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Japan v. Tattooing



It’s no secret that tattoos have been stigmatized in Japan. Japanese society’s association between tattoos and the Yakuza just can’t seem to be killed, making “No Tattoos Allowed” signs commonplace in resorts, gyms, and public pools.
 
This false perception of tattoos being linked to organized crime has given way to aggressive regulation of tattooing in recent years; regulations so strict that it would appear that the Japanese government seeks to ban the craft entirely.
 
Tattoo artist Taiki Masuda was convicted under a little known law in 2015. Police visited his tattoo parlor as part of an investigation against a pharmacy where he bought supplies.
 
Authorities prosecuted Masuda under the Medical Practitioners Act, which ensures only licensed doctors perform “medical practices,” which includes any work with a needle, according to the Japan Times. Tattooing, laser hair removal and skin peels are all considered medical procedures under a 2001 Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry ruling, according to CNN.
 

Violators can face three years in prison or a fine of 1 million yen.

 
"Becoming a medical doctor costs a lot of time and money,” Masuda told CNN. “It is ridiculous to think that you'd get a medical license to become a tattoo artist.”
 
Masuda was fined 300,000 yen (about $2,700). He appealed the 2015 decision but lost the case in September when an Osaka court upheld the ruling that only medical doctors can legally tattoo.
 
“With tattoo treatment, medical knowledge and skills are indispensable in order to sufficiently understand the dangers and carry out sufficient judgments and measures,” the ruling said. “Therefore, unless carried out by a doctor, there is a danger to health and no guarantee of sanitation, making this a medical activity.”
 
Out of the experience Masuda started a group called Save Tattooing Japan, which is affiliated with about 200 tattoo artists. The group hopes to push officials to develop a licensing and regulatory system specifically for tattoo artists.
 
About 20 other artists have been arrested for violating the ruling, the group said. Ten of them were fined 300,000 yen.
 
“(The Medical Practitioner’s Act) is to regulate doctors,” Tokyo tattoo artist and Save Tattooing Japan member Ron Sugano told CNN. “It was never designed for tattoo artists.”


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