In a significant move. city employees in Osaka, Japan, have been asked to confirm whether they have any tattoos on their body.
It has emerged that staff that have been under an artist's needle likely to be reassigned to posts that will not bring them into direct contact with the public.
Tattoos have long been the traditional symbol of Japan's "yakuza" underworld groups and the stigma that is attached to them has not been diluted by tattoos becoming a fashion item among younger Japanese.
The city's 38,000 employees are required to fill in a form by Thursday on which they have marked their tattoos on an outline of a human body.
Any markings that are visible to the public, such as on the arms, legs, feet, face or neck, must be disclosed, although revealing tattoos that are in places less likely to be seen is voluntary, city officials said.
Toru Hashimoto, the controversial young mayor of Japan's second city, ordered the crackdown after a municipal employee frightened a child after exposing a tattooed arm.
"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," the Telegraph quoted Hashimoto as saying in a memo to staff.
Union officials have complained that the order is a breach of employees' human rights and illegal, although the mayor is unlikely to back down.
Hashimoto, a former lawyer who founded a regional political party called the Osaka Restoration Association, has already built a reputation as a no-nonsense operator, although his comment that Japan needs a dictator instead of another weak prime minister has raised eyebrows.