Tattoos and Meeting Japanese Girls
Most girls are the “good girl” type. They’re not covered in tattoos. Getting wasted isn’t their hobby. They’re not belching or farting like your American sisters. They’re sheltered. They don’t watch Animal Planet. When I tell them rhinoceroses run wild in America, that one totaled my sister’s car on her way to work, they believe me.
I have one tattoo, a fully sleeved arm. Random Japanese girls I’ve met, based off first impressions, have said I looked scary. No one in America would say that about me. With a wig and the right amount of makeup, I make for a pretty girl.
My tattoo isn’t nuns burning at the cross, skull or snakes or knives. It’s not a pikachu either. It does have Japanese style waves that yakuza tend to have, so that probably plays a part.
I asked my girlfriend, who I met by approaching her on the street, for her opinion. She said if she’d known my whole right arm was covered in ink, she never would have dated me. But girls say all sort of things, make up all sort of justifications for why they first slept with you. However, this does give you an idea of how tattoos are perceived. Even her parents have said they thought I was the perfect guy – how little they know – if only I didn’t have a tattoo.
“Give me ten minutes to talk away my ugly face and I will bed the queen of France.” ~ Voltaire
Having a tattoo didn’t stop me from dating Japanese girls. There were a couple weeks, when I was hitting the streets hard everyday, I had a different date every single day. When meeting them I’d prefer to wear a long-sleeved shirt to hide my arm and avoid a negative first impression. I’d let it be a surprise for when they saw me naked, when they’d want to touch it and see if I felt like a reptile.
Tattoos and Gyms in Japan
Perhaps there are tattoo friendly gyms in Japan. I know I’d searched for them before coming to Tokyo and while here, but I never found any.
The first gym I did a tour of was near my Japanese language school. I took off my shoes and was shown the facilities. When putting my shoes back on and tying my laces, my shirt sleeve hiked up just enough at the wrist to expose my tattoo. Busted. Right away, he said I couldn’t join.
I didn’t make the same mistake twice. For a year and a half I was a member at Tipness. I went to the one in Ikebukuro and Kichijoji. I’d wear long-sleeved shirts from America, as it’s hard to find sleeves long enough for my arms in Japan. Underneath I wore a wrist sweatband and sometimes a tatjacket. More on covering up with those later.
If your tattoo is seen by the wrong person at the gym, you’ll be asked to leave. It happened to my friend Phillip. He has a Red Wing’s tattoo on one shoulder and a Mighty Mighty Bosstones on the other. One day, while bench pressing, his shirt sleeve hiked up and he was spotted by an employee and asked to leave. It didn’t matter how much money he’d paid upfront. Not refundable. But he begged the manager, swearing his tattoos would never be seen inside again, and the manager agreed he could stay if he kept his promise.
A few days later he returned to the gym, thinking everything was cool . . . but the same gym nazi, as soon as he saw Phillip, pounced on him and made an embarrassing scene.
Phillip got angry, of course, attracting attention. He told the nazi his agreement with the boss, but it didn’t matter, he was kicked out and shamed.
Tattoos and Jobs in Japan
Never show them. I taught English in Japan for almost two years. My boss at my first job caught me. After work I ate dinner next to the station. After I ate I realized I had an empty wallet and they didn’t accept visas and, new to the area, I didn’t know where to find a ATM.
I went to my boss to borrow money. Extending my arm to take the 700 yen from her hand, I’d forgotten I removed my sweatband.
The next day the boss asked if I could see her after work. I didn’t think anything of it. This happened often because I was a new teacher and she was always suggesting ways I could improve or giving me positive feedback or complaints from students.
At the end of work she hit me with, “I saw your tattoo.” It was a big deal. She had to call her boss, her dad, and he had to take a train from Nagoya to meet with me. I was a liability, they said.
My working visa was still in the approval process. I was afraid I was screwed. My people were going to exile me.
When the meeting came, they had me roll my shirt up. My female boss, seeing all of my tattoo, said it was kowai (scary).
Luckily, they liked me. Her dad was nice. I was the first person they sponsored for a visa. They didn’t shit-can me. Instead they decided to take a chance.
Unluckily, they extended my probation period. I don’t know if this goes for all jobs in Japan, but during your first three months you’re on decreased probation pay. I’d already been there for two months but they decided to extend it for another three.
Like I promised, no student ever found out about my tattoo, except the ones I made friends with and met after work.
At my second job, as an assistant language teacher for Japanese junior high schools, the company held teachers’ meetings every month at a location separate from the schools. Some teachers there, I was surprised to see, rolled up their sleeves and showed off small tattoos. The supervisor didn’t care or say anything. It just seemed to be an understood rule to keep them hidden while at school.
Other jobs I’d interviewed with, including that last one, asked if I had tattoos. I always said no.
Tattoos and Japanese Water
If your tattoos are too big to tape up, forget about waterparks and pools. I’ve never tried to go, but I’m told it is so. I don’t like waterparks, their lines, and their slides hurt my back in my older age. But I like swimming. For that I have to go to the beach.
