Oct 3, 2018

Keep your tattoos out of Japan

Keep your tattoos out of Japan photo

I've been living in Japan for almost five years and am just now starting to gradually talk about having tattoos with select groups of people and individuals here.

When I first moved to Japan, my company made it clear that staff wouldn't be allowed to go to work with visible tattoos. I completely understood this because of the cultural background in Japan.

I took that a little too far by making sure the tattoo was covered at almost all times. This went so far as to keeping the tattoo covered up when I was in my own house but hanging laundry outside, near the window, or answering the door to receive a delivery. It was like a strange paranoia.

I know how some people spread rumors, so I was scared that if anyone found out about it, then in a matter of days I'd be out of a job because someone at work would hear about it. Several of my foreign coworkers had tattoos also and most were easy enough to cover. Some were barely covered when I saw them for work meetings and I wondered if it ever caused a problem.

The fact is, no one is looking for tattoos and people aren't usually paying attention to others. I think I became too sensitive to it.

I don't like my tattoo and wish I had never gotten it. Even in my country I don't like to go out without covering it with clothing. I thought mine was cool for a few years at the most. I don't think tattoos are cool but don't judge others for having them, I just wonder how long they will be happy to have them. Especially those who get them in places that are so hard to cover up like the hands and neck.

I watched a YouTube video showing a Japanese vlogger talking about how she has tattoos but hates them and wishes she could remove them. I'm not the only one in Japan then with tattoo shame.

When I went out, sometimes I would see or meet people with tattoos who were obviously not foreigners and not trying to hide them. It seems acceptable for some professions, for example the bartender I met who has tons of them.

I get the idea that teachers shouldn't have tattoos because it's such a respected job in Japan. Sometimes I heard students mention that they really hate tattoos. It made me feel really ashamed and scared they knew my secret.

Right from the beginning, when I went to bathhouses I got stopped and had to carefully cover up. I couldn't wear summer clothes or go swimming during the summer. I always felt like people wondered why I covered up so much when it was hot out. It was constantly stressing me out from the start.

Keep your tattoos out of Japan photo

I discovered this tape to cover up scars or healing wounds, and it matches my skin tone close enough. You probably can't notice anything, but in this photo, I can still see my tattoo. I would still try to cover this with clothing when I go to work. 

Several coworkers and friends knew about my cautiousness and they reminded me that it wasn't such a big deal. I worked as a substitute for one small company and the owner let me know he didn't care at all if students saw my tattoo. I was still uncomfortable about it.

The reason I started to finally feel a little more relaxed is because my job changed and I met people working in Japan who don't cover their tattoos. There are very few workplaces that allow this, but it depends on the owner or manager and their attitude about tattoos. I asked these staff who work with young children about the policy at their work and how they feel in their everyday lives not covering up their tattoos. There are at least two staff at the local company who each have several tattoos. One of them told me he thinks it's good for Japanese people to see foreigners with tattoos and understand that it's just a normal thing in other countries. 

In addition to foreigners, I've seen at least a couple Japanese people with tattoos who don't try to hide them at all. I think most people don't feel offended about them if they aren't yakuza related, but also yakuza are a part of the society and tend to keep tattoos covered in public places.

Recently at a work party, one foreign member of staff asked if something I was wearing was covering a tattoo or something. I admitted it was and she wanted to see it, but I said I didn't like it so didn't want to show her. A couple of Japanese students heard this conversation and were a tiny bit surprised, but then moved on to the next subject. It seemed like they really didn't care about it. I know those students have been around a lot of foreigners so it isn't weird for them to see people with tattoos.

I'm still not ready to walk around with visible tattoos in Japan, but I'm not as paranoid about hiding it. That seems really unhealthy too. I wish things were different so it wasn't an issue while working here. I respect that it's Japanese culture. I'm also looking forward to the time when everyone is more accepting about tattoos in Japan.

This post was created by a blogger on City-Cost through the blogging themes



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