While body tattoos in Europe and U.S. enjoy a growing popularity, in Japan they are not well received. It should be considered when traveling in Japan.
Especially large-scale tattoos are associated with the Yakuza thugs and thus organized crime. This is associated with the Edo period. In this time, from around 1600, convicted criminals were tattooed to recognize them as such.
Marginalized groups then began to tattoo themselves, with some of the originals coming from the motifs of traditional woodcuts. American soldiers who occupied Japan after the Second World War were so fascinated by the body images that the technology was exported to the USA.
The campaigns against corruption and organized crime conducted by the Japanese government in recent years have resulted in several “tattoo restrictions”. It is strictly forbidden to enter almost every public bathroom or spa with tattoos. This applies even to the smallest tattoo on the ankle or forearm.
This should not affect travelers, but generally they are advised to cover their tattoos, either with a plaster or a compress for muscle tensions that can be bought in any drugstore.