Experienced flanker TJ Ioane will be looking to help Samoa into the quarter-finals Photo: AFP/File
rugby world cup 2019

Samoa get tattoo tips as they bid to leave mark in Japan

10 Comments
By ANDY BUCHANAN

Samoa coach Steve Jackson is so determined to avoid the off-field issues that have previously plagued the Pacific islanders that he called in Japanese cultural experts to advise his players when to cover up their tattoos during the World Cup.

The 16th ranked Samoans scraped into the tournament after a poor qualification campaign, eventually overcoming minnows Germany in a two-leg play-off.

Jackson, a former assistant coach at the Auckland Blues, took over in September last year charged with restoring the fortunes of a team that made the quarter-finals in 1991 and 1995.

The New Zealander has improved performances on the field, notching up recent wins over Tonga and a New Zealand Heartland XV, with a final warm-up against Australia on Saturday.

He has also concentrated on ensuring his players have an appreciation of Japanese culture to avoid any misunderstandings while they are in the host nation.

That includes advice from consultants about displaying tattoos -- which are an important part of Samoan culture but are shunned by many in Japan due to associations with the criminal underworld.

"They came into camp and told us about those sort of things, (gave us) the understanding about the tattoos and what we have to do there," Jackson told reporters in Samoa. "We're well aware of all the things that we need to be looking out for."

Such meticulous preparation is a far cry from the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand, when senior players accused management of being unprofessional and treating the event like a holiday.

Then in 2014, players threatened to boycott Samoa's Test against England at Twickenham due to lack of financial transparency and poor treatment by management.

Jackson was full of praise for the Samoa Rugby Union's support during the latest campaign, with lack of player availability proving a more pressing concern.

While some overseas-based stars such as Tim Nanai-Williams and Tusi Pisi will appear for Samoa, others have opted to sit out the tournament rather than risk jeopardising lucrative club contracts.

"There will be speculation about some players who aren't there and that's purely because they made themselves unavailable -- pretty much club over country," Jackson said, without naming names. "This is just the reality that we deal with at the moment."

Jackson has made his own personal commitment to the team, revealing he recently turned down an offer to coach South Africa's Southern Kings.

"My heart and soul in is Samoa at the moment," he said, adding that he would reassess his future after the tournament.

Despite "quite a few" no-shows, Jackson was confident he had the best available squad because the players who had answered his call were all passionate about representing their country.

"We've can't have guys that will second-guess playing for the jersey, we want guys that are hungry and want to be there," he said. "I think that's what's you'll get with this squad."

Samoa have been involved in some of the great World Cup upsets.

In 1991, playing as Western Samoa, they stunned tournament co-hosts Wales before a disbelieving crowd at Cardiff Arms Park.

The joke at the time was that the Welsh were lucky to have been playing Western Samoa, not the whole nation.

After changing their name to Samoa, the islanders inflicted more pain on Wales, this time at Cardiff's newly-minted Millennium Stadium at the 1999 World Cup.

They almost made the quarters in 2015 but missed out when Scotland scored a match-winning try that the referee allowed after failing to spot a knock-on from Greig Laidlaw.

Samoa face the Scots again this year in Pool B, along with hosts Japan, Russia and Ireland.

© 2019 AFP

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.


10 Comments
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That includes advice from consultants about displaying tattoos -- which are an important part of Samoan culture but are shunned by many in Japan due to associations with the criminal underworld.

This is ridiculous. It’s clear to anyone with half a brain that huge Samoan rugby players with tattoos - in Japan during the well publicised Rugby World Cup - have nothing to do with the Japanese criminal underworld.

People from different cultures are different. Let them freely, and proudly, show off their own culture for the short time they are here.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

I don't know if 'shunned' is the right word for having tattoos as a foreigner in Japan. I've found people mostly accepting and inquisitive. Not interested for themselves for the most part, but just inquisitive as to mine. I have been denied entry to pools, gyms, and capsule hotels, so in that regards I've been shunned, but other than those places, I haven't felt shunned.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

 I have been denied entry to pools, gyms, and capsule hotels, so in that regards I've been shunned, but other than those places, I haven't felt shunned.

The only grief I've had, oddly enough, is a few disparaging comments from other gaijin. Most onsens don't have a problem and the one's that did, just asked me to put a plaster on them. Which I did.

