With the 2019 Rugby World Cup set to open at the Ajinomoto Stadium in Chōfu, Tokyo on September 20, the All Blacks squad from New Zealand has expressed willingness to cover up their tattoos during the span of the tournament, in the fear of being associated with Japan’s infamous yakuza.
Regardless of their considerable fan-base in the East Asian country, the mighty All Blacks have taken it upon themselves to conceal their tattoos for the duration of the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Despite being in vogue around the world and gradually gaining popularity among a new generation of fashionable Japanese, the act of publicly baring body ink still remains a cultural faux pas largely associated with Japan’s yakuza crime syndicates.
The New Zealand rugby players have volunteered to hide their tattoos not just during televised games and events, but even while out in public too – when in hotel lobbies, onsen hot springs, and restaurants as well as other public places.
Thirty-year-old star halfback Aaron Smith shares that he and his team are willing to conceal their tattoo to avoid falling afoul of local sensitivities. The former Māori All Blacks player recounts that the team recently had to don long-sleeved tops and tights, even while visiting a Japanese onsen. The All Blacks are in Japan ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup to train at a camp near Tokyo.
Smith added that he is eager to embrace Japanese culture, and if the best way to dodge offense is to conceal his many tattoos, he is happy to oblige.
Tattoos have a long history in New Zealand, widely commonplace in countries in the Oceania region. The country’s indigenous Māori and Pacific Islands communities are known for sporting body-straddling body ink, indelible in their Polynesian culture.
The Manu Samoa team has also announced their intention of wearing skin suits to hide their tattoos when not on the field. Samoan captain Jack Lam explained that despite the prevalence and importance of tattoos in their home state, they’ve learned to be mindful and respectful of other cultures who may be averse to body ink.
World Cup Has Guidelines On Tattoos
The fact that the All Blacks have agreed to cover up their tattoos do not come as a surprise. In September 2018, after finalizing Japan as the next venue of the Rugby World Cup, organizers warned teams that they may need to conceal their tattoos to accommodate local customs. The body released guidelines on tattoos to team officials, but assured these didn’t apply during games.
An estimated 400,000 overseas rugby fans are expected to flock to Tokyo starting this week for the World Cup.