Why Visible Tattoos are Taboo in Japanese Culture

-Tattoos (“irezami” is the Japanese word for tattoo) are taboo in most of Japan.  Persons (even foreigners) with visible tattoos are typically banned from certain public places, especially swimming pools, gymnasiums, hot springs, resorts, etc. People with visible tattoos are also banned from or may be asked to leave places such as restaurants and retail establishments. In Japan, tattoos are associated with “yakuza”:  hoodlums and the criminal underworld. The negative connotations associated with tattoos in Japanese culture seem to date from around 300-600 C.E. (the Kofun period), when tattoos were placed upon criminals as a means of punishment. However, prior to the Kofun period, for example in the Yayoi period (ca. 300 B.C.E.-300 C.E.), tattoos were acquired for ritual or status purposes.
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