Tattoos in Japan / Tattoo studio LaRuche in Shinjuku

 As  you may have already noticed  — I LOVE TATTOOS. I honestly think that tattooed bodies are beautiful and tattooing is art. I remember I have wanted a tattoo since I was, maybe, 14 years old? Just a few months after I turned 18, I got my first tattoos…I’m almost 24, and I’m currently planning to turn my quarter sleeve right arm tattoo into a proper half sleeve. It’s going to be gorgeous.


Where will I get it? I guess I’ll get it done at the same studio where I got other tattoos….

Studio LaRuche in Shinjuku!

Some time ago I decided it was high time for me to get my arm tattoo fixed. I got a kokeshi done a few years back, but, I won’t lie – it was cheap and after 3 years you couldn’t even tell what colours were used. Anyway! I found this magazine called Tattoo♥Girls in some bookstore, I don’t remember the name, but you can get it in Village Vanguard or Kinokuniya. I really recommend buying this magazine if you want to get a tattoo in Japan. You’ll find descriptions of many different studios, not only in Tokyo but also in Osaka and Kyoto. I bought this magazine in July last year, but it wasn’t until December when I decided I should finally get my tattoo re-done. Somehow, LaRuche appealed to me.

By the way, guess who’s going to be in the newest issue of Tattoo♥Girls? Surprise, surprise — me! 😀 I’ll definitely make a blog post about it once I get my hands on the 2014 issue of the magazine, which will be on sale in July!


 I sent an email to LaRuche and got a prompt reply. They told me to come to the studio, so we could talk about my tattoo, how we could try to fix it, choose a new design etc. The tattoo artist Betty and her assistant Sekiguchi-san are honestly some of the nicest people on the face of this Earth. They’re really kind and super funny, I can’t recommend them highly enough.

Just look at these little pieces of art Betty created on my body. My arm tattoo design is entirely her idea, I just told her what I wanted and trusted her with everything. She turned my poorly drawn kokeshi into a colourful beauty. I didn’t know what it would look like until the very last session.

At the time when the photo was taken, the tattoo was still really fresh so it didn’t look so good, but trust me, my kokeshi is a total cutie now.

Notice mini-me on the fan ↓


 Second tattoo done at LaRuche. A tribute to my childhood – Sailor Senshi planetary symbols.

Who didn’t love Sailor Moon as a child?


I’m crazy in love with my tattoos. I know I can’t remove them, I know I’ll have them even when I’m old and wrinkled – and that’s exactly what I love about them. And if you ask me about having tattoos in Japan…Well, is it really so different than other countries? Here’s a few answers to the most frequent questions I have been asked.

“How did you get a job in Japan? You have tattoos!”

I had qualifications, I passed all the interviews. I didn’t come to the interview wearing a sleeveless shirt, saying “Eyyyy what’s up, look at my tats”.

“Do you hide your tattoos at work?”

Do I…? I have a good understanding of Japanese business etiquette and personally, I don’t find wearing piercings / low-cut tops / sleeveless shirts appropriate either. Even if it was okay, I just wouldn’t show my tattoos. So what do I do with the visible ones? I put some beige tape on them whenever I have to. Sometimes people I meet ask me “what happened, are you hurt?” I answer it’s nothing serious, they don’t ask, I don’t tell.

“How about other people? People on the street? Your friends?”

Honestly? I have never heard any bad words about my tattoos. All I’ve ever heard was “So cute! Adorable! You’re soo cool!”. I think that the fact that I am not a big scary dude driving around in a big black car helps me here a lot. Anyway, my friends love my tattoos, I get compliments from people on the street, some people can’t get their hands off of my kokeshi (*cough cough Shin-Okubo cough*).

People do stare. But is there a country where they don’t? I know that in other countries it might be more common to have tattoos so people don’t even care anymore. But in Japan – it’s a vicious circle. A long time ago tattoos had a really bad image, so you wouldn’t really see them in public. Nowadays more and more young people get tattoos but thinking others will criticize them, they still don’t show them in public – therefore other people think it’s rare – but in fact it’s not –  therefore they stare whenever they see tattooed people…. Could ya follow that?

