Having tattoos in Japan can be difficult at times. I’ve had the embarrassment of being refused service at restaurants. I’ve been kicked out of bathhouses due to complaints from other patrons (despite having told the staff that I have tattoos). I’ve even been asked to put a shirt back on at the beach. It can be trying.
Usually, I brush these situations off. It was my choice to put ink into my skin and I should be willing to accept that not everyone is ok with that life choice. And for the most part, I can accept it fairly easily. What really gets me is the unilateral connection that Japanese society makes with tattoos (irezumi specifically) and yakuza.
I sincerely understand that the content of certain tattoos can be offensive and explicitely linked to unwanted cultures, but not all tattoos scream yakuza. Tattoo culture is a diverse artform with a long and rich history. It has cropped up since ancient times in cultures across the globe. Everyone can easily picture “tribal” tattoos from pacific island cultures. It goes without saying that tattoos can (and are) an important part of historical tradition and culture in many places.
Although most pople would deny it, this is even true in Japan. Since ancient times, tattoos have been used in Japan, having nothing to do with the yakuza. With new research and efforts like this, I hope that Japan can start to change it’s anachronistic and conservative views of tattoo culture and embrace the native beauty it once did.
The Jomon Tribe project delves into Japan’s prehistoric mystery with a stunning new photographic exhibition. Tokyo’s TAV Gallery is currently playing host to a stunning photo exhibition called “Jomon Tribe,” which melds some of Japan’s most prehistoric markings with 21st century tattoo designs. The collaborative art project between underground culture photographer Ryoichi “Keroppy” Maeda and tattoo artist Taku…