It's pretty obvious that the Samoans and the majority of us with ink have no link to crime.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

It is inane. I have been told to put plaster over mine - if I was extensively tattooed, I am sure I would have been denied entrance. In fact, at the local public pool, I have to cover a simple tattoo and also use a bathing cap on my completely hairless head. There are countless other inane rules, which is why nobody in my family wants to use those pools anymore.

One of the negative things about a society where people follow all the rules is that they follow inane rules as well. The good with the bad.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

If the folks doing the Cool Japan initiative weren't so clueless they would realize how cool and relate-able Japan's history of tattoos real is globally. Of all of the culture and fine art from Japan that has had an influence globally you might have to actually put tattooing at the top of that list right now. In terms of the American style, it you would be hard pressed to find someone more important than Sailor Jerry on the culture. Jerry straight up admitted that his style, in terms of the bright colours he used, was very much based on Japan which he picked up during his service years.

Tattoos ARE Japanese culture. I find it quite sad that it is something that the keepers of the culture find a need to hide rather than celebrate.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Tattoos ARE Japanese culture. I find it quite sad that it is something that the keepers of the culture find a need to hide rather than celebrate.

Well, that's because it's not a positive part of Japanese culture. Traditionally, they used to tattoo a criminals crime on their forehead. Eventually, the criminals grouped together, and started tattooing themselves. Taking it back for themselves as it were. Then for hundreds of years, only criminals and the underworld had tattoos. For that matter, that is still somewhat true, though there are a lot of people these days with so-called 'fashion tattoos', but as a percentage of the population, these people are still a very small portion.

The Yakuza are also Japanese culture. Not all parts of culture are to be celebrated.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Well, that's because it's not a positive part of Japanese culture. Traditionally, they used to tattoo a criminals crime on their forehead. Eventually, the criminals grouped together, and started tattooing themselves. Taking it back for themselves as it were. Then for hundreds of years, only criminals and the underworld had tattoos. For that matter, that is still somewhat true, though there are a lot of people these days with so-called 'fashion tattoos', but as a percentage of the population, these people are still a very small portion.

Yes, you make some good points. I agree that not all parts of a culture are to be celebrated. But I disagree that it is not a positive part of Japanese culture. It is a negative part of Japanese history, sure. It is not still true. You are dreaming if you think the majority of people in this country with tattoos, even those born here, are criminals or members of the "underworld".

The ban simply continues and legitimizes the simplistic thinking that writing on your skin means you are dangerous or a criminal. That is all that it does. Celebrating how this unique approach to this art form here has contributed to the world in creative ways does not mean that you have to celebrate the bad actions of many people who took part it in when it was emerging. I mean, what cultural fruit could we ever celebrate if that was the attitude that we took generally? It simply isn't what it was and I think that is a good thing.

Expressing yourself without hurting others. I will always be a staunch supporter of that no matter where it occurs.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I disagree that it is not a positive part of Japanese culture. It is a negative part of Japanese history, sure. It is not still true. You are dreaming if you think the majority of people in this country with tattoos, even those born here, are criminals or members of the "underworld".

I never claimed the majority are underworld. I have no idea what the breakdown is of those with yak tattoos and those with fashion tattoos is, as most people keep their tattoos covered up regardless of which. It could be heavily weighted in either direction for all I know.

But that's irrelevant. We are talking about society, and society is about perception and expectation. The image of tattoos amongst the Japanese is still quite negative, as they still carry a heavy nuance of the underworld to them.

That's current Japanese society. I'm not saying it's right, I'm just pointing out what it is.

Expressing yourself without hurting others. I will always be a staunch supporter of that no matter where it occurs.

Me too, and I both hope for and look forward to a day when my tattoos are a non-issue in Japan.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Me too, and I both hope for and look forward to a day when my tattoos are a non-issue in Japan.

I'm happy to hear that but now I'm a bit confused as to what your actual point was. That many people in this society hold an outdated view of tattoos as being thing that only people in the criminal world have? That is why it would be considered a negative part of the culture wouldn't it? Something that is blatantly untrue in the 21st century.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I have been to onsen and asked to cover the tiniest of tattoos and I've been to other resort onsen with multilingual signage against tattoos where full- bodied Yakuza were ignored as they bathed.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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