Apr 13, 2021


Maori News & Indigenous Views

Maori woman refused entry to bath due to traditional tattoos

2 min read

A public bath facility in Eniwa, Hokkaido, refused entry to a Maori woman from New Zealand due to her face tattoos, a facility official said Thursday.

mqdefaultThe Maori language lecturer, 60, has the tattoos, called ta moko, worn traditionally by some indigenous New Zealanders, on her lips and chin. She was in Hokkaido for a conference on indigenous languages in the town of Biratori in the northernmost prefecture.

On Sunday afternoon a group of 10 people involved in the conference visited the thermal baths but were refused entry by a facility staff member.

When a member of the group claimed the decision was discriminatory, the staff replied that the facility prohibits entry to anyone with tattoos in order to put customers at ease.

“Even if it is traditional culture, a typical person cannot judge the context behind the tattoos,” the facility official told reporters.

An Ainu language lecturer who was in the group said he felt sorry to disappoint an important guest.

“It is unfortunate that other cultures are not understood,” he said.

According to the food and sanitation section of the Hokkaido prefectural government and the National Federation of Public Bath Industry Trade Unions, the law on public baths allows operators to refuse entry to customers with infectious diseases, but does not rule on customers with tattoos.

Prohibition of tattoos is often used by public facilities in Japan to prevent entry by members of the country’s organized crime groups, many of whom have tattoos on their bodies.



12 thoughts on “Maori woman refused entry to bath due to traditional tattoos

  1. As a Japanese, I feel sorry for this matter. As is written in the last part of the article, the main reason some public facilities prohibit people with tattoes is to prevent Yakuza, or Japanese mafias from showing up in communal facilities. Yakuza wear tattoes over their whole back, so it would be scary to see such people in a spa.

    I also heard that other facility managers let freign people with tattoes in, for it’s quite clear that those people were not Japanese mafias.

    It is true that few Japanese except mafias wore tattoes, but these days more and more young people wear small tattoes.

    I was also shocked to know this happend in Hokkaido, which many Australian skiers visit these days.

    Now that an Olympic games will be held in Tokyo in seven years, I think Japanese people need to understand different cultures more. And I would like you to know that there are lots of Japanese people who love to learn other culturres and welcome foreign visitors.

  2. RangiMarie aka Lady Justice (MISA) Maori Investigative Studies Authority) te Arawa Researcher says:

    Its about UNDERSTANDING CULTURES, in this case had they understood what the Maori chin Moko represented then she would have been allowed to bath. This ALSO HIGHLIGHTS going to other CULTURAL lands also nations that are NOT Ours. We are visitors (manuhiri) there, so we have to respect their culture. ENGLANDS ARTIFICIAL COLONISATION IMMIGRATION plans for this world….will lead to its COLLAPSE for ARTIFICIALLY MIXING cultures to the point its OUT OF ORDER! WHERE IS CULTURAL ORDER on the scales of Justice??? ORDER BRINGS LORE & LORE BRINGS ORDER!!

    1. If she wants respect, then she has also to give respect, nor force or demand it as an unearned right.

      She said, “I’m not used to being treated in that manner”. Well, Japanese are not used to her behaviour.

      I am suspecting this confrontation was deliberate.

      Actually, there are onsens which accept people with tattoos.
      Individuals or groups can also hire private onsens.

      There was no need for a confrontation. She should have shown respect for local traditions.

  3. Sorry you had to experience this, but when in Rome.
    The culture and respect for rules and discipline are very strong here in Japan. Regardless of who you are, the rules here apply to everyone.
    Please don’t let this one incident taint your perception of the Japanese people and their culture.
    They are a beautiful people, with an amazing heritage.
    Maybe if the N.Z Embassy in Japan were notified in advance of your visit, they may have been able to help find a neutral solution.
    As a proud New Zealand born Samoan, now living in Japan, (7 years) and married to a wonderful Japanese woman, I can say this about the Japanese work culture in general: They only know one way, and panic if faced with any problem that is “different”. You know back at home (N.Z)you can order a set meal but then request to leave out or change little variations to the meal… and usually that’s fine right? Here in Japan because of their social and cultural differences, a simple thing like that is actually sometimes too stressful for an employee to accept. lol
    They would have to ask their boss, and through the chain of rank just to get the OK.
    Everything is systematical, even their thinking lol
    So the worker at the Onsen was only doing what he/ she knows and was taught.
    Ta Moko is sacred. Maori people are very spiritual.
    If you have the chance to attend a cremation service in Japan, and then actually take part of the ceremony you will see and feel for yourself, the true aroha and respect of what it means to be Japanese.
    Don’t let a refusal into an Onsen affect your good judgement.

    Elia Gaitau

    1. An INSULT requires UTU. Our ANCESTORS have been INSULTED. It is unacceptable for the ISLAND NATION of JAPAN to act this way. Bathing in my Mothers home of Whakarewarewa gave presedence to these Chiefly markings. It is of deep offence to me. I spit on anyone trying to be tactful. Japanese are famous for falling on the Sword, get your wife to fall on her Sword then we will know you are truly sorry. BLEH !!!!!!

      1. Hey baby, Chill out. It’s 2013 not the middle ages.

        It’s just a wind up by some activists.

        Every Japanese person knows you cannot wear tattoos into a mainstream onsen. They knew what was going to happen and it is all deliberate. It is a fake storm in a teacup.

        Much of the so called Ainu activism in Japan is fake, and just a pose or political posturing by some left wingers. There is no pure Ainu blood or culture left.

        I support the rights of the Japanese. Tattoos are offensive in Japan. To draw attention to yourself in that way is offensive. It’s their society, their culture, and their business.

        How would you feel if I told you how to run your society, your culture and your business?

        Yeah, well, you’ve answered that question, haven’t you?

        Personally, I think it’s pretty indulgent to get tattooed up like a primitive these days. Those days have all gone now.

        If a mother did to a child the tattooing the Ainus used to do, she would be arrested for child abuse and quite rightly too.

        Next you’ll be fight for the right to defend mothers that genetically mutilate their daughters or scar their faces up like Africans …

  4. ‘When in Rome’ I’m afraid e kui…kei a ratou te tikanga ki te kainga, ahakoa he ahua whakama hoki ki a matou. It’s not for us to go thundering in trying to change their ways, we’re well versed in what that’s like ne ra…

  5. In many Asian and middle eastern countries.. anyone with tattoos and especially women are considered eith prostitutes or gang affiliated. In olden days all slaves were tattooed on the arms and legs and this beliefe is very strong to this day.

    1. Tena koutou, Arohamai e kui ki te paanui i te karere nei… heoi..”Hubby and I had the fortunate experience of spending some time in Tommomae a Seaside town in Northern Hokkaido while our son worked there for 3 wonderful years from 2007-2009. During our stay there we were immersed in their cultural beliefs,practises and manaaki ki te taangata. We were very humbled by their aroha, hospitality, friendliness and whaanaungatanga.I am of Maori/Scottish descent and Hubby is European /Tuhoe descent. To feel their warmth,sincerity and values to protect not only themselves and others is very special.One evening we dined with a whaanau that had very recently lost their daughter.That was a very touching and beautiful experience for us all in the way that we learnt so much from each other via english and Japanese reo he he! Bit of a lugh at times but we carried on and had fun!
      Our son has recently returned to that part of Japan after returning to NZ then heading off to Vancouver, Whistler and home to refresh his home roots.I think they have kind of adopted him. He lives with a wonderful Japanese couple at a Bed & Breakfast business and they are his Toshan & Koshan (Japanese Dad & Mum.) A bit disaappointing for you and your ropu e kui, however I guess at the end of the day it is about respecting other cultural practises just as we would like our tikanga to be adhered to in the rightful way. Kia ora ra.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.