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Taboo in Tokyo, Olympians sport their ink

While tattoos are not illegal in Japan, the social stigma against them is very strong. Those with them are commonly banned from beaches, gyms and pools.

TOKYO, Japan — Taboo in much of Tokyo, tattoos are everywhere at the Olympics.

In 2015, a Japanese tattoo artist was fined $1,400 USD for tattooing 3 customers without a medical license. But in 2020, it was overruled, and the Supreme Court acknowledged tattooing as an art form, rather than a medical procedure.

Associated with yakuza and crime, tattoos can get individuals — tourists or not — barred from certain establishments such as gyms, swimming pools, beaches, and elsewhere across Japan.

But, these restrictions are shielded by the Olympic bubble. In the pool, on the beach, at the range — the athletes are redefining what it means to have the mark of a champion.

Credit: AP
Shallon Olsen, of Canada, performs on the balance beam during the women's artistic gymnastic qualifications at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Sunday, July 25, 2021, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

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Credit: AP
Adam Peaty, of Britain, swims the men's 100-meter breaststroke at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Saturday, July 24, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

When popping up from his breaststroke, British swimmer Adam Peaty displays a lion on his shoulder. A likeness of Christ the Redeemer on the calf of Spanish boxer Gabriel Escobar Mascunano. While United States skateboarder Nyjah Huston sports over 200 pieces of ink.

And the Olympic rings. So many Olympic rings.

Credit: AP
Vanessa Ferrari, of Italy, performs during the women's artistic gymnastic qualifications at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Sunday, July 25, 2021, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

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United States gymnast Simone Biles has them on the forearm, and shooter Kayle Browning on her right wrist. They’re on Moroccan boxer Abdelhaq Nadir’s left bicep, and France's Fantine Lesaffre's right arm.

Italian gymnast Vanessa Ferrari has them, too, on the back of her neck — along with ink commemorating previous trips to the Beijing, London and Rio de Janiero Games.

While Canadian gymnast Shallon Olsen has them on her ankle, with marks of the Rio Games, and her newest addition, Tokyo 2020.