Beaches are nice. There, you’ll say to yourself, “Japanese people do have tattoos and some girls do have boobs.”
A sento is a communal bath where everyone gets naked. Some hotels have them and tattooed people aren’t allowed. I went to one twice in Tokyo. The second time a worker on patrol spotted me and kicked me out. Philllip didn’t have to worry because he could cover his shoulder tats with a small towel.
An onsen is a hot spring. Some hotels and resorts have them. I stopped at a couple to get rid of my stench when skateboarding across Japan. Like at sentos, you shower before getting in.
Lurk in the corners, choose showers in the corners, a locker in the corner, soak in the spring in the corner, and you’ll be fine. Little Japanese boys will stare at your dick; quickly get away and don’t allow them to draw attention to you.
A Japanese guy who saved me on a mountain during a typhoon took me to an indoor onsen in the countryside. He had tattoos of his own and wasn’t concerned. Just be discreet about it, he said.
Wild onsens are free. Go if you have the chance. I went to one by car in Gunma, up on a mountain. There were yakuza looking guys covered in tats and even a girl. A guy swam up to me and lent me his glasses and said if I used them under water I could see her vagina.
A friend and a Japanese dentist in America said no one would hire me in Japan with my covered arm. I didn’t believe them, but I did have my worries.
Before arriving in Japan, I researched make up, bandages and whatever else I could hide my arm with.
I went with a full sleeve cover from tatjacket. I bought two. At first they worked fine. Even in summer they felt quite cool. Not as cool and comfortable as not wearing one, but comfortable enough you could forget it was there.
At work I always wore a long sleeve collared shirt over it. In many Japanese jobs, English teaching included, you have what is called Cool Biz. For about a period of two to three months, depends on the company, you can forgo a necktie and wear short sleeves. Coworkers and students seldom asked why I still wore long sleeves. But when they did I bullshitted them. No one really cares.
“Professional all the time. Always dressed to impress, that’s me.”
“I only have long sleeve shirts. Real men have no time for shopping.”
The tatjacket had one problem: it stretched out like a shirt collar. My arms were getting bigger from time at the gym, and there were a couple of times, when sweaty, I impatiently yanked it off, busting a couple of stitches.
And over time it would annoyingly work its way down my arm, bunching up at the elbow. Pulling it back up through my shirt was difficult and it would just slide back down again. And when I pulled it up from the outside, I risked it hiking up in the front.
If I had to do it again, I’d get tatjacket jr. It covers your forearm so you don’t have to worry about that hole in dress shirts below the cuff; don’t let that cuff button come undone by the way. As for choosing a tatjacket color, go with tan. From afar, if you’re white or golden, it looks like your skin color. I never wore them outside of work. Someone might think you’re a burn-victim if they noticed it.
If you can’t order a tatjacket, check out sport shops. I found half-sleeve covers, about the same size as tatjacket jr, at a small fitness shop in Kichijoji. They were black and worked perfectly, and I stopped using my full-sleeve tatjackets.
The most important piece, for those with wrist or sleeve tats like me, is a sweatband. The longer the better. Only wear a tat jacket and it will eventually slip, expose your wrist and oust you. For maximum ensured wrist coverage, wear the sweatband. I’ve tried thick-banded watches and wristbands, those all slipped around. Sweatbands work best. They’re not hard too find. Look in the sports section of department stores. Sometimes at the gym, I wore nothing but the sweatband under my long-sleeved shirt and was fine. At work I was too paranoid, so I wore the forearm cover too.
At work, as you reach your arms around and stretch, the sweatband will be seen. But it’s not in Japanese people’s nature to ask personal questions. I worked at the McDonald’s’ of English language conversation. I had conversations with a thousand different Japanese people and only two asked what’s up with my wrist. “I hurt it at the gym,” is all I had to say. No further questions.
Another thing, be careful of light-colored see-through fabrics. You can get away with them in the winter if you wear a jacket on top. While trying on a shirt, stand directly under a light and stretch the shirt skin-tight and see if you can see your ink. Maybe even have a second pair of eyes to check.
Blue shirts worked nicely for me. My options were limited because I got those with the longest sleeves.
As for good shops in Tokyo, I recommend Brick House. Girls always complimented my friend’s style and that’s where he got his shirts from. After I dropped $100 on three shirts at Brick House, and again 6 months later, girls were like “uhh lah lah” and guys said, “Hey buddy, where did you get that shirt.” I also found them to carry a select amount of shirts with longer sleeves than other shops.
That’s about the sum of my experience. I forgot to mention I was once denied entry to a club. The club was Muse. It was summer, sweaty hot, and I had on a t-shirt. We had better luck at a bar anyway, at least I did. Phillip’s girl was some kind of uuugggggggggggglllllllyyyyyy.
Anyways, tattoos in Japan, if they’re not face, hand, or neck tats, are not that big of an inconvenience as long as you’re not working outside three months of the year. I mean, you’re your going to sweat more but it’s not like it’s year-round Bangkok heat.