Maori Thrown Out of Onsen for Tattoo


An onsen which denied a 60-year-old Maori woman entry on account of its no-tattoo policy finds herself the latest victim of Japan’s uncompromising attitude to ink, but as ever rigid application of the rules for no clear reason seems to enjoy substantial support.

According to the Hokkaido press, a 60-year-old Maori language instructor from New Zealand was visiting a school attempting to preserve the language of the Ainu, the remains of Hokkaido’s indigenous tribes.

After her visit to the school finished, she visited a local onsen with staff in hopes of taking the waters and dining there.

However, the onsen noticed the traditional Maori tattoos she bore on her chin and lip, and promptly threw her out as a result of the establishment’s “no tattoos” policy.

The Ainu accompanying her urged the baths to consider letting her in on the grounds of cultural tolerance, but they were having none of it.

Such policies are nearly universal amongst both private and public leisure facilities in Japan, being the result of the common Japanese belief that only criminals, foreigners and other undesirables have tattoos.

In this case the onsen insisted they were but innocent hostages to the prejudices of the Japanese people, saying:

“We understand there are various reasons people have tattoos, but our patrons don’t understand this. If we made an exception for her, we’d have betrayed their trust.”

The Maori woman refused entry only said that she felt “deep sadness” over the episode.

Online there is usual glee at the opportunity to bash the tattooed deviants, and the onsen’s high standard of hospitality in excluding anyone who might disturb actual Japanese seems to enjoy much approval:

“Well, this can’t be helped.”

“Can’t be helped, it is not a matter of whether she is Maori or not.”

“Of course she was turned away, why wouldn’t she be?”

“These people are retarded… the sole point of tattoo bans is to exclude yakuza and other punks.”

“Don’t give that yakuza scum any way in!”

“Well, fashion tattoos are out too. It is not like you can tell the difference between one type and another.”

“If they made any exception it would be abused.”

“Give her a break you stupid onsen. This is how international human rights issues get started.”

“It would be racist to just let her in because she is from a particular race.”

“I can’t believe they can’t make an exception for cultural tattoos?”

“How are yakuza tattoos not cultural and how can you make the distinction?”

“Yakuza tattoos are cultural. If they let her in and not yakuza it would be a form of discrimination.”

“What’s to stop yakuza claiming to be Maori and demanding to be let in!”

“Can’t be helped. Letting her in would be a betrayal of their customers.”

“It is a private onsen, right? So they can refuse whoever they like for any reason.”

“Japanese really have no ability to adapt rules to the demands of the situation, do they? If they so much as considered the intent of these rules they would never have done this.”

“Treating everyone the same based on physical appearance is completely correct. How can you be expected to make subtle distinctions based on individual cases?”

“Blame the people who took her with them! They should have bathed he at one of their homes or something.”

“The Ainu have tattoos too. I can’t help but think they planned this malciously. The hotel did well to keep them out.”

“They were Japanese, they must have known this would happen. It was their fault, not the onsen.”

“It is unfortunate, but this is Japan! This lot is quick to enforce their own rules in their own territory!”

“Natives should stay in the mountains where they belong. We have rules in the city, obey them.”

“I really don’t see why non-gangsters with tattoos can’t be allowed to use these facilities. This is far too insulting to foreign tourists with tattoos in particular. But refusing entry to people from anti-Japanese nations seems a good idea though!”

“People with tattoos ought to stick to tattoo-OK places.”

“Just make tattoo-only onsens. Foreigners can go to foreigner-only places.”

“This was horrible to the Maori woman but the establishment cannot be blamed for enforcing its rules.”

“Does anyone find ethnic tattoos scary or disagreeable? They ought to have shown some flexibility here.”

“In Aotearoa tattoos are a symbol of social respect. In Japan they are a symbol of anti-social intent. If you go to another country you should respect their ways.”

“People with tattoos are scary. The onsen did well to keep this woman out. You can’t start making distinctions between good tattoos and bad tattoos!”

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    Comment by Anonymous
    23:25 12/09/2013 # ! Good (+0.8)

    Man, I always get the feeling Japans internet community is mostly a bunch of self righteous "racist" assholes? what's up with that... I'm amazed anyone would still want to go to japan after reading the crap they say.

