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Hi Blog. I have just emerged from several weeks of proofing and indexing my upcoming book, “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination in Japan”. It will be out in 5-8 weeks. I will keep you updated on where you and your library can get a copy.
With that amount of busy-ness (sorry for the delay in posting to Debito.org), please let me turn the keyboard to Debito.org Reader JK:
Hi Debito: It looks this has grown legs and started walking, so if you’ll indulge me for a few minutes, I’ll provide some overdue commentary:
More baths OK tattooed visitors; stickers needed
The Yomiuri Shimbun, August 25, 2015
Restrictions on tattooed customers at bathing facilities and resort swimming areas are being loosened around the country.
A number of facilities allow people with tattoos to enter if the tattoos can be covered by stickers. This is aimed at treating foreign tourists, many of whom consider tattoos a fashion item, differently from gangsters, some of whom sport elaborate tattoos.
With the Olympics and Paralympics scheduled for Tokyo in 2020, some facilities are calling for greater understanding of cultural differences.
At Ofuro cafe utatane, a bathing facility in Kita Ward, Saitama, which is visited by about 250,000 people annually, the management decided to allow tattoos that can be covered with 12.8-centimeter by 18.2-centimeter stickers.
The new policy was started on a trial basis from Aug. 1. If no problems arise by the end of the month, the facility will officially implement the policy.
The manager of the facility, Toshiki Yamasaki, 32, is also director of the Nippon Ofuro Genki Project, an association of young managers of baths and other facilities.
“The number of foreign tourists has increased, so I felt we needed to accept tattoos as a form of culture,” he said.
Hoshino Resort Co., which manages 33 luxury hotel resorts and other facilities in Japan and abroad, has also decided to exempt customers from bathing restrictions if their tattoos can be covered by an eight-centimeter by 10-centimeter sticker starting from October.
A midsize hot spring resort in Niseko, Hokkaido, lifted restrictions on tattoos this spring.
The local ski resort is popular with foreign tourists because of the good snow quality.
“I believe we need to understand cultural differences with other countries,” the hotel manager said, adding that restrictions on gang members were still in place.
Baths, resorts and other facilities began banning all tattoos, including full-body irezumi tattoos, after the Antigang Law went into effect in 1992, though in practice some places admit tattooed customers.
The Japan Tourism Agency surveyed about 3,700 facilities nationwide in June to learn how the restrictions were affecting foreign travelers.
Tsuru University Prof. Yoshimi Yamamoto, an expert on tattoo issues, said: “The circumstances are such that facilities have no choice but to change their response. Easing restrictions can help shake up conventions.”
COMMENT FROM JK:
1) Having a tattoo in Japan while being foreign AND not being a yakuza is an idea that is just now gaining traction?!
2) The (faulty) underlying assumption at work is that all yakuza have tattoos.
3) Suppose an NJ has several tattoos, or tattoos that cannot be covered by a single sticker, or even a full-body tattoo (surprise — just like yakuza, NJ get these too!), then what? More stickers? If so how may? Is ‘good enough’ coverage acceptable, or is perfection mandatory?
4) Despite the lack of a link to a Japanese translation, the idea being conveyed is that NJ with tattoos are outside of societal norms (read: betsuwaku), and so should not be treated as a yakuza since money can be made off them — this notion is beautifully illustrated by Mr. Toshiki Yamasaki who says, “The number of foreign tourists has increased, so I felt we needed to accept tattoos as a form of culture”.
5) Does the Antigang Law of 1992 actually have wording in it to the effect that onsen / sento operations are not permitted to admit persons with tattoos?
a) If not, then in the name of ‘understanding cultural differences with other countries’, let me into the Niseko hotel without requiring my tattoos to be covered!
b) If so, then put up a sign saying ‘No Japanese Gangsters Allowed’ and let me in with my tattoos uncovered — it’s not like such a sign would be breaking the law — to the contrary, it would be upholding it!!
6) Allowing the operator of a onsen / sento to determine someone’s ‘kakuzaness’ is akin to allowing them to determine ‘foreignness’ — in other words, the door is left open to abuse. -JK
COMMENT FROM DEBITO:
During the Otaru Onsens Case, where “Japanese Only” bathhouses were excluding customers because they didn’t look “Japanese” enough, one issue that was raised was, “Well, what about tattoos, then?” — and then conflated the two issues to muddy the debate with relativity (not to mention conflate the treatment of “foreigners” with the treatment of organized crime in Japan). Debito.org has always seen tattoos as a different issue from skin color and other features determined from birth, as tattoos are something a person decides to put on themselves. That said, this sudden “change of heart” (dressed up as a “respect for” and “understanding of” foreign cultures) is ahistorical and purely motivated by economics — i.e., the need for Japan to put on a good show for international events without the embarrassment of having bigots continue to cloak their exclusionary behavior with the specter of potential criminal activity (and there has been at least one case where “respect for foreign culture” involving tattoos didn’t matter one whit).
I conclude: What’s at play here isn’t fair-mindedness. It’s merely the phenomenon of “not in front of the foreigners”, especially since pretty soon there will be millions of them watching Japan. I bet that once the Olympics pass, those open-minded rules will be rescinded and managers will revert to banning customers (particularly NJ) at whim all over again. This isn’t the tack that JK is taking above, but that’s what I see. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito