New Zealand woman Erana Te Haeata Brewerton has been barred from entering a bathhouse in Japan because of her facial tattoo, her "ta moko," which identifies her Maori origin. The incident has caused international controversy, which prompted Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga to weigh in.
Ms Brewerton, 60, is the daughter of the late Dame Katerina Mataira, a respected New Zealand Maori language proponent. She was in Japan on Sunday to speak at an indigenous languages conference when she tried to visit a public bath in Eniwa in northern Hokkaido.
But Ms Brewerton, who has a tattoo between her lips and chin, was denied entry from the bath house. Many public baths and other establishments in Japan refuse entry to people with body art because tattoos are often associated with yakuza organised crime syndicates.
"We protested, saying the tattoo was not anything anti-social and that only respected people are allowed to wear them in her culture," Kenji Sekine, an Ainu language lecturer, was quoted by Japan Times as saying.
But an official from the public bath insisted that they had to enforce their policy to avoid making other customers feel uncomfortable.
"Even if it is traditional culture, a typical person cannot judge the context behind the tattoos," the bath house official told Kyodo News agency.
Ms Brewerton was understandably upset about the incident, telling AFP that she was "not used to being treated like that."
"My moko tells other Maori where I am from," she said,
The Sunday incident happened just hours after Japan has been announced as the host of the 2020 Olympics, prompting Mr Suga to remind citizens to be understanding of other people's culture.
"It is important to respect the cultures of foreign countries, considering we will host the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and expect many visitors... to come to Japan," he told reporters.
Vicious Obituary Of Nevada Woman Marianne Theresa Johnson-Reddick Goes Viral [Read]
Prince William Admits To Dreaming Of Africa, Hopes To Pass Love Of Wildlife On To Son George [Read]
To contact the editor, e-mail: