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I'm going to Japan in a of couple months.

I've got 80% of my back tattooed and I would really like to try the experience of a public bath in Japan.

Many people have been telling me that it is not allowed for people who have tattoos.

My question is. What would be an alternative for a public bath for me?

Is there a private bath, a place where I can pay for the same experience e don't be banned?

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You may be interested in I have a tattoo. Can I visit a public swimming pool in Japan? –  Mark Mayo Feb 6 at 10:15
    
I have interested in alternatives to public swimming pool. –  Afetter Feb 6 at 10:19
    
Yes, that's why I didn't provide it as an answer, just as a read. Hopefully someone with more experience can provide you with an answer soon. Good luck! –  Mark Mayo Feb 6 at 10:23
    
@MarkMayo I forgot to say thank you my friend :) –  Afetter Feb 6 at 10:24

3 Answers 3

up vote 15 down vote accepted

There are lots of public baths in Japan that are free, unattended and thus open to everybody. Here are a few in Yagen Valley, Aomori, built right next to a river:

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And I shared the first of those with some gentlemen with full-back tattoos, done in a traditional style instantly recognizable to any Japanese.

Now Yagen's about as far from it all as it gets in Japan, but there are lots of these in rural areas if you look, some of them quite famous (Jigokudani of monkey fame, Kawayu Onsen, etc).

And not all professionally run onsen are anti-tattoo, here's a good (Japanese-only) listing of tattoo-friendly onsen in Hokkaido. Interestingly, quite a few say things like "OK as long as it's not full-back" or even "Fashion tattoos are OK, but irezumi [Japanese traditional tattoos] are not"!

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Many hotels and ryokan have a family bath, that is, a bathing facility that can be reserved for private use by families or other groups. This can range from a simple bathroom with a large tub available for free to guests of the hotel up to an luxurious outdoor onsen at $50 per hour.

Of course, you would be alone there unless you bring along friends. I can't tell from your question, but if by "experience of a public bath in Japan" you mean that you want to mingle with regular Japanese guests, you're probably out of luck; the ban on tattoos is not specific to publically owned facilities; private operators are just as (if not even more) likely to have it. Well, unless they're operated by the yakuza. I'm not sure such exist and are open to the public.

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I'm a black belt of Jiu Jitsu, does it make any difference to my admission ? (: just a joke :) –  Afetter Feb 6 at 11:30

There are a variety of grades of public bath in Japan, reflected in the facilities and the pricing.

  • onsen are resort-class baths.
  • tennen onsen ("natural onsen") are anything but natural; they're man made onsen constructed by boring down into the ground until you hit geothermally heated water, which is then treated with chemicals to resemble the mineral composition of onsen water.
  • super sento is just plain water, but with a variety of baths, usually a sauna, etc.
  • sento is the cheap neighbourhood bathhouse. It may only have two or three baths, and you take your own soap and shampoo.

Super sentos and up normally prohibit tattoos. Every sento I have been in has had at least one person with tattoos, and sometimes the saunas are obviously being used for business meetings by people with punch perms who describe their jobs as "a little bit of this and that." Those places are more interesting anyway.

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