a rule against visible tattoos in customer-facing roles. Similar rules exist in many Western countries where tattoos are acceptable in general. But, if they are not visible, or easily covered, there should certainly be no issue.

In this instance, the employer didn't even check for the existence of the alleged tattoo. He just took a 3rd party's word that it existed. That's just grade A BS right there.

As for barring customers with tattoos, that's a horse of a different color. And, if businesses want to reap the juicy tourism cash after corona, they better start thinking about dropping those archaic tattoo rules at onsens and such.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I still think the friend was in on it but seems I am in the minority.

Regardless, the guy made 5.8 million yen so maybe others will learn from that penalty and stop doing this to employees.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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