Japan continues to try to hide tattoos from the public eye due to controversial ancient roots of yakuza affiliation. While tattoos have been part of Japanese culture since before the Iron Age, the use of full body tattoos by the yakuza have made the culture sensitive to their appearance.
“After World War II, wabori tattoos were co-opted by yakuza, who used them as part of their initiation rites and as a means of intimidating members of the public,” according to Wall Street Journal blogger Manami Okazaki.
Many areas of Japan forbid the display of tattoos to this day, including hot springs and gyms. Unlike the western world, most tattooing done in Japan gets done through back channels or in old craft makers homes in order to avoid attention.
While tattoos are becoming more prevalent in the country, leadership does not see the Japanese stance on public displays of tattoos changing in the near future despite the coming Olympics.
To read more about the role of tattoos in Japanese society click here.