Sunday, January 14, 2018

Five Suggestions for Bathers with Tattoos in Japan

You've got some cool tattoos that express your experiences, beliefs and feelings. Your tattoos are important to you. Unfortunately,  tattoos are taboo. Many Japanese associate tattoos with the yakuza and other criminal organizations. What are you going to do? Giving up on experiencing wonderfully relaxing Japanese onsens should not be an option. Consider these five suggestions so that you can immerse yourself in the unforgettable, invigorating hot springs of Japan.

First, if your tattoos are not extremely visible and if you are feeling bold, just undress, wash, and enter the baths. Chances are that most people are not going to complain, and if they do, the complainers will have to get out of the bath, dry themselves, and find the management. You, meanwhile, will be enjoying the bath. If asked to leave, depart without making a fuss, and politely ask for a refund.  Over a period of twenty years, I have bathed many times  with friends in hot springs that officially prohibited tatooed bathers. No one with me has ever been asked to leave, but I have heard stories of it happening. One lady told me she was asked to leave a hot spring just as she had decided that she was finished, and she got her money back. My friend whose tattoo is showed above and I had a great time at Sanage Onsen (in the image immediately below) in Toyota City, Ryusenji-no-yu in Nagoya (in the second photograph). He also visited baths in Beppu, Oita, and Osaka without any problems. On the other hand, other friends have complained about snotty, annoying comments from onsen staff. If you can handle this possibility, take the plunge.

Second, a simple solution for tiny tattoos is covering them with Band-Aids, pieces of gauze, or other bandaging. If you expect to bathe for a long time, considering bringing replacements as they may fall off. Another friend purchased cheap Band-Aids to cover his three small tattoos before we bathed at Murakami's Taikanso Senanminoyu. Most hot springs in major towns and cities are close to convenience stores, so buying bandages is almost never problematic.
CeramicTublike Baths are One of Many Ways to Soak at Ryusenji-no-yu
Third, rent a hot spring facility for your private use. Rental bathing facilities are called kazokuburu, meaning family  bath, and kashikiriburu. Kashikiri means rental, and buru means bathtub. Rental periods vary according to the rules of each establishment. Prices usually range between 1,000 yen and 2,500 for an hour. Reputable onsen managers empty the water and clean the baths before new guests soak. You can enjoy intimate bathing with close friends. I highly recommend kazokuburus and kashikiriburus.

Fourth, go to baths that are tattoo friendly. But how are you going to know which Japanese onsens welcome tattoo individuals with open arms? The most useful resource in Japan is the map made by the great people of Tattoo Friendly Japan.

Finally, find the remote hot springs in mountains, on beaches, and along rivers that few people visit. These are usually free and no one usually cares about tattoos.  Check the links to learn about three absolutely incredible locations that will blow your mind while erasing your stress.