Tattooing in Japan Enjoys a Hard-Fought Victory

Japanese Tattoo

This last year has been an interesting one for the tattooing industry in Japan, one that Kotaku writer and published author Brian Ashcraft has done an amazing job covering extensively. While news had fallen relatively silent over the past couple of months following a ruling made by the Osaka High Court last fall, it was reported yesterday that the court’s decision to sentence Taiki Masuda over tattooing without a medical license had been overturned. This not only was a moment of relief for Taiki Masuda but a major turning point for the somewhat taboo tattoo industry in Japan as a whole.

Tattooing in Japan has long existed as a legal grey-area following a number of status changes throughout the years, ultimately putting the culture in a less than desirable place. But in 2015 things took a turn for the worse when Osaka police raided Taiki Masuda’s tattoo studio citing that he needed a medical license to practice his trade. This would eventually be taken to court, resulting in a much-documented case that would ultimately see Masuda losing, thus throwing the industry into a state of uncertainty.

It’s claimed that because tattooing involves the piercing of the skin, those practicing the trade require a medical license. The complication here is that there are no medical licenses specifically for tattoo artists, resulting in those wishing to practice the trade to become a fully-fledged doctor in the public eye. It’s a confusing system and was something that left enough room for it to be practiced as a grey market trade. With the initial ruling, however, there was no longer questioning whether or not the police would turn a blind eye to the artform.

With the rulings of the Osaka High Court yesterday, however, which would indeed lead to an overturn of the original case, the tattoo industry can once more sigh a breath of relief. During the overturn it was decided that tattooing should be viewed as an art form, rather than a medical practice. While this isn’t necessarily the end all be all of the decisions when it comes to the tattoo industry’s existence in Japan, it certainly does offer a great precedent for future instances.

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