Free Speech

Japan's Supreme Court Legalizes Non-Medical Tattooing

Before, tattoos could apparently be done only by M.D.s.



Japan's Supreme Court for the first time has ruled that tattooing people without a medical license does not constitute a violation of the medical practitioners law….

[T]he top court's Second Petty Bench turned down an appeal by public prosecutors over a suit against a 32-year-old man who tattooed three people. It finalizes a high court ruling that overturned a district court verdict fining the man 150,000 yen.

The Second Petty Bench … said that "tattoos require artistic skills different from medicine, and that it cannot be assumed that doctors do the act exclusively," concluding that the practice is not a medical act.

Thanks to Jenny Wilson for the pointer.

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  1. I'm pretty sure the Yakuza weren't going to doctors for their tattooing needs.

    1. They were going to .... Tatooine?

  2. The "Second Petty Bench" is the perfect name for the court that decided this.

    1. The First Petty Bench is busy issuing restraining orders.

  3. Tattooing in Japan has not in fact been performed by M.D.s. Neither traditional tattoo artists nor the now more common Western style tattoo artists have had medical degrees or otherwise been medically licensed. What happened is that about ten years ago the mayor of Osaka embarked on a campaign against tattooing, among other things urging city employees with tattoos to resign. Up to that point, the only medical regulation of tattooing had applied to cosmetic tattooing in beauty parlors. (Some women would have eyebrow lines tattooed and things like.) As a result, the Osaka police raided a tattoo parlor and the artist was fined. The instant case is the result of his appeal. This decision merely disposes of a recent, novel, dubious interpretation of the law and restores the status quo ante.

  4. The term "petty bench" doesn't mean what it sounds like. The Japanese Supreme Court has 15 members. They are divided into three panels: one for civil matters, one for criminal matters, and one for administrative matters. The usual English translation of the Japanese term for these panels is "petty bench". The court sits en banc only when a petty bench cannot reach a decision or when the case concerns a constitutional issue.

    1. Shot in the dark, but I wonder if "petit" bench would make more sense?

      1. Yes, it would. In Japanese the full court is 大法廷 and the panels are 小法廷, so the contrast is between the 大 "large" and 小 "small" benches. I have no idea what the history of the English translations is. It is reminiscent, though, of the term "puisne", pronounced the same as "puny", and of the same origin, for the justices of the Supreme Court of Canada other than the Chief Justice.

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