    Comment by Anonymous
    05:06 13/09/2013 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    Yeah, these Japanese internet assholes represent the whole country right?

    Comment by Anonymous
    06:42 13/09/2013 # ! Good (+0.8)

    Sure. Or rather, the whole country turn into assholes when online.

    I wonder if any of them would say that stuff to someone's face...

    Comment by Anonymous
    14:41 13/09/2013 # ! Neutral (0)

    Your hiding behind a computer, of course your going to say what ever you want.

    Take the computer away, and now let's see what happens.

    Comment by Anonymous
    08:58 13/09/2013 # ! Neutral (0)

    It's not a country based problem. It's an anonymous problem. When people feel safe to say anything and face absolutely no consequences, they tend to turn unto assholes. Or so my community manager experience says.

    Comment by Anonymous
    15:09 13/09/2013 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    Why are they assholes?

    They are right, it WOULD be racist if they just let her in because she is NOT Japanese.

    They don't let any Japanese with Tatoos in, why should they change it for her?

    If in US it says naked people w/ their junk hanging out can't be allowed into pools, are you racist for not letting people from an other country in if it is OK to be naked in public in their own country? NO.

    You guys are the double standard bastards that just want everything in your favor and fit YOUR ideals.

    They made a standard rule, they are not singling her out. To let her in, it would be singling her out. Get with the logic

    Comment by Anonymous
    23:40 13/09/2013 # ! Neutral (0)

    True. Japan has its own rules. In japan it is okay to bath naked in baths. In U.S. bathing naked in baths is "obscene".

    in U.S. guns are okay and tatoos are okay.

    In japan guns are not okay and tatoos which stimulate gang-mentallity are not okay.

    Simple. Either go with the flow or leave. the Onsen didn't do this to insult the woman directly or to single her out. This is a rule that is enforced by MOST public and private baths. This social rule was established because of the GANG-MENTALLITY of the Yazuku or whatever.

    Still though, a gangster or yazuku can still come in and either have their tatoos covered up and still be a gangster. One can wear tatoos and not be a gangster.

    In this retrospect japan is silly, as it is judging folks by tatoo. But on the other hand i can see how jp wants no affiliation with the gang-violence relation that is so easily found in the U.S.

    But the onsen are not public schools. In the U.S. we are not allowed to wear bandanas or displays of tatoos on our faces for the same reasons the onsen kicked this lady out.

    This is cultural realtions. Japanese think anyone wearing a tatoo is dangerous. Other cultures use tatoos as symbol of national pride.

    Silly japan, with your origins in tatoos, one would think it would be appropriate. Now, if the woman came in with a tatoo imprint of japan's flag on her face, I am sure the onsen would have let her stay! Aha!

    Comment by Anonymous
    19:37 13/09/2013 # ! Neutral (0)

    So to any non-Asian looking person, Japanese should just not enforce any type of their own rules and laws that Japanese have to obey, just so they can try to avoid being called "xenophobic"?

    Yeah that makes a lot of sense (NOT)

    15:09 makes more logical sense, it's a difference in values. Tatoo in public is frown upon in Japan as to Being naked in public is frown upon in US, who's "cultural values" is more correct, doesn't matter. Even your example is the exact same thing, difference in values.

    This is a privately owned facility, they are not being racist in singling the women out as the rules are the same for everybody, which is just no tatoos

    I don't agree with it, but I think people should still have the right to do what they think they need to do to protect themselves. If they think letting the women in would cause future trouble w/ the Yakuza, they know their own country more then somebody like you who just yaps w/o any consideration for anybody except for you suits you.

    Comment by Anonymous
    03:02 14/09/2013 # ! Neutral (0)

    Difference being: you can put on something to cover your junk for a couple hours, you can NOT remove your tattoos just like that.

    It's pretty much like saying "nobody missing a finger can enter". Because, you know, yakuza cut fingers. And f. the guy missing a limb after a car accident. You miss a finger? Go grow one.

