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Japan’s Supreme Court ‘Legalizes’ Tattoos in Historic Ruling


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    The Supreme Court of Japan ruled on Wednesday that tattooing people without a medical license is legal in a historic ruling, according to The Japan Times.

    Tattoos in Japan have remained a taboo point of art culture for being associated with members of Yakuza crime syndicates. Even today, many public facilities in Japan like bathhouses or swimming pools will not allow individuals with tattoos to enter.

    The Supreme Court ruling comes after a debate over the case of 32-year-old tattoo artist Taika Masuda who was arrested and fined ¥150,000 ($1,430) for tattooing three female customers without a medical license in Suita, Japan between 2014 and 2015.

    In Japan, a law known as the Medical Practitioners’ Act considers the process of getting a tattoo a medical procedure in regards to maintaining hygienic standards and preventing skin disorders, thereby requiring a medical license. 

    Masuda was found guilty in 2017 by an Osaka District Court. In 2018, the Osaka High Court overturned the ruling after deciding tattoos are for decorative and artistic purposes and not medical.

    Prosecutors then appealed the Osaka High Court’s decision, moving the case to Japan’s Supreme Court which ruled in favor of Masuda this week, cementing the High Court’s initial decision.

    “Tattooing is not considered medical treatment nor an act linked to health care,” the Supreme Court ruled, upholding that tattooing is “a practice seen since ancient times as part of regional customs,” according to RFI.

    Presiding Justice Koichi Kusano further elaborated that a new law should be made to establish safety measures to prevent risks from tattoo procedures performed by non-medical licensed tattoo artists in the future.

    Feature Image via elmimmo (CC BY 2.0)

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