Will my tattoos offend the locals in Japan?

Japan is high on the travel list for my wife and myself and among the experiences to enjoy are onsens. However I have tattoos and while not head-to-toe, neither are they small. The last thing I want to do is offend. How are attitudes towards tattoos?
G. Wilson, Rozelle, NSW

Brush up on onsen etiquette.

Brush up on onsen etiquette.Credit: iStock

Although tattooed bodies were traditionally banned from Japan’s onsens and bathhouses due to their negative associations with criminality and gang affiliations, the restriction appears to be relaxing, especially for foreigners. Even the Japan National Tourism Organisation has a webpage devoted to tattoo-friendly onsens.

There are worse things you can do in a Japanese onsen than displaying tatts, such as getting soap in the water. It’s my impression that the tattoo taboo might be overstated. I was once in a modest neighbourhood bathhouse in Tokyo when a yakuza walked in. He was impressively tattooed but it didn’t seem to be a big deal. No fuss, nobody said anything. But then they wouldn’t, would they?

We are planning to drive along the west coast of Turkey over six to seven days, stopping at Ephesus and Pamukkale. Any other suggestions and how many days should we stop at these two sites?
A. Pickard, Artarmon, NSW

A full day at Ephesus is usually enough, and you might base yourselves at nearby Sirince, originally a Greek village abandoned in the aftermath of the Greco-Turkish War of 1919-22 and repopulated by Turkish residents. Apart from a new mosque, it’s little changed. Set on a pine-covered hillside, overlooking vineyards and olive groves, Sirince’s whitewashed walls, ochre tiled roofs and knitted alleyways are an irresistible attraction. Wandering through the town takes you along a procession of flagstoned lanes and into tiny squares with grapevines and oleanders creeping up the sides of the houses. It’s a unified townscape, free from the concrete-box horrors that blight much of southern Turkey. I’d stay three nights then drive to Pamukkale.

Besides the wonderland of the White Terraces there’s plenty more to take in here including the ruins of Hierapolis, the Archaeology Museum, a dip in Cleopatra’s Pool, Karahayit Red Springs, Laodicea and Kaklik Cave. Three nights would be just enough, four is better.


I plan to catch the catamaran or ferry from Dubrovnik to Split for a mini “cruise” of the islands. I am not a great sailor. What happens if the weather is too rough and the boat cannot sail or is otherwise seriously delayed?
B. Phillips, Westleigh, NSW

There are several ferry companies such as Jadrolinija and Krilo that operate daily services between Dubrovnik and Split. The trip takes about five hours. The coast here is well sheltered by islands, the sea is typically calm and even those prone to motion sickness should have no real difficulty, but you should take medication to counteract motion sickness and sit outside.

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