    Comment by Anonymous

    congrats you earn the moron award of the day by trying to compare 2 completely different things to justify this xenophobic and intilable act of stupidity of the typical kind, its like kicking out a peace treaty signer just because hes wearing white in an area that doesnt allow people to wear it....its called foreign policy, i certanly hope japan loose their right to host the olympics now as most of the people that go to see it there will just be treated like crap.

    Avatar of Imyou
    Comment by Imyou
    01:03 13/09/2013 # ! Neutral (0)

    Go to 4chan and judge America the same way. Anonymity can make for some very vocal unpopular views.

    Comment by Anonymous
    06:58 15/09/2013 # ! Neutral (0)

    you are the asshole

    Comment by Anonymous
    09:48 14/09/2013 # ! Neutral (0)

    No matter how hard people try to stop being racist it will never end one way or another someone will find something to hate about other people. This is really sad legal racism. Translation If you are from a tribe who shows honor and status and respect based on tattoos don't go to Japan. Next people with huge ear piercings will be band also a tribal tradition everyone in titled to there own opinion. I was raised not to discriminate against people of all racist religion culture etc. But had to post something

    Comment by Anonymous
    10:01 15/09/2013 # ! Neutral (0)

    Listening to 2ch and deriving an image of the totality of Japanese people is like reading the National Enquirer and from that deriving a picture of your average American.

    Comment by Anonymous
    21:12 13/09/2013 # ! Neutral (0)

    You are quite the backward moron aren't you. Every single human in existence, alive or even dead is RACIST. If they are not, then there would be no STANDARD for people to live by. For example, if you had 800 fat, fugly Turks move into your neighborhood, ruining it. And then you yelled at them for being that way, YOU WOULD BE A RACIST F*CK. YES YOU ARE A RACIST SELF RIGHTEOUS F*CKHEAD. Because you like every other gullible a$$hole screams RACIST to anyone with standards. You are the piece of poo that licks a toilet bowl with your unintelligent observations and ridiculous viewpoint. Countries should be required by law to BE RACIST to maintain a standard and a safety protocol for their people. You are an A+ idiot.

    Comment by Anonymous
    12:54 14/09/2013 # ! Neutral (0)

    You are one very weird and disturbed individual. Sure, we all dislike something or someone. That's human nature. But, to hate an entire group because you dislike one or two people in that group is just stupid. We only hate what we fear. To make a law requiring everyone to be racist would be to make a law making everyone a coward. It might apply to you, but the rest of us are not like you.

    Comment by Anonymous
    09:40 14/09/2013 # ! Neutral (0)

    Get a load of this retard.

    Comment by Anonymous
    21:30 13/09/2013 # ! Neutral (0)

    You are trying to speak sense to a place full of imbeciles. It's hopeless. While I applaud your effort, it's like trying to reason with a people hellbent on killing themselves. No matter how much you try to have intelligent discussion on something, the lowest common denominator always wins in places like this. Any legitimate criticism? That's racist! Can't go around hurting anyone's feelings now, can we? It's this idiotic attitude that makes it impossible to have any sort of serious discussion. God forbid there be any differences between the races and cultures whatsoever, that would be outright racist now wouldn't it?

    Comment by Anonymous
    23:43 13/09/2013 # ! Neutral (0)

    Racism is not standards ya bonehead. Racism stems from both a complexity of ignorance, superiority, pride and lack of respect for other human life.

    Racisms, the root of it descends from evil. Why is it evil? Because racism has destroyed and held back others from advancing for years. Take a clear good look at your people's history. I assume you are a white male, so it is pretty easy to see and observe the wickedness done by your people's racist antics.

    Comment by Anonymous
    23:43 13/09/2013 # ! Neutral (0)

    Moralities are standards, not racism.

    Comment by Anonymous
    04:39 13/09/2013 # ! Neutral (0)

    If you take 2chan as a representation of Japanese internet community them 4chan represents America internet community. I guess none of them is better than the other.

    Comment by Anonymous

    @23:25 - You call the Japanese internet community "racists", yet you yourself insult those Japanese people and say that nobody should want to visit Japan.
    Not that it matters anything, but you are the one who sounds racist here.

    And on-topic: it's not a case of racism, it's a rule against a specific style.
    A commoner without a big sum of cash wouldn't be allowed to enter several high-class restaurants, because they mind outer appearance.
    Hm... would a women's house be called discriminating against men, if men are not welcome there, even the innocent ones?

