Rugby players to cover their tattoos in Japan   ラグビー選手の入れ墨

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Hooker Shota Horie (right) is one of the two captains of Japan's rugby team

Shota Horie (right) is one of the two captains of the Japanese rugby team

The official 2019 Rugby World Cup logo

The official 2019 Rugby World Cup logo

The Sanja Matsuri is one of the rare occasion when the yakuza publicly display their tattoos.

The Sanja Matsuri is one of the rare occasions when the yakuza publicly display their tattoos.

 Official World Cup 2019 Mascots Ren-G

Official World Cup 2019 Mascots Ren-G

The Japanese scrum (in red) fights against the French team (in white)

The Japanese scrum (in red) versus the French team (in white)

No tattoos!

Japan will host the next Rugby World Cup™ from September 20 to November 2, 2019. Because of Japan's views on tattoos, it has been decided that the rugby players will cover up their tattoos during the event - a request that has been relayed by international bodies of the sport.

The mark of the yakuza

In Japan, it's forbidden to enter most onsen if you have tattooed skin. It can also be the same for gyms or public baths. The reason for this is that tattoos are as seen an art form linked with the yakuza, the Japanese crime syndicate. Indeed, members of the yakuza have a habit of being heavily inked, with a tattoo collection that grows over the years to cover the entire body. The practice is so well-known that the Japanese tend to collectively see any tattoo as a mark of belonging to the yakuza.

Read more Tattoos in Japan

 The type of tattoo worn by yakuza and banned in onsen Japan.

The type of tattoo worn by yakuza and banned in onsen Japan.

Sonny Bill Williams

Sonny Bill Williames, All-Blacks player

Willing to adapt 

For more than a year now, Rugby institutions have started an awareness campaign on this issue with the various national teams. And the players seem receptive. "When we approached the teams with [the issue] about a year ago, we were expecting a reaction of frustration from them, but that wasn't the case at all," said Rugby World Cup™ boss Alan Gilpin. He also explained that an awareness campaign  will be carried out among Japanese residents living around the teams' facilities, to reassure them they aren't members of the yakuza.

The teams have directly communicated their willingness to adapt to local sensitivities. The New Zealand team, which has a number of players with Maori tattoos, will cover these marks, as captain Nigel Cass says: "When one of our teams is on tour, we make sure to respect local customs and culture, and there will be no difference when we visit Japan this year and next year ".

No official rule has been imposed on the players, but respecting this constraint has been agreed by all involved, and in fact has already been seen in previous years, when national teams such as Italy, Ireland, Wales or Scotland came to play in Japan.

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