OSAKA--Controversial Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto wants to know if any of his city's employees have tattoos, which have long been associated with the yakuza in Japan, and if so, possibly exclude them from jobs dealing with the public.
The city, starting on May 1, began a survey of about 37,000 employees in which they are required to respond in writing with their names and departments if they have tattoos on body parts that are exposed to the public, such as on the head, arms, legs and feet.
For other locations, their response is voluntary.
Hashimoto said in a memo to city employees that such a survey is necessary in considering personnel assignments.
“If tattoos of city employees are seen by the public, the city government will lose its credibility because they will make people feel nervous and intimidated,” Hashimoto said.
Shuji Kitamoto, a lawyer consultant with the federation of city employee labor unions, took issue with the survey, calling it violation of human rights.
“Superiors can confirm if their subordinates have tattoos in noticeable spots,” he said. “But having all city employees comply with the survey is objectionable in terms of human rights.”
Under the questionnaire that comes with an illustration of a human body, city employees are asked to mark the spot they have tattoos and indicate their size. The tattoos of concern are those that can be seen by the public when they are at work.
City officials will consider transferring those with such tattoos to sections where their duties do not require them to interact with the public.
The officials say a penalty may be imposed on those who refuse to respond to the survey.
As for tattoos not visible under normal circumstances, the questionnaire asks where they are located, their size and when they got inked, among others.
But answering is not mandatory.
Hashimoto, who leads the regional party Osaka Ishin no Kai, is becoming increasingly popular with the public for his reform-oriented measures.
But he has also sparked an uproar for what critics say is political intervention into education and is the focus of national attention due in part to his confrontational approach to public servants.
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