    Comment by Anonymous
    07:07 13/09/2013 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    Or as usual japs are pussies.

    Comment by Anonymous
    03:15 14/09/2013 # ! Neutral (0)

    Yes, they ARE discriminating against men, that's the main point of their existence.

    Whether that's a good thing or not, is mainly a question of how widespread is that discrimination. Are there similar services for men? I'd say there are plenty.

    Are there plenty of onsen allowing tattooed people? Doesn't seem so.

    Comment by Anonymous
    23:51 12/09/2013 # ! Drivel (-0.8)

    well, this case is not really racist since they enforce the exact same rules on other japanese

    Comment by Anonymous
    00:07 13/09/2013 # ! Good (+0.8)

    Actually, they don't. Real yakuza pretty much get a free pass at some of the establishments. When I went to the onsens in Japan, about 2 out of 5 onsens had mean-looking guys with full-back tattoos.

    I get the feeling they're just bullying the old woman here because they can.

    Comment by Dark Mage
    00:25 13/09/2013 # ! Quality (+1.0)

    Real Yakuza are not bothered for their tattoos they are feared and respected even by the police.
    The law only exists because some idiot politician wanted to make it look like he was doing something about organized crime.

    The laziest thing a politician can do a about a problem is propose some stupid new law vs actually doing real work with policy changes.

    Comment by Anonymous
    07:09 13/09/2013 # ! Neutral (+0.4)

    Of course they would. I mean the Japanese are pros at looking the other way if it involves gettin there ass kicked or disturbing there daily life.

    Comment by Anonymous
    15:15 13/09/2013 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    "When I went to the onsens in Japan, about 2 out of 5 onsens had mean-looking guys with full-back tattoos."

    Bullshit you went to Japan just to goto that many Onsens

    Way to make up bullshit and down vote everybody else. That is not the case so quit lying for your own lying sake.

    Comment by Anonymous
    02:49 29/09/2013 # ! Neutral (0)

    What... why people up vote this shit?
    Do they not stand collapsing of their imaginary Japan?
    Or they have actually encountered such a rare situation?

    Comment by Anonymous
    23:44 13/09/2013 # ! Neutral (0)

    Yes see that is the thing! The actual gang-members they will not mess with and let us not be blind as IF they -DON'T- go to these places, because they do!

    Comment by Anonymous
    00:48 14/09/2013 # ! Neutral (0)

    come on guy feel?

    Comment by Anonymous
    23:46 13/09/2013 # ! Neutral (0)

    Come on guys think. Oblivously the gang-members have their roots and establishments. No different than america and the italian mobsters still running about in the casinos.

    Comment by Anonymous

    "Actually, they don't. Real yakuza pretty much get a free pass at some of the establishments."

    So you're saying that if this woman was tough, or brought the All Blacks Rugby team along, or a gang of hoods, they'd let her in? See she only needed to do that, and it would all have been politically correct and tolerant.

    Avatar of Kaoshima
    Comment by Kaoshima
    12:13 13/09/2013 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    It's not the tattoo thing itself that's racist you idiot. It's the fact that the tattoo rule is racially insensitive. It's one thing to ban a marking that is traditionally reserved for organized criminals, but when something is a cultural marking of respect or honor, that needs to be taken into account. This old lady wasn't any danger to anyone, so banning her was wrong.

    Comment by Anonymous
    16:58 13/09/2013 # ! Neutral (0)

    Why are you so dense in the head, can't you see once they let her in other yakuza could come and argue and cause trouble?

    It's their shop they should decide how they would run it.

    Why should one country's culture over right the others? You are in THEIR country. What makes YOUR culture more right then theirs'?

    If you want to wear your shoes inside the house, don't go to other people's houses and complain when they ask you to take off your shoes.

    Comment by Anonymous
    06:38 14/09/2013 # ! Neutral (0)

    "Why are you so dense in the head, can't you see once they let her in other yakuza could come and argue and cause trouble?"

