Japan Mayor Fights to Erase Tattoos


Japan Mayor Fights to Erase Tattoos

More than 100 employees at the Osaka city government may have to have their tattoos removed or search for another job following the local mayor’s crackdown on tattoos.

Japanese tattoos. 

Toru Hashimoto, a 42-year-old lawyer who became mayor of Osaka late last year, ordered a survey of tattoo ownership among more than 30,000 employees after complaints that a welfare officer had intimidated children by showing off his inkwork.

Tattoos, especially large, intricate motifs of mythical beasts and shogun-era courtesans, are traditionally associated in Japan with Yakuza gang membership.

View Japanese Tattoos

These days, modest designs occasionally visible on the arms, necks and legs of young Japanese people are more a fashion statement than evidence of antisocial tendencies.

Even so, swimming pools and public baths ban tattoos in principle, or request that they be covered up; and major employers, including Japan’s two biggest airlines, ban flight attendants from having tattoos.

The Osaka survey asked employees to report any tattoos on their arms, legs, heads or any other part of the body that is visible to members of the public while they are on official duty. They were also asked to provide details about concealed tattoos, and how long they had had them.

The government is now considering whether to ask the employees, most of whom work in waste disposal and public transport, to have their tattoos erased, or even to find another job.

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