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Japanese woman suing nursing school after being suspended because of her tattoo

47 Comments
By Casey Baseel, RocketNews24

While Japanese-style tattoos are appreciated by body art fans around the world, the practice of tattooing itself enjoys much less support among the Japanese populace as a whole. During the country’s feudal Edo period, tattoos were used to mark criminals, and that association with lawless elements continues to this day, with members of the yakuza, Japan’s organized crime networks, showing a strong predilection for getting inked.

Attitudes have been slowly changing in recent years, though. Partially influenced by overseas celebrities, a portion of young Japanese have come to see tattoos as pure fashion statements, with no connection to socially destructive groups or behavior. However, tattoos’ long-standing stigma is yet to fade in many people’s minds, and the divide in opinions is at the center of a lawsuit recently filed in Tokyo district court.

A twenty-something woman living in Tokyo, whose name has been withheld, enrolled in a nursing school in April of 2016 (April being the start of the academic year in Japan). As part of their practical training, there are times when the students must change their clothes, and it came to light that the woman has tattoos on her back, as well as other unspecified parts of her body.

Once the school’s administrators became aware of this, they informed the woman that she would be suspended from the program for one year. However, should she have the tattoos removed, she would be reinstated in the program without having to serve the entire suspension.

The woman has not attended classes since, and has decided to sue the medical corporation that manages the school (the names of the defendants are also currently being withheld). Her attorney contests that the suspension is unfair on the grounds that a lack of tattoos was never specified as a condition for acceptance to the program. Moreover, as the woman is a single mother who was using government financial aid in paying her tuition, she is not in a position to raise the money for tattoo removal on her own, her lawyer asserts. Because of this, the woman is seeking 5.4 million yen (US$46,500) in damages.

While many would argue that having tattoos in no way interferes with a person’s ability to carry out medical care procedures, Japanese workplaces tend to be very strict in cultivating a polished, clean-cut image, particularly in the appearance and conduct of front-line workers who deal directly with those to whom they provide services. Complicating the matter further is that the nursing school is reliant on its graduates finding gainful employment in order to boost its image as a wise educational investment for prospective students.

Currently, the medical corporation is sticking by the faculty’s decision to suspend the woman, and as of opening statements made on February 7, intends to fight the lawsuit, and has made no declaration that it is willing to settle out of court.

Sources: Yahoo! Japan News/Asahi Shimbun Digital via Hachima Kiko

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Irezumi: Getting tattooed in Japan -- Japanese government encouraging hot springs to ease tattoo restrictions -- No digital ink here – Yokohama tattoo parlor churning out amazing anime art

© Japan Today

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47 Comments
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Given the chronic and increasing need for nursing and care workers, I hope the school loses and loses badly. 20 years from now, when half the country will need someone to wipe their backsides, the industry will be full of foreign and quite possibly tattooed nurses. A hidden youthful indiscretion is a ludicrous reason to exclude someone from vocational education.

13 ( +16 / -3 )

ADK99- totally agree.

Utterly ridiculous. This is none of their business. She should sue the pants off of them. What is it with the nanny state here?

8 ( +11 / -3 )

If I am in the unfortunate situation in future of needing a health-care professional to help me, I couldnt give a rats whether he or she has ink on their back or "unspecified areas". I would be grateful anyone would help me. People who object to a hidden tattoo or two should be left to fend for themselves in such a situation. I hope this lady wins and shames the halfwits who suspended her.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

Who cares if she has tattoos if they can't be seen while she's at work that's just complete and utter BS, more so since she's legitimately trying to work her way out of her financial situation

3 ( +8 / -5 )

The school won't lose. The ciurts are as backward thinking as the people running the school.

Until anarchy arrives, that backward thinking will good o' JLand, turning into a jerkwater backwater in the 21dt century.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Completely ridiculous.

A guy I went to university with had no tattoos. He ended up being a guy who works in ambulances (an EMT?). I saw him after he'd been working for a while, and he had a tattoo of angel wings on his inner wrist. I asked him about them, since he'd never been a tattoo guy. He told me that soon after starting, he was treating a guy and the guy died in the ambulance. The last thing the guy saw was my friend's wrist over his face. He said that he wanted to put the angel wings there to comfort future patients who may be in the same position.

9 ( +12 / -3 )

Nice story thank you for sharing

0 ( +6 / -6 )

Yeah, I don't even believe in angels, but the story touched me. I respected the guy for it.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Personally I'm with the school tattoo's are ugly but in regards to the story

Moreover, as the woman is a single mother who was using government financial aid in paying her tuition, - if she had money to waste on tattoo's how come she had to run to the government for money to complete her education she obviously doesn't know how to prioritize her finances.

-10 ( +2 / -12 )

Sorry, the last thing you need or want from medical personnel is a higher chance of infection.

Having a ban on tattoos in this case makes sense......

-16 ( +3 / -19 )

Sorry, the last thing you need or want from medical personnel is a higher chance of infection.

Having a ban on tattoos in this case makes sense......

What a ridiculous comment.

