Tattoo taboos around the world

Unfortunately, sporting visible tattoos can still result in unwanted judgments and lingering looks from strangers.


At work, during job interviews, or even when just meeting new people, we may find ourselves covering up our ink to avoid unfounded judgments about our character, based on looks alone.  Although some people may find themselves covering up, there are no laws here in Australia banning tattoos, although some workplaces and schools may not allow visible tattoos or other body modifications. 


Some countries actually have explicit legislation pertaining to the tattoo industry. Furthermore, many cultures consider tattoos so taboo that although they may in fact be widespread, it is uncommon for people to show them off in public. While Australians and other Western peoples may view tattoos as an emblem of individuality, other cultures consider them a more intimate artifact.


Australia’s still cool though, right?


Tattoos in Australia still endure some negative associations with gangs, and more conservative folks may consider tattoos to be in bad taste, but as tattoos continue to enter the mainstream, these negative connotations hold less power. Unlike Australia however, the deviance associated with tattoos in countries like Japan and South Korea makes its way into explicit social rules and even bans barring artists from performing tattoos. Of course, regulations against unlicensed professionals and underage clients help ensure the safety of artists and customers alike, but Japan and South Korea ban artists from tattooing unless they acquire a medical license.


However, tides may be changing for artists, as Kotaku recently reported that a possibly precedent-setting court case has overturned an Osaka tattoo artist’s prior conviction for tattooing without a medical license. The new ruling argues that because tattoos are an art form, they are protected under the Japanese Constitution. This along with the imminent influx of Western tourists could help shift public opinion of tattoos.


The times are a’changing


Despite long standing judgment of tattoos in places like Japan and South Korea, many express optimism that Japan’s upcoming Summer Olympics in 2020 will loosen restrictions on tattoos. As foreign tourism in Japan grows, and in anticipation of a massive influx of foreign and possibly tattooed tourists, Japanese artists and tattoo devotees hope that in order to welcome customers, Japanese businesses will begin to abandon their tattoo bans.


Countries that are overall considered to be more modest and culturally conservative, like South Korea, China, Japan, as well as Iran and the United Arab Emirates, regulate the public display of tattoos or the performing of tattoos. In these countries, tattoos are considered taboo.


Tattoos of course are an expression of individuality. Whether tattoos are performed in the recognizable Western Traditional style, the time-consuming Irezumi method, or whether they represent an entirely new avenue for body art, they always represent the individuality of both the artist and their client.


Those with tattoos are ostracized and consequently banned from certain spaces or simply discouraged from revealing their skin. Regulating tattoos and artists themselves appears to be not just an attempt to encourage conformity, but more specifically a method for deterring behavior that focuses on the individual self rather than society overall; however, there is concrete hope that tattoos are gaining more widespread acceptance.


As tattoos become more popular, it becomes increasingly difficult to demand that those with tattoos hide them from public view.