ca*singing tl;dr intro song*
pa pa pa pa pa pa pa pa… [Simon] Old school viewers will know what this pig stool is about. [Martina] I’m quite tiny. Not really, I’m 5’7″ and a half but Simon is very large. [Simon] And I’m actually doing the splits as well right now in order for Martina to fit [Martina] So it is the return of the pig stool.
[Simon] Hey! [Martina] This pig stool took us a long time to find, you know? It was the correct height for both of us. [Simon] So I just finished getting my tattoo done here in Japan and we figured, since we both have tattoos and we both live in Japan, we could talk a little bit about what it’s like to have tattoos in Japan. [Martina] To begin with, I know a lot of people seem to think that Japanese people are terrified of tattoos [Simon] *gasps* OH!
[Martina] Right? It seems like everyone we see online – “I have tattoos and I’m worried about coming to Tokyo. Are people gonna run from me?” [Simon] “I have a little butterfly on my wrist and I worry that somebody’s gonna see it and they’re gonna be really really scared, and I’m not gonna be able to go anywhere and they won’t even let me off the airplane.” [Martina] Ok so, that is a total false – I was gonna say “it’s a false lie!” but doesn’t that already mean false? [Simon] This is actually perpetrated in music as well.
[Martina] Oh yeah, that Frank- [Simon] Frank Ocean, I love you to pieces. ‘Blonde’ is one of my favorite albums of all time, but in ‘Chanel’ you said “Hide my tattoos in Shibuya. Police think I’m of the underworld”. Frankie –we’re on first name terms now-, the police don’t think you’re of the underworld. You’re in Shibuya! You’re in the tourist central!
[Martina] It’s like being in New York’s Times Square. [Simon] Nobody thinks that you’re part of the underworld! [Martina] Let’s just dispel this mist immediately, ok?
*silence* Well… I said “mist”, didn’t I? [Simon] You said “mist”. Dispel the mist!
[Martina] Dispel this myth. Let’s dispel this myth immediately. There’s Japanese people that live in Japan, they look Japanese, they talk Japanese. When you show up in Japan and you don’t look like a Japanese person, they immediately think to themselves “You’re not part of the underworld”. [Simon] Right? [Martina] It doesn’t matter if you’re black and you speak Japanese, if you’re white and you speak Japanese, or even if you’re East Asian but you don’t look Japanese, they’re gonna say “You guys are foreigners”. [Simon] People don’t think that we’re part of the yakuza, they don’t think we’re part of the underworld. I’m not part of the Ducky Squad, you’re not part of the Cupcake Crew. ([Martina] The Puppy Crew!) [Simon] Alright? So don’t be worried about people thinking that you’re a bad person for having tattoos. [Martina] In our neighborhood we have a lot of old people… [Simon] Yeap. [Martina] And when they saw my tattoos, a lot of people were intrigued. They wanted to touch it or talk about it [Simon] Older people! Not just people in their 30’s and 40’s, but people in their 70’s, 80’s… 170’s… People live to a really ripe old age here. [Martina] Yes. But, for real, they’re very interested. Somebody asked me once “oh, is this paint?” and they literally reached out and touched my arm, and I remember a couple of times we went to izakayas, and there was a guy working there who clearly looked like HE was part of a gang… He was Japanese and he had his sleeves covered up to here, but we could see his tattoos dripping underneath a little bit and he was really stern faced. The two of us were kinda like “We’re new to Japan, where did we wander?”. Actually, for those who listen to our podcast, it was on the dark side of Kichijoji. [Simon] Yes. *laughs* LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST!
