Irezumi: Getting Inked the Japanese Way

November 1, 2007 at 8:12 am 1 comment

Odds are if you know an American woman with a tattoo, it’s a butterfly or a heart, located on her ankle or lower back, where it can be easily hidden during office hours. Cliché, much?

For several years it’s also been popular for Western men and women to get Japanese characters tattooed on their skin. The problem was, they could never be sure the tattoo said what they wanted it to say! (Courage, love, and honor – or “tuna”?) To avoid this mistake, head to My Japanese Tattoo. Or, if it’s too late and you’re already covered in kanji tats, why not see what they truly mean?

tatoo2.jpg

 

So how do people feel about tattoos in Japan? According to Japan Today, traditional Japanese tattoos were once seen as artwork. During the Edo Period (1603-1868), woodblock artists created gorgeous tattoos. Popular images included dragons, tigers, heroic battles, flowers and mythical beasts. The pictures were intricate, complicated, and beautiful.

tatoo1.jpg

In the last century, though, Japan’s attitude toward tattoos shifted, partly because the pictures were used to identify criminals. Even today, tattoos in Japan are considered to be a symbol of yakuza (gangsters). Though the practice has become slightly more mainstream, it’s still illegal to enter onsen (hot springs) and some public gyms if you sport a tattoo.

Yokohama’s famous full-body tattoo artist Horiyoshi III, who combines traditional hand needles in conjunction with electric machines, garners respect and attention all over the world, so perhaps the tide is changing once again.

 

(Personally, I like henna tattoos. You can get them at the beach, and they’re gone in about two weeks.)

Sarah S.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Gangster Lovin’? I Think Not. « Staff Blog  |  February 11, 2008 at 9:10 am

    […] 11, 2008 If I should ever get my butt kicked by a gangster I blame the Japanese media. Thanks to all those serialized dramas I spend cold winter evenings watching, I’ve developed this […]

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