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For centuries Japan has hit down hard on tattoos, historically due to their clash with religious values, as well as their seemingly inextricable link to organized crime and, much later, troublesome Russian sailors.
Anti-tattoo policies have been loosening up, but with small businesses leading the charge—not large chain gyms or spas. In March, the Japan Tourism Agency kindly requested onsen and bath house operators to please, please accept tattooed foreigners—but turning away Japanese with tattoos is still okay.
So while things look to be changing over the next few years, be aware that a double standard is being formed, and if you live and work in Japan you might not be on the lucky side of it. Visible tattoos, or even non-visible tattoos that your co-workers find out about, may still cause problems at your current or future workplace depending on the company.
For those happy to buck the status quo and make the jump, Tattoo Spot provides a good list of tattoo-friendly businesses around the country.
Finding an artist The first step to finding the perfect artist is deciding what style of tattoo you want. Hand-poked tattoos take much longer than a machine, so larger pieces will require many more sessions.
Large tattoos often take years to complete, requiring a visit to the artist every few weeks or months for a session. Tebori artists have long waiting lists and are less likely to accept inquiries in English.
Some also require an introduction from another client. Visiting Tokyo soon?
With all that in mind, get out your keyboard and start cracking. These days the internet is the best place to hunt for lists of studios, check out portfolios, and gather information about pricing and how to get in contact.
Read our short interview and discover more! Hi Steve, would you like to introduce yourself to our readers?
When did you start tattooing and how would you define your style? I started my apprenticeship in my late teens which lasted roughly 3 years and I have never looked back.
I would say my style to be Japanese and black and grey realism. But I would say I tattoo as much black and grey as I do Japanese. Yeah, I think my style has changed dramatically but more in the understanding of tattoos and how it lasts in the skin, i.
And obviously you get better with time, you have too, otherwise you might as well call it a day. Is it important for you to also paint and draw, beside of tattooing? Yes, without a doubt.