The only situation when I feel uncomfortable is when I’m alone, on the street or on the train, and I wear clothes showing my tattoos. You know that feeling when you can feel eyes on you? Yup. So in the summer I always wear a thin cardigan whenever there’s no friend by my side. Not a big sacrifice, is it?

How about onsen / swimming pool / gym / beauty salons?

First and foremost, I will not go to a public onsen ever again. Let’s say my first onsen experience was quite shocking, because at that time I believed that what they show on TV — people wrapped in towels relaxing in the bath — was true. Needless to say, the reality hit me hard in the face. For someone who would have never imagined bathing with any other person, let alone like 30 other people, that was traumatizing. Naked people. Looking at you. Because you’re foreign. And you have tattoos. And you’re naked too. I managed to force myself to stay there for about 10 minutes.

I think that was one of the worst experiences I have had in Japan so far. No more public onsen for me, nope  n o p e  NOOOPE. You can always book a private onsen, and trust me, it’s waaaaay better than bathing with a bunch of strangers judging you, while you’re standing there naked and powerless.

Swimming pool? When I stayed in Okinawa last year, I had no problem using the hotel swimming pool, neither have I heard any comments. The same goes for the beach. No problem at all.

Gyms and public swimming pools though, are another story. You can’t attend them if you have tattoos. I hate working out so I’m fine with that. And if you like sports…try jogging maybe? Why pay for a gym?

And yeah…beauty salons. Some time ago I wanted to get a nice professional massage (sitting at my desk 12 hours a day, getting stiff shoulders and stuff). I found a nice place, was about to book an appointment and then I saw a very politely written notice that said something like:

 “We’re really really sorry, but we can’t serve clients with tattoos”



But! What I did was finding another Japanese massage place where you just wear clothes like pajamas and they even cover you with a warm blanket, it’s all nice and cozy and nobody cares if you have tattoos or not.

You see, it’s not bad at all. Kokeshi approves.

photo 3_meitu_1


Getting back on track….

My favourite tattoo studio!

tattoo studio LaRuche

〒160-0022 Tokyo, Shinjuku, 5 Chome−9−12


This is what it looks like outside…you can’t miss it.

 Notice adorable tattooed Betty Boop  ↓



Tattoo prices depend on the size, colour, difficulty, style…everything. They are much more expensive than in Europe…like maybe, 5 times as expensive? But now that I think about it, I realize that’s a good thing. A tattoo is something you’ll have for the rest of your natural life. You get something inked on your body. Does the price really matter?

If  you feel you’d like to get something, but you’re not really sure what, LaRuche has countless tattoo magazines (most of them are foreign), beautiful photos of wabori tattoos, picture books full of tattoo ideas and of course Betty, who is a really talented artist.





You can get a fixed price tattoo and choose a design from the “12,000 yen campaign” tattoos. They also have a “5,000 yen small size tattoo campaign” and you can find some really adorable tiny designs there.

Yes, Japanese people often get tribals, butterflies, mysterious shapes, English quotes etc…



 Tattoo time!


This time I decided to get something cute, because I like cute things, and that’s a good reason to get more ink, right?


 Choosing the colours I wanted….


Let’s do this!


Yay! My super-duper-adorable tiny hearts. When I put my arms together, the hearts connect into one heart. How cute is that.


↓Betty-san and her assistant Sekiguchi-san. 2 really awesome people ↓


Have you ever seen any cuter tattoo artist?


 And Sekiguchi-san, he is the funniest and friendliest Japanese man I have ever met. You’ll love getting your tattoos here.



If you worry about having tattoos in Japan – don’t. Why worry? If you love both, tattoos and Japan, why give up one thing for another? People’s mentality will change eventually.

If you live in Japan and  you’re looking for a friendly place to get your first tattoo / get your tattoos fixed or covered up — studio LaRuche is the place to go. Any questions? Leave a comment!

