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'Tattoo OK' hot spa map released in Rugby World Cup host in Japan

OITA (Kyodo) -- A Japanese hot spa resort area in a host of next year's Rugby World Cup has offered an online map showing "onsen" spots opening the doors to visitors who have tattoos, typically disfavored in the country due to their longtime links to gangsters.

    The city office of Beppu in the RWC host prefecture of Oita, has prepared the online map on the website titled "100 Tattoo-allowed Hot Springs" based on the understanding that tattoos are part of traditional culture in such countries as New Zealand whose national rugby team will play in Oita, near Beppu, during the Sept. 20-Nov. 2 tournament.

    "We don't want to disappoint people who come all the way from anywhere else" as the operators of many public baths refuse guests with tattoos, a city official said, explaining why the city created the map based on Google Maps.

    On the map, signs of hot springs come in three colors -- blue for 50 facilities, orange for 40 others and dark blue for the remaining 10.

    Blue means the facility allows visitors having tattoos in large baths anytime, while orange facilities ask such guests only to use private baths. At dark blue facilities those who have tattoos can soak their hands and feet in onsen tubs.

    Beppu has more than 2,000 hot springs, according to the city's website. But roughly 70 percent of inns and hotels in the city bar guests with tattoos from using their baths out of concern tattoos could displease other guests or even scare them.

    "It's difficult to distinguish" between gangsters and other guests when both have tattoos, said a representative for an accommodation facility in the area.

    "There are a lot of foreign tourists who look forward to visiting onsen hot springs at inns and hotels," said Tatsuya Kawamura who works for B-biz Link, an affiliate organization of the city which created the digital map.

    Kawamura, 34, said he will encourage the operators of inns and hotels which currently ban tattoos in Beppu to take measures such as designating a "tattoo OK" time so more visitors can enjoy onsen.

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