    Oh, please, like they will ever try enforcing that rule on real yakuza =)

    Comment by Anonymous
    00:07 13/09/2013 # ! Good (+0.8)

    Just narrow-minded bureaucrats. Follow the rules and don't think by yourself. Japanese way of life indeed.

    Comment by Anonymous
    04:36 13/09/2013 # ! Good (+0.6)

    More like "I understand but my boss don't and he is the one who pay my salary"

    Comment by Anonymous

    yeah because bureaucrats are capable of changing and interpreting the rules.

    Comment by Anonymous
    01:17 13/09/2013 # ! Good (+0.8)

    Japan + Olympics + this kind of shit = international lulz

    Comment by Anonymous
    02:11 13/09/2013 # ! Good (+0.7)

    Can't wait for 2020. Going to be so many tattoo-based shenanigans.

    Comment by Anonymous
    08:49 13/09/2013 # ! Neutral (0)

    "Foreigners can go to foreigner-only places.”
    I can foresee many trobles, not just ink ones...

    Comment by Anonymous
    11:57 13/09/2013 # ! Neutral (0)

    And thank god for that, Western civilisation is being overrun by uncultured foreign apes and the youth these days act like complete pillocks.

    Japan at least is the last bastion of good old social values, people who bitch about it can just go to any of the other 150 countries in the world, it is not their duty to accommodate your individuality.

    Comment by Anonymous
    09:45 13/09/2013 # ! Neutral (0)

    Apartheid, racism, segregation, AND THE PEASANTS REJOICE, all in one convenient location. Good to see you're still living in the 1800s, Japan.

    Comment by Anonymous
    07:30 15/09/2013 # ! Neutral (0)

    for me, tattoos are for uncultured bastard..

    Comment by Anonymous
    17:43 13/09/2013 # ! Neutral (0)

    Old values are not always good values. These uncultured thrash has not received proper disciplining, and has nothing to do with old vs new. Blame their parents for not making time for them in pursuit of material wealth.

    Comment by Anonymous
    07:40 14/09/2013 # ! Neutral (0)

    "...but our patrons don’t understand this." == "Our patrons are the salt of the land. You know.. /morons/."

    Comment by Anonymous
    13:10 13/09/2013 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    "The U.S. olympic team has been banned from entering the Olympic stadium in Tokyo at the 2020 Olympics, Japanese officials stating "We could not determine if the tattoos they had were of Yakuza origin, plus the ink could have contained steroids.""

    Comment by Dark Mage
    00:21 13/09/2013 # ! Quality (+0.8)

    The sheer irony is the law is supposed to be to keep out Yakuza but no operator of an onsen would ever dare to throw out or even so much as hassle a real Yakuza member.

    Comment by Anonymous
    02:26 13/09/2013 # ! Neutral (+0.4)

    It would be irony if all the Yakuzas turned out not to have tattoos, or maybe if this woman was law enforcement. As is, it's not ironic.

    Comment by Anonymous
    13:18 13/09/2013 # ! Neutral (0)

    Except for the fact that you have no idea what you are talking about and assume everyone in japan just rolls over for the yakuza. If you even payed attention to anything about japan outside of tabloid shit posted here, you might have heard about the business owners who fight back against the yakuza. You might have heard about the ways the police are increasingly targeting yakuza and making it harder for them to operate. But of course you only believe what you want to believe, and generalize about a country with a population of over 120 million people based on your narrow minded views. These views being acceptable here somehow, which is ironically the same way actual xenophobic japanese believe their views are representative of japanese society.

    Comment by Anonymous

    What if the onsen is owned by a multi-billion corporate which can hire a team to take care of any little gang problem?

    Comment by Anonymous
    02:42 13/09/2013 # ! Neutral (0)

    who do you think would they hire?
    the local gang that's who

    Comment by Anonymous
    04:00 13/09/2013 # ! Neutral (0)

    "that tard watch to many films"

    no wipe, how do you think Anglo does it?

    Comment by Anonymous
    03:31 13/09/2013 # ! Neutral (0)

    that tard watch to many films

    Comment by Anonymous
    05:59 13/09/2013 # ! Neutral (0)

    it may not be japanese but look up monsanto... they hired or bought, i forget which, blackwater

    Comment by Anonymous

    Big companies hire mercenaries or similar.

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