If you’d like to book an appointment at LaRuche, ask them about prices, or need someone to go there with you to translate for you – please contact me!


or here

 Thanks for reading





32 thoughts on “Tattoos in Japan / Tattoo studio LaRuche in Shinjuku

  1. Your tattoos are so cute! I went with a friend to get his tattoo done somewhere else in Shibuya, and he winced in pain so much. I have really low pain tolerance, so I’m not sure if I could ever get a tattoo 😦

    However, if I ever work up enough courage and I’m back in Japan, I’ll definitely go to this studio 😀

    • Really? Somehow I find that feeling of getting tattooed addicting, you can get used to it I guess 🙂 let me know when you come to Tokyo again^^

    • I called them first and we decided the date of the counseling meeting, when I went there we decided the date of my first session so I didn’t have to contact them via email, but it’s fine if you do. They speak some basic English (very very basic, but I can’t really assess their level because we spoke Japanese) but it’s okay, you’ll have no problems communicating, they have many foreign clients. If you decide to go there, email me and I can help you make an appointment 🙂

      • Wow thanks that’s will help me a lot! I will be in Tokyo from 14 july to the 29. It was an old dream and i want definitly get a tattoo from Japan 🙂 Can i have your email? Really thanks you so much!

  2. this post is really interesting i just knew something like “you may have some problems if you hav tats” but i didn’t know much about it! thanks for writing this!!

  3. Great story! Love your tats! I was in Tokyo last year and went to Betty for a koi tattoo (I live in Hawaii). She was recommended by a friend, and I couldn’t be happier. I second everything you said about Betty and Sekiguchi-san, they’re wonderful people and made me feel very comfortable even though I don’t speak Japanese. Betty did a beautiful job on my tattoo and I get compliments on it all the time. I want to go back to Japan just to get another one from her! Follow her on Facebook and see her work.

    • Thank you for your comment! I’m planning on getting a koi tattoo as a part of my half sleeve and -of course – I’ll go to Betty again.

  4. I got my half sleeve done in Chopsticks Tattoo in Osaka, Ben was really good, his work is amazing. When I lived in Japan I volunteered more rural; Takarazuka, and I was always alone as my volunteer partner bailed before going, if I had my tattoos out I’d get comments and whispers. However in the center of Osaka it was more ‘normal’. I think if you’re not somewhere used to tourists you’ll get very self conscious as everyone stares because your foreign and tattooed 😛

    Can’t wait to come back to Tokyo in September though, might pop in there with my boyfriend and get a little something added 🙂

    You’re a beauty!

    • Thank you for your comment 🙂 I never show my tattoos when I go to the place where I volunteer, though kids do know I have them. They don’t mind at all, they just ask cute questions like “Did it hurt?” “Can you remove it?” and they know they shouldn’t say anything in front of their Japanese chaperons. And yeah, whenever I go out of Tokyo, I wear long sleeves. As you said some people in small towns are not used to seeing a foreigner, let alone a foreigner with lots of tattoos 😛

      • Aha I got the can you remove it comment quite a lot, but I volunteered in a care home with disabled residents with a set uniform which unfortunately showed my tattoos and although I had bought a white underlay they didn’t mind too much. Although in hindsight i should have worn it anyway.

        Love how kids are so innocent and they think asking about them is naughty in a cute way. Think i always feel more at home in Tokyo, even though I spent the least time there. Two weeks soon though to thrift and buy more make up. Nothing compared to Japanese make up for me. But now in going off subject :p have a lovely day!

  5. Really amazing blog post! And your tattoos are incredibly cute 🙂
    I live in Germany and I also have a tattoo, but on my wrist. When people see that they are kinda shocked like “Woooah, you have tattoo???” although a lot of people here have tattoos, so I don´t really understand what´s so special about it.
    I´m getting another one next week because I actually don´t care what others think about it. I think as long as you´re happy with it then it´s fine 🙂

    • Exactly what you said, just do whatever makes you happy and doesn’t affect anyone :)))

  6. This is a really interesting topic, i have a lot of friends who ask me about this and seeing as I have no tattoos myself I can’t really answer them. Will definitely be sharing this post! 🙂 on another note, is this the place with the little tattooed flying baby doll hanging in the front?

    • Thanks! And I think you’re thinking about some other place, I haven’t seen a tattooed flying baby doll….though that sounds rather interesting 😀 I must find that studio haha

      • I think it’s somewhere in harajuku, on one of the windy streets near omotesando… i found it while wandering about with my friend one day, i’ll have to show you a picture

  7. Your tattoos are so cute! Especially the Sailor Moon one! A while back I was actually thinking of getting a Sailor Moon tribute one myself, but just, like a crescent or something. But yeah, I’d love to visit that shop!

