14 Sep 2013

Maori woman barred from baths in Japan because of tattoos

6:36 am on 14 September 2013

A Maori woman has been barred from a public bath in Japan because her face tattoos fell foul of rules intended to keep mobsters away.

Erana Te Haeata Brewerton, 60, who was attending an academic meeting on indigenous languages, said she was refused entry to the bath in Eniwa, northern Hokkaido, on Sunday.

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

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.

Ms Brewerton was told she would not be allowed to bathe because of the tattoo on her lips and chin.

An official from the public bath told Kyodo News agency the decision was made to avoid making other guests uncomfortable.

"Even if it is traditional culture, a typical person cannot judge the context behind the tattoos," the official said, according to Kyodo.