16 Sep 2013

Insulting to call moko a fashion statement

6:47 pm on 16 September 2013

A Maori woman turned away from a Japanese bathhouse because of her facial moko says having it referred to as a fashion statement tattoo was insulting.

Erana Brewerton, 60, was told by a bath house in Hokkaido that people with tattoos weren't allowed in because it intimidated other guests.

"I'm not used to being treated like that," she told AFP in a telephone interview. ''My moko tells other Maori people which tribe I am from."

In Japan, tattoos are associated with yakuza crime syndicates, and many public institutions bar people who have them as a way to keep gangsters out.

But the incident has prompted a Japanese cabinet minister to call for greater tolerance of other cultures.

Ms Brewerton said it was the disdain on one of the staff members face that upset her the most. She did not blame the facility's manager but did object to a statement it would not welcome people with a tattoo as a fashion statement.

Such behaviour could embarrass Japan on an international stage, she said.