Japan Says No To Inking (Kind Of)

If you thought that it would be an awesome idea to get Japanese ink in Japan, then you may be in for a rude shock courtesy of Japan’s law system. Getting tattoos in Japan is actually illegal – who knew? Despite the act of getting tattooed in the beautiful country having grown in popularity in recent years, there was a recent court ruling in Osaka that has pretty much all but banned tattoo parlours in the country.

The court ruling dictates that in Japan, tattoos can only be legally administered by a doctor. These were the grounds that an Osaka tattooist was found guilty and hence, the 29-year-old was given a fine of 300,000 yen. Luckily this was halved on appeal, and he intends to launch further legal challenge against his conviction.

This will no doubt make other tattoo artists a little uneasy about receiving future customers, and understandably so. This law targets the tattooist, not their customers and, although having existed since the last 1800s, was rarely enforced up until this point; this guilty verdict was not predicted by anyone. Nonetheless if you still wish to get tattooed there after learning all of this, there may still be a few tattooists working in Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto ready, albeit a little wary, to receive eager tourists.

As you can imagine, this is the way many of these tattooists earn a living, supported by the tourists and locals alike, who don’t fit into the mold of a straight and narrow kind of society and don’t wish to look the part either. There is a distinct subversive sub-culture in Japan that throws it’s the more well known image upside, back to front and then some. From JDM car culture to expressive fashion sub-cultures that you’ll find walking the streets of Harajuku and Shibuya, Japan’s population thrives on these escapist sub-cultures they’ve created and cultivated for all this time. Although tattoos are not technically illegal, this greatly restricts who can give and receive them and could be a gateway for enforcing other lesser known laws onto the more expressive Japan.