No Tattoos at the Rugby World Cup in Japan

Harry Coulter | 15 Oct 2018

Players to cover tattoos in JapanRugby players with tattoos have been asked to respect local customs and cover them up while they’re in Japan for the 2019 World Cup. The sport’s governing body said that individuals with tattoos need to be aware that they’re deemed offensive in Japanese culture.

Tattoos are associated with the Yakuza, a powerful Japanese criminal organisation, and tourists sporting them may well find themselves prohibited from entering onsens, or traditional hot springs, enjoyed communally. This was not always the case, but films from the 1960s depicted heavily tattooed gangsters, and it’s an idea that’s taken hold over time.

Japanese Tourism called on its country’s spas to relax their rules in 2016, noting that there are enormously different views on tattoos, and stated that allowance should be made for foreigners unaware of the taboo. It was suggested that the onsens could provide stickers for visitors to cover up with, or that they could make specific times of day available for tattooed travellers. This was as a result of survey the year before, which revealed that more than half of the inns and hotels around Japan would not allow tattooed vacationers to enter the onsens.

Players have also been asked to change their footwear from indoor to outdoor, and to use vests when using pools or gym equipment.

Tattoos Are the New Norm

Tattoos are very common with Rugby players these days, especially those from the Pacific Islands. Several All Blacks are inked-up, with the list including Aaron Smith, Codie Taylor and Sonny Bill Williams. They’re often representative of a cultural badge chosen by the player, whether Pacific Island, Māori, or other.

In the past, Ta Moko tattoos, as the Māori style is termed, represented specific tribes, but for those of different ancestry or heritage, this is no longer the case. The markings do usually have a legitimate meaning however, with these ranging from family and travel through to career paths. If the thought of watching the World Cup without all the tattoos on display seems a little dull, you can always keep an eye on the game, and play at your favourite online casino while you’re at it!

Elliot Dixon’s Had No IssuesAll Blacks show off their body art

Former All Black Elliot Dixon, who now plays for the Ricoh Black Lambs, a Japanese club, reported that he’s had no problems with his Maori tā moko tattoos. He explained that Tokyo, where he’s based, is more familiar with people from different countries, and said that, because he was very quickly recognised as a foreigner, he hasn’t run into any trouble.

Dixon hasn’t had to worry about covering up either, because he trains at the club’s private pools and gym. He reports that he has not had much experience with anything outside these facilities.

No Objections from the Teams

Alan Gilpin, the tournament director, has said that he’s not had any protest from the teams, even though they half-expected one. He stated that the issue had been covered a year ago, and that no one had moaned about what was required since then. He chalks it up to working with the players and making sure they understood why this was being asked of them, and explained that everyone intended to respect the culture, and would make sure that they did what was requested of them. Gilpin went on to say that no one was forcing the athletes to do anything, and they would be covering visible tattoos up because they want to.

The games will begin on the 20th of September 2019, with the first match being played between the hosts, Japan, and Russia, at the Tokyo Stadium. While their national rugby team have competed in every World Cup since the first tournament in 1987, they have yet to progress past the tournament’s pool stage. They are, however, the only team to have reached the Cup via Asian regional qualifying.