I want to travel to japan soon and I definitely want to visit an onsen in small village. I know that in most onsenit's against their house rules to have visible tattoos, but what do Japanese people think about scarring?

For those whodon't know what that is,it's basically creating scars intentionally so that it stays like a tattoo but without anything inside your skin. I am not too sure as I first thought thatit's perfectly fine, because scars can happen with no intention, but it's not that much different from a tattoo in the end.

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    You may find that for obvious tourists the rules against tattoos are not enforced, as that rule is to keep out Japanese organized crime groups. I have no idea how scarring is seen.
    – Willeke
    Jan 25 at 9:10
  • @Willeke Oh i wasnt aware of that, i thought if not specified that its for tourists aswell. Still thank you for the comment!
    – skkrrea
    Jan 25 at 10:28
  • If you search on tattoos and on Japan you should find questions here where they explain all.
    – Willeke
    Jan 25 at 11:29
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    I wouldn't worry too much but it may depend on how obvious and striking it is - is this over the whole face, or on a body part that's unlikely to be noticed? Your general appearance and demeanor may well have an influence - as Willeke says if you're obviously a tourist and in a tourist group it's unlikely to be a problem.
    – Stuart F
    Jan 25 at 15:05
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    I'd suggest emailing or calling the specific onsen you plan to visit ahead of time to check their policy on scarring. Explaining it's not a tattoo but a medical issue could help. Coming across respectfully will likely give them no reason to object. Have backups planned just in case though. Most of all, enjoy your Japan trip! Jan 26 at 7:53

1 Answer 1


It will depend. A couple of years ago I went to an onsen with a friend who's heavily tattooed across the shoulders and legs. We explicitly asked at the reception desk whether that's okay, and they said it's no problem. After we were in the onsen for some 20 minutes or so however, an employee approached him apologetically and asked him to leave after all. From what I could hear between the lines, other patrons had lodged a complaint, and they bowed to it.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago and I met a (very nice) middle aged Japanese guy at a local sento who was so heavily tattooed across his entire back, that he was surely a "yassan". But nobody minded.

So, if you don't obviously have tattoos, it'll depend on how that's perceived. If you can explain it away as accidental scars, surely nobody will mind; you might get some pitying looks however. If it's obviously some self-mutilating body art kind of thing… you may get asked to leave if it freaks others out too much.

You may want to look for onsen which do not explicitly forbid tattoos or even explicitly allow them, then your chances are probably better. If you can somewhat cover up your scars with your washcloth, it may be a good idea to do so. The less you flaunt them, the better your chances.

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