    And I totally get what you mean about public onsens. Even when you’re not tattooed they are so hard go to :/ I went to one when I was about 14/5 and felt so uncomfortable that I have literally avoided them at all costs… unless it was completely necessary on like 合宿 and stuff like that.

  8. Hi Stasia! I’m your Italian fan 😀 I’ll be with my friend in August in Tokyo, and we would go to a waterpark, but we have some tattoos, on the arms and the chest, but they do not enter people with tattoos, but if well covered we hope to enter wearing t-shirt to plunge into water, and I would like to ask you if you know if you allow access to people who want to wear clothes in the water. if the answer is yes, the managers do inspections on entering or during the stay?
    I hope I was understandable, would be really grateful if you give me an answer, I would really love to know! especially because if we decide to go to the waterpark (we had thought to Tokyo Summerland) we would not be expelled >.>
    Best regards and thanks ^-^

    • One time I wanted to join a public swimming pool and I was told that if I had only one tattoo, not bigger than 10 cm I would be able to enter, but with my tattoos I would have to wear a swimming suit covering everything. I don’t really think you’re allowed to wear clothes in the pool, the only option is buying a special swimsuit like this (which would be pretty much same as wearing clothes but it’s actually a swimsuit) I guess you can buy it cheaply on eBay 😉 in my case I would have to wear a swimsuit with long sleeves and I thought it’s too troublesome and I gave up 😦

      • I should also wear a costume with long sleeves, I have tattoos on the forearm big enough, so I guess I will buy the surfing suit, or something like that xD hoping that they have nothing to say :/ is that we want to go in a swimming pool, we are already were in August in Japan and is very hot, we would like to freshen up a bit at least for a day, that we will remain almost the whole month 😀 anyway thanks for the answer ❤ ❤

  9. Hi Stasia! Just wanting to tell you that thanks to you I’m encouraged to get (at least) a quarter sleeve tattoo done – I mean, I always wanted to have a lot of tattoos but since I want to be a teacher in Japan I thought I couldn’t have any of them in parts where they can be seen easily (for example in the arm) so I started to think of having them in “hidden” places. But knowing and reading about your experience gave me courage of having tattoos done wherever I want! 😀

    Hope to see your beautiful quarter sleeve turn to a half-sleeve one soon!

    • Thank you so much for your comment ❤ Tattoos are beautiful and I wouldn't give up on them for sure 🙂 do you have a blog or instagram? I'd love to see your tattoos once you get them 🙂

      • Yes I have instagram but I don’t use it too much but if you want when I get them I will metion you so you can see them! 🙂 the thing is that I’m uncertain about which one should I get first, if the quarter sleeve or the thigh or the back one haha 😀 Which one would you recommend me?

      • Mention me or let me know in a comment it’s you and I’ll follow you 🙂 My first big tattoo was the back one, then I got the quarter sleeve one and I guess I’ll get a thigh tattoo one day too ^^ the thigh one should be the easiest to hide though…hmm decisions decisions

  10. Do you have any plans on getting a tattoo done the old/traditional Japanese way, with the long pokey stick things? (detailed description, I know). I’ve seen videos on it, and it looks amazing!

    Great post btw! Very helpful and useful information! 🙂

  11. Hi! I’m searching for tattoo places because i’ll be visiting japan in a couple months, but I have no idea what are the prizes like there, do you know how much could cost a 20-30cm tattoo, black and white? In a good place (i dont care paying more if its going to be better)

  12. Hey! Nice post 🙂 I am searching for a tattoo stduio in Tokyo and I love LaRuche ^^ But it is way too expensive. On their site, they wrote that 500Yen coin size starts with 35000 yen. 350$ for such a tiny thing??? (¥35.000~ コイン/アイフォンサイズ)
    So I’ll look for some other studio 😦

  13. Hello!
    Just passing by to tell you that it’s this article that convinced me to take an appointment with them 🙂 Thank you so much!! I loved the result and they are so nice! I had a great time, I almost wish my tattoo took longer to make so I could stay there a bit more ahah ♡
    Have a nice day!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s