[Martina] *whispers* Listen to our podcast! When I took off my sweater this guy comes over, and then he went “Kawaiiiiii!!!”. Literally broke into almost a Honey Senpai voice and then he asked to see it. And I had to pull up my sleeve further, and he was like “oh my god, this is so cute!” So it doesn’t even matter that he’s got representation of his own tattoos that mean something to him. He wasn’t offended that I had tattoos. [Simon] So people visiting Japan, stop sh****ng your pants about this. You’re not gonna have a rough time. There are some things you might be limited from experiencing because of some archaic tattoo laws that a lot of people don’t necessarily agree with. [Martina] There are a lot of problems with going to onsens, which is the hot springs. A lot of them have that sign up that says “NO TATTOOS”. You can get around it in some ways if you have a small tattoo and you can put a bandage on it or a waterproof sticker bandage. But just to be honest with you guys, if you have a teeny tiny tattoo – some people are like “I have a small tattoo on my lower back”. You’re getting into an area with a towel on, you’re taking this towel off, rinsing off and getting into hot water. It’s not like people are going -tah!- and zeroing in on your butt cheeks and then rushing off to the authorities at the front desk. [Simon] There are some onsens, like the one we did a video about, that’s totally okay with people having tattoos. [Martina] There’s Dogo Onsen, which is one of the most famous onsens, apparently that’s where Studio Ghibli had its inspiration for Spirited Away, and in that place tattoos have always been fine, they’ve never placed a ban on it. [Simon] And there are some onsens that kind of operate in the gray area, for places that I haven’t actually taken you yet, but I’ve been planning some secret places. [Martina] *gasp* Is it for my birthday? Is it ‘cause it’s gonna be my birthday? Are you making plans for my birthday? [Simon] AND… what they said is that they don’t overtly say that they’re ok with tattoos but they say they’re ok with tattoos. But it’s always nice for you to call and make sure you check if they’re ok with it beforehand. [Martina] If you’re living in Japan, one of the bigger problems can be getting a gym membership. [Simon] Here in Kichijoji there are a few major gym chains that I tried to apply for membership, and I was completely covered up, nobody saw anything, and on the form they said “do you have any tattoos?”, and Martina said “you should just lie about it,” but I’m an honest person and I hate lying in every situation. [Martina] Chotto matte kudasai (Wait a moment). Let me explain why. Because Simon works out in long sleeve shirts and he wasn’t planning on showering there, I said if you’re covering up your tattoos, which P.S., I looked up online- many foreigners living in Japan lie about their tattoos and never show it. But some people said they covered up their tattoos and then in the change room when they took their shirt off they were reported because they had tattoos. [Simon] And there are people like me that operate with a moral compass and don’t wanna lie under any circumstances, [Martina] Ok…
[Simon] so I couldn’t get a gym membership here. There are supposedly other gyms- I hear that Gold’s Gym, from what people have told me, is ok with tattoos. [Martina] in more of the foreign neighborhoods.
[Simon] Yeah, that’s a little bit too far from where we are so I just built a gym in my backyard and I had my little rinky dink squat rack, rusted… [Martina] He works out in the snow… [Simon] Working out in the rain is sad. Let me tell you, it’s sad. [Martina] I go to the community center which is- every city and every local area will have… [Simon] A rec center.
[Martina] Like a rec center. I was told that I REALLY have to cover up all my tattoos because it’s considered to be an area for children and for old people. They are gonna be a lot more uncomfortable and nervous if they see these tattoos, so when I went to the gym I made sure that I wore hoodies, zipped up. AND IT WAS AWFUL! [Simon] If you sweat more, you burn more calories, I guess…? It’s good for you [Martina] No, I was so sweaty, and I remember doing one of the weight things and my sleeve went up and I was so terrified that somebody would notice. [Simon] Actually, the music stopped, there was a record player scratch, and everyone was like *GASP* “Yakuza!” [Martina] There was actually no music.
[Simon] That didn’t happen. Nobody did that. [Martina] No. But I do go swimming, -That’s a lie, I went once.- at my local rec center. I plan to go more, ok?
[Simon] You should go more, girl. [Martina] I have to wear a- like a skinsuit.
[Simon] a body condom. [Martina] A body condom, that’s the correct term. *joking* It’s a long sleeved one that goes from here to here. Zips up to my neck, and I have to wear that when I go swimming, but you also have to wear a shower cap, that little- not a shower cap.. *laughs* [Simon] Swim cap.
[Martina] A swim cap. [Martina] Asia loves their swim caps. Korea, obsessed with swim caps, Japan… [Simon] I have more hair on my chest than on my head, am I gonna wear a swim cap on my chest? [Martina] The last time we went to Korea we stayed at a hotel and Simon got into the pool without a swim cap on. –‘Cause he’s bald!- And they were like “you have to wear a swim cap”, and I’m like, *points at bald head* “but… it doesn’t… make sense”. [Simon] Where is the logic in this right here? [Martina] Another place where we had a little bit of problem with our tattoos is when we went to the beach, and we were able to sit on these little tiny café side huts and they were serving food and beer and snacks and stuff, and when I went to try to go into one of them, the guy at the door said I have to put a towel or something just to cover my tattoo. [Simon] As did I. I had to cover mine up as well. [Martina] Yeah. And they had sings that said “No Tattoos”. [Simon] The logic behind it is that “all yakuzas have tattoos” so if you just ban all tattoos no yakuza will be able to come, but that also winds up hurting the people that aren’t yakuza. [Martina] What was interesting was the guy that was telling us that we can’t come in also said to us when we were leaving “Can I see your tattoos?”, “I really like it, it so cute”. ([Simon] He was totally cool with it!) [Martina] So even though the Japanese people know that the tattoos aren’t necessarily taboo or worrisome, they still have to enforce these kinds of archaic laws .
[Simon] that people don’t fully agree with. When it comes to getting tattoos in Japan, you might’ve realized that I haven’t actually told you where I got my tattoo in Japan because I actually asked the studio if it’s ok for me to do so and they said that they don’t want that much publicity. A lot of tattoo shops, when they become too popular get raided by the police because there’s a weird law in Japan that kind of makes it illegal to do tattoos, even though it doesn’t necessarily target tattoos themselves. [Martina] It is NOT illegal to have a tattoo parlor in Japan, it’s NOT illegal to get tattoos in Japan. The illegal thing is that Japan has made it a law that in order for you to give tattoos, to do hair removal, and to do chemical peels, you have to have a doctor’s license. ([Simon] Yes) [Martina] But tattoo artists are saying, “You want me to go for 5 to 6 years to get my doctorate so that I can give a tattoo?” and on top of that, just because you have your doctorate’s degree doesn’t mean you’re an artist. And that doesn’t mean you can draw. [Simon] So the big argument in Japan is: Are tattoos a medical procedure or are they art? I tend to think it’s art, you think it’s art, a lot of people think it’s art, but according to the law they’re still treating it like a medical procedure so you’re not allowed to give or do tattoos in Japan. [Martina] So, in 2015 there was a famous court case that was going on in Osaka. A tattoo artist was raided by the police, and they charged him $3000, so he decided to go to court and fight it. Unfortunately, he did lose his court case. He ended up halving the price of the fine, but he said he’s still not giving up on this fight, and so there are a lot of websites that are petitioning and trying to get people to talk more about Japanese tattoo culture and trying to keep it going. And one thing that I read that I thought was actually pretty moving was that people keep thinking of it as just, like, a tattoo thing, but people in Japan are saying “This is historical, this is part of our culture”. This aspect of Japanese culture is going to get lost as this law is causing people to shut down and close their shops. Japan’s been tattooing for hundreds and hundreds of years, and they’ve been tattooing- and it WASN’T illegal. And it wasn’t even made for criminals. [Simon] But this is just our perspective form the research that we have. I’m sure there’re many more nuances to the argument that we’re not aware of, so please let us know in the comment section bellow. We wanna have a healthy discussion about this and see what you guys think about it as well. [Martina] So what do you guys think about tattoo culture? Even if you don’t have a tattoo, do you think that tattoos should still be banned in the onsens and on beaches? [Simon] So that’s it for our video on tattoos in Japan. For those of you that wanna know what this tattoo of mine means, because I just got it done, make sure you click on the link here and then I’ll tell you my very emotional story about what this tattoo means to me. Do you know what was a fun memory? Doing these videos again. We haven’t stood up and done a TL;DR like this in… [Martina] I know!
[Simon]… a very long time. [Martina] And look! It’s our old- it’s a kitchen, it’s kinda like our old one. [Simon] we used to sit in the kitchen when we did our first… [Martina] If you guys are joining us and you’re new, when we were in Korea we used to do these videos in our kitchen and then it slowly moved depending on the houses. ([Simon] I had red hair back then.) [Martina] You had hair back then
[Simon] … True. [Martina] Yes. [Simon] It’s gone now.
[Martina] It’s gone! Now let’s edit this monster of a video.
Ha! It’s so long, we talk so much.