9 ( +13 / -4 )

This case is a joke. If she has broken no rules, then the school has no grounds for suspending her. It should be an open and shut case with the student being reinstated. i suspect that the school will argue some sort of "appearance or behaviour damaging to the our reputation". In which case, I wonder how many other students who have passed through the school, or even the current instructors, have tattoos. Basically it comes down to the fact that this girl's ink was easy to see. As with so many things in Japan, if you can't see it, it doesn't exist.

Also JT, please do a little research. Marking criminals was only one historical use of tattoos in Japan. A simple Google search would have given you a better overview if the subject.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Totalitarian rule st it's finest! The woman's tattoos must not be visible unless she is undressed and if the school did not clearly state that applicants with tattoos will not be accepted their suspension is illegal. I hope this woman fights this and wins. She shouldn't take this crap!

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Nice story thank you for sharing

I'll second that. You should repost that story every time there is a JT story about Tattooed people being harassed for their tattoos. More people need to hear that story.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Simple comment: absurd. If the program doesn't want visible tattoos, then fine. Cover up and let her work. It certainly won't interfere with her ability to do her job.

Infection? This is silly. For the few weeks after getting a tattoo there is a slight risk of infection to the person getting it done. You most certainly can not infect anyone else, and surely not well after the fact.

Japan Today readers know there is a shortage of health care workers in this aging society. Putting up roadblocks to increase this is foolish.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Insane , she wants to become a nurse helping others , she should be loved not destroyed.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

And so she should.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I am not a big tattoo fan, but since this lady has one on her back and its out of sight (as not to frighten or stress the elderly person who's she helping) does it matter? it does not affect her day to day roll as a nurse, career. in this case I would employ her.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I don't think it's the tattoos that are the problem... I think it's that traditionally a certain type of person had tattoos. Like it or not in Japan tattoos are linked to gangsters or generally bad people. I'm not condoning it, just trying to find a reason why the Japanese are against tattoos... bit like a punk rocker (pink Mohican, chains, safety pins etc) trying to get a job in a bank. People will have a ready-made opinion of that person, right or wrong, but it's there.

Like I said, not condoning it, and I hope the young lady wins and Japan lightens up a wee bit re tattoos. I personally don't like them, but I wouldn't treat people differently because of them.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

During the Edo era Firemen, Police, etc also wore full body tattoos for identification.

Prisoner tattoos were way different, these days most Yakuza no longer have tattoos.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Welcome to the 16th century, called Japan.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

What is worse is that it is a nursing college is not really a full-on hospital or medical facility. Image over ability.

As a few have said, in the near future with increase in those needing care, institutions may have to be less fussy about what their staff show or do not show.

Reminds me of Angelina Jolie: has all her Brad-tatts gone the way of the Billy Bob ones. Or are they going to stay this time for the next partner. They are not really so easy to remove? In her case and in the nurses case, an indiscretion in a past life can make things difficult in the present no matter what one thinks.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@ thunderbird you would have a point IF we were talking about a visible (or 'too' visible) tattoo perhaps but in this case it seems they just noticed her tatts when she undressed.

I sort of get that neck/face or other ultra visible tattoos aren't for all ppl in all industries but doesn't seem to be the case here. Clear case of discrimination and harassment imo

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Unfortunately, she'll never win. Things are far too arse-backwards here.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

@kurisupisu

Sorry buddy, but your opinion is the thing that people can't understand. And I'm not talking Japan, I mean anywhere

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I used to work out at a gym called Oasis near my office in Akasaka. I have a small tattoo on my shoulder and was advised to keep it covered while working out. I did.

One evening after my work out I was showering in a private stall (it had western saloon style doors) when someone grabbed me by the shoulder and spun me around. I was fully naked and shampoo in my hair when a young employee tried to drag me out of the shower due to him noticing my tattoo over the saloon doors.

That led to a physical altercation that left one person injured (not me) and an enraged customer having trouble communicating with all the chaos. I had to call my wife to intervene. She let the manager have it. I received a 90 degree bow and the guy was fired. I suppose this was due to the fact that they had quite a few foreign members as we were right in the finance district.

I was quite shaken and still cannot quite fathom how one could think it is socially acceptable to assault someone over a two inch fashion tattoo.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I knew a guy who got the boot from his gym when they found out he had a tattoo that he kept covered up every time he was there. They refunded his fees, but still, pretty ridiculous.

I have to work out at the city-run gyms because of my tattoos.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

@badman Can totally see that happening here by some people with blinders on... As a Japanese I apologize for what you had to experience, but not all of us are like that :)

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Japan society's attitude towards tattoos is about as silly as its attitudes towards sunglasses. This belief that either marks the criminal element is as naive as it is fantasy. Lots of tats out there on people who are fine, upstanding citizens. As far as tattoos are concerned, it's high time Japan grew up.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Rather than give a knee-jerk reaction as many of you have already done, I would ask you to consider the dangers of being inked!

The possible diseases are sepsis, HIV,Hepatitis B & C,TB etc.

