World Rugby has advised the 20 teams contesting the 2019 World Cup, as well as fans attending the event, to cover up tattoos during the competition in order to avoid offending the hosts.
In Japan, tattoos are often associated with members of the Yakuza crime syndicates, and tattooed visitors can often find themselves banned from several places in the country such as temples and public baths.
“We have done a lot in the last year or so with the teams to get them to understand that,” Alan Gilpin, the tournament director, told the press on Thursday.
“When we raised it a year or so ago we were probably expecting a frustrated reaction from teams, and there hasn’t been at all. We won’t force any teams to cover up, but they want to because they want to be seen to be respecting the Japanese culture.
“We will make [Japanese] people aware around the facilities that players will use in the country that people with tattoos in a Rugby World Cup context are not part of the Yakuza, the Japanese mafia,” he added.
All Blacks to cover up their ink
Teams and supporters at next year's Rugby World Cup have been warned that they need to cover tattoos in public to avoid causing offence.— Eric Njiru (@Erik_Njiru) 20 September 2018
Players asked wear rash vests when they use public gyms or swimming pools as tattoos are associated in Japan with Yakuza, the Japanese mafia. pic.twitter.com/UGwSEouPgc
Current world champions the All Blacks have already confirmed their players will respect Japanese culture and cover up their tattoos.
Nigel Cass, New Zealand’s Rugby chief director, said the team always respect local customs and traditions while touring.
“When any of our teams tour we endeavour to be respectful of the local customs and culture, and this will be no different when we visit Japan both this year and next year.”
The Rugby World Cup begins on 20 September, 2019, with the opening match to be played between Japan and Russia at the Tokyo Stadium.