Japanese Self-Defense Force mulls removing its ban on tattoos
Former SDF member doesn’t want ink to be a barrier to enlistment.
On Tuesday, a meeting was held by Japan’s House of Councilors Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense. Among the topics discussed: tattoos.
Japanese society has traditionally taken a dim view of tattoos, due to their long historical association with the yakuza, Japan’s organized crime syndicates. However, Liberal Democratic Party member Masahisa Sato, a former member of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces and one of the five directors of the committee, thinks the SDF could do with a softening of its stance against inked body art.
Currently, candidates looking to enlist in the SDF have their applications rejected if they have tattoos. Sato feels there are two problems with this policy. Japan’s low birth rate means that the country’s population is shrinking and aging, leaving a smaller and smaller pool of citizens who are within the feasible age range for active SDF service. Further cutting down that candidate pool by dismissing applicants out of hand for having tattoos is only making the situation more difficult, Sato asserts. “Rejecting applicants for having tattoos presents a problem in terms of bolstering our number of enlisted personnel.”
At the same time, Sato holds that there’s an increasing number of people in Japan who have tattoos but no connection to organized crime. “There are ‘fashion tattoos,’” he explained, differentiating them from the more elaborate, quasi-ceremonial designs favored by yakuza members with examples such as “a small tattoo of a flower or someone’s name.”
After considering these points, the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense announced that it will be formally reevaluating the no-tattoo policy for SDF applicants, with the possibility of removing it if it’s no longer deemed necessary.
Sato says that there are “many people” with fashion tattoos in Japan nowadays. Not everyone would agree with that specific descriptor, but they are more common among young people now than they were in previous generations. And while many hot springs and public baths in Japan still have blanket bans on entry for those with tattoos, a key difference is that SDF applicants undergo background checks anyway, which should be able to determine whether an applicant’s tattoo is a mark of criminal allegiance or merely personal aesthetic taste.
Source: Kyodo via Livedoor News via Hachima Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso
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