So, these infectious diseases and the possibility of their transmission in the hospital environment where many people have weakened immune systems is very real and potentially fatal.

Thus, the hospital is rightly concerned that this trainee nurse may be a danger to patients is clearly rational. Here's hoping that some of you are able to review your lack of knowledge and make a more informed opinion......

-7 ( +0 / -7 )

The possible diseases are sepsis, HIV,Hepatitis B & C,TB etc.

Lots of things are possible in life, and yet pretty much never happen. You're more likely to get sick on the train on the way to work than from a tattoo. Tattoo artists use fresh needles and disinfect their machines after each tattoo. The cables are wrapped in plastic that is replaced each time. Ink is put in fresh cups so that double dipping between canvases doesn't happen.

Let's try to keep our worries in the realm of things that actually happen shall we.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

@Strangerland

If all tattoos were done in a 100% sterile environment in a perfect world then there might be some logic to your viewpoint but we all know that is not the case, right?

Also, let's see which way the court leans. Like it or not Japanese social norms are not going to change for tatoo lovers anytime soon.

Like it or lump it!

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

If all tattoos were done in a 100% sterile environment in a perfect world then there might be some logic to your viewpoint but we all know that is not the case, right?

Some people get tattoos in prison, but that's going to show up on a record.

Now show some numbers as to the rates at which people get these diseases, and the numbers will show it pretty much never happens. A person is more likely to get an STD. Should they also ban anyone who has ever had sex?

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Imagine an elder individual suddenly seeing a tat on their care giver thinking a criminal attack is imminent suffers a massive coronary. We regret any inconvenience the only response. Culture changes very slowly.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Surely most people in Japan get it that tattoos are a hindrance to many times of employment.

Not saying it is right or wrong, but you'd have to pretty dense not to realize that tattoo=fewer employment prospects.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

School is scared to reveal real reason it expelled her ? She might be a wife of yakuza who wants to have a decent job. Btw, not all yakuza have tattoos. People who become top bosses do not have. I think tattoo paranoia in Japan is still strong.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Tattoos are a sign of individuality which is not permitted in J land.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

@kurisupisu

This is not a knee jerk reaction as you claim. I think that you simply can't see things that others find quite easy to understand. If you have an irrational fear of needles, wouldn't you also see the doctor and the dentist (who re use tools all the time) as a much more dangerous place to pick up diseases? You would only have a valid argument if we were all street kids, tattooing ourselves and each other on the street with needles found on the floor and trash, and this was common practice nationally.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Wherever needles are used there is a chance of infection. Undertaking medical treatment and having a tattoo are done for different reasons-medical treatment is necessary and the other is not. I'm not going to focus on the other issues here that are incidental to the article such as social acceptability of tattoos as this detracts from the main reason for the validity of the suspension under the logic that having tattoos can lead to and has lead to infections, the hospital is well aware of this fact.Any hospital's priority is to safeguard their patients, this is why, before and after a patient is examined a doctor or nurse will cleanse their hands.Any hospital has strict protocols that staff must follow. Risk of infection is why tattooed individuals are rejected as blood donors for a period of six months after having a tattoo-the risk of infection is more than averagely possible.

An infected tattoo or worse will lead to a greater risk of infection for the patient.

Why have a care giver in the hospital with a possibly higher risk of passing on infections than one with less chance?

The court will decide the basis of the suspension on this risk.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

The court will decide the basis of the suspension on this risk.

No they won't. They'll decide it on the basis of whether the school is right or not to expell someone who didn't break any rules. And they will side with the school because the judges are like you - they fear something that might happen but probably won't.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

"Partially influenced by overseas celebrities...."

And THIS, says it all.

That the Japanese people, would be influenced in anything, by the "celebrities" that Hollywood puts out goes to manifest how far Japan is now beginning to stray from its honorable roots.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

An infected tattoo or worse will lead to a greater risk of infection for the patient.

And again, lets keep our fears to something that actually happens. Your inability to show infection rates is a result of the fact that infection rates are pretty much non-existent.

Why have a care giver in the hospital with a possibly higher risk of passing on infections than one with less chance?

And again, should hospitals reject anyone who has ever had sex? The odds of having an STD are higher than of getting an infection from a tattoo.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I think I've made my position clear enough.....

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Just a thought, but in the US companies can ban tattoos (visible being even if bending over and shirt not long enough, which is also banned). There are exceptions, as I think there are in Japan. The lady should say its for religious reasons, then they have to accommodate her (and not even have to cover it up). The noserings and other piercings are banned by many companies (though its easier to take off). They can even do sexist bans, such as no earrings for men (women can wear), men have to have short hair (while women rock their long shoulder length hair). Again, just say for religious reasons for everything to remove these sexist bans too (except military...errr).

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I think I've made my position clear enough.....

Well, you've made clear that you have a position, and what it is, but you haven't shown anything to show it's a justifiable position.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Stupid.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I hope she wins her case. People here need to get their heads out of their rears and stop associating tattoos today with tattoos of the criminal faction. We've come a long way since those days, Japan. Time to grow up!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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