Japan’s tattoo artists are facing a crisis
"Every tattoo artist is a licensed doctor. True Or False?" While almost everyone will answer "False", the Japanese Police decided the correct answer has to be "True".
In 2015, the police arrested different tattoo artists in Ôsaka and Nagoya for violating the Medical Practitioners' Law, after finding they did not have a doctor’s license, which the police deem necessary in order to perform tattooing. A deep understanding of the human body is undoubtedly crucial to providing clients with safety, but does this necessity really go so far as to merit obtaining a doctor’s license?
Instead of fixating on the enormous knowledge required by doctors in order to perform medical treatments, is it not more important to create a user-friendly and safe environment, based on hygiene management as emphasized by tattoo-practice?
Likewise, it would be difficult for a licensed doctor to obtain the expertise necessary to perform tattooing.
These standards are unrealistic. The police’s point of view does not match with the reality of this situation. Therefore, it is advisable to introduce a licensing system, as already exists in various foreign countries, for tattooing.
Why were the police suddenly able to legally pursue tattoo artists for "violating the Medical Practitioners' Law"?
Originally, a sudden increase of low-quality beauty salons resulted in the rise of complaints about the harm of permanent cosmetic treatments. The ministry of health, labour and welfare hence issued an offical notice, saying that the performing of permanent cosmetic treatments by employees of beauty salons without a doctor’s license would violate the Medical Practitioners’ Law. After reviewing the information for laws and regulations in the system database of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare it becomes evident that the section about "the handling of unlicensed performances of procedures such as hair removal" does apply to employees of beauty salons without a doctor’s license.
In April 2015 a distributor handling disinfenctants, used for tattoo tools, came under the suspicion of violating the Pharmaceutical Affairs Law and was investigated by the police. After finding the names of tattoo studios on a customer list the police requested their co-operation in further investigations. However, in a recent turn of events, the police arrested tattoo artists on suspicion of violating the Medical Practitioners’Law. Though these tattoo artists did not only fulfill their duties in hygiene management, but were also not recipients of any sort of complaints, the police forced these artists to comply with a legal regulation meant to apply only to permanent cosmetic treatments. Taiki Masuda, one of the affected tattoo artists, decided to express his position in protest against this matter.
"My job is not illegal!"
A legal interpretation out of touch with reality and the times
In recent years, many musicians and athletes have chosen to get a tattoo. Considering that overseas, regular people are getting tattoos too, Japan will see the arrival of many tattooed foreigners during the Tokyo Olympics. The recent arrests are going against the current trends towards tattoo acceptance in the rest of the world, which is why we cannot afford to leave this outdated legal interpretation as it is: We have to understand this situation is an opportunity to put into practice adequate regulations for tattooing.
Tattoo culture and the crisis for freedom of self-expression
Up until now, the police didn’t legally pursue regular tattoo artists, aside from individuals involved in organized crime. However, this time around, innocent tattoo artists have been arrested. This means that all tattoo artists, as long as they are unable to obtain a doctor’s license, will not be able to carry out their work. Certainly there are people who associate the words "tattoo" and "irezumi" with antisocial individuals and imagine all kinds of unpleasant things. Still, tattoos are permeating through Japan as a part of fashion and art. Is it really okay to exclude tattoos based on a mere image of old times, without considering the attitudes of the rest of the world? Acting like this is nothing less then a threat, putting other aspects of culture that have been cultivated for so many years at risk of the same treatment. Japanese tattooing culture has existed since the Edo period and its sophisticated techniques and artistry are highly praised all around the world. Is it really okay to allow Japan's unique tattooing culture to disappear through sudden arrests by the police? At this rate, a part of Japanese culture will be driven to extinction because of a legal interpretation incompatible with reality and the times.
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Photos by Chillagano Photography http://www.chillagano.com