lifestyle

Ink and love: How can tattoos affect your relationships in Japan?

28 Comments
By Hilary Keyes

Irezumi are traditional Japanese tattoos done with a needle attached to a wooden dowel manually poked into the skin, while tattoos are western-style pieces, done with a machine needle and ink.

Tattooing itself is hard to date in terms of Japanese history, and there is not a lot of concrete research on its origins. The negative social implications of the ink, however, are said to have begun as early as in the 7th Century, when irezumi was used by the then-Emperor as the first official punishment for rebellion. The rebel, Hamako, Muraji of Azumi, was forced to feel the physical pain of being inked, and carry the punishment on his body as an officially “labeled” criminal. Tattoos continued to become a regular form of punishment for criminals and thereby the Japanese society was led to associate ink with crime, shunning away those who carried prints on their bodies.

notattoo.jpg

Though steadily changing nowadays, for many Japanese tattooing is still synonymous with yakuza, and many businesses still refuse to allow inked people to hot springs, public baths, gyms, beaches, water parks — and even certain jobs. In 2001, the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare classified tattooing as a medical procedure based on the argument that it involves a needle piercing the skin and inserts ink. Based on this law, only people with medical licenses can give you a tattoo. Just this September Osaka fined a tattoo artist for “illegal practice” and violation of this Medical Practitioners’ Law.

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28 Comments
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For a supposedly very progressive society, the tattoo taboo is something that Japan really needs to educate its population about.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

For a supposedly very progressive society, the tattoo taboo is something that Japan really needs to educate its population about.

My friend, Japan is not a very progressive society.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

Aly.

Add Korea to the list very similar laws and regulations, I am often shocked how similar the countries are on certain Topics like Tattoos.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

External link? Ugh, pass.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

My friend, Japan is not a very progressive society.

The image from the outside however, is that of one. Therefore the usage of the word ‘supposedly’. Although the more I stay here, the more I tend to agree with your comment, the tattoo thing being a case in point.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

nothing more beautiful than a woman clean skin, when you put that graffiti on it it just soils an already clean pallet but you cant wash it off afterwards. makes men look like thugs

-3 ( +6 / -9 )

What is the legal justification for banning someone from a public beach solely because they have a tattoo? Don't they have the same rights as everyone else?

8 ( +8 / -0 )

For a supposedly very progressive society, the tattoo taboo is something that Japan really needs to educate its population about

There's nothing progressive about indelible skin graffiti.

Personally I don't associate tattoos with crime, as the article mentions. To me, it marks a person who (cultural traditions aside) at some time in their past had a momentary failure in judgment, sense and/or taste. In the case of multiple tattoos, chronic failure.

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

@cleo

cultural traditions aside

Aye, you’ve got to give the Geordies a pass....

3 ( +4 / -1 )

There's nothing progressive about indelible skin graffiti.

Maybe there isn’t. My usage of the word progressive was to refer to a society where it doesn’t matter if you’ve had a momentary lapse of judgment in the past to decide if you’re fit to enter a particular space or not, especially if you’re not giving any other (say, health) issues a good look.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Tattos are very sexy on men & ive been told the same on a women I love them..I myself didn’t start until I was in my late 30s I love them as do my entire family

4 ( +6 / -2 )

a society where it doesn’t matter if you’ve had a momentary lapse of judgment in the past

I think we've all had momentary lapses of judgement in the past. (I know I have...) Some lapses leave longer-lasting results than others. Shouldn't be an excuse to keep people off beaches, out of pools, saunas, etc. Far from it. I feel sorry for the people who find themselves regretting the mistakes of their younger selves.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

There's nothing progressive about indelible skin graffiti.

Cleo just failed the progressive thinking test.

The meaning of a progressive society in this subject is that you dont judge a person just because of a fashion. Modern-day tattoos are indeed a fashion, a statement, nothing more. In a judgemental position, I am more concerned about whether a person abuses others, whether they are honest, whether they respect others etc. Judging progessiveness on a tattoo fashion places you at the same level of some Japanese, as in, not very progressive.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

you dont judge a person just because of a fashion. Modern-day tattoos are indeed a fashion, a statement, nothing more

Fashions change, often from day to day. It's my personal prerogative not to like a person's fashion sense if they dress in baggy, raggedy jeans with their underpants showing over the waistband, but it's nothing but fashion; tomorrow the same person might well scrub up and look dapper in a suit and tie. (And then it might be someone else's personal prerogative to disapprove of that.)

A tattoo, though, doesn't change. You get it done at a time you think it will look good, and tomorrow (or next year, or whenever) when you change your mind, you're stuck with it. Fashion mistakes (yes, we all make them) can be chucked out of your wardrobe. Getting rid of a tattoo mistake is costly, painful and never 100% successful.

I repeat, a past mistake/failure in judgement is no reason to deny a person entry to a particular space. In contrast, try getting into a swank restaurant or club wearing said baggy raggedy jeans, or try working as a diving instructor, bricklayer or weightlifter in said dapper suit - clear signs of a current lack of judgement.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

What is the legal justification for banning someone from a public beach solely because they have a tattoo?

I don't believe there is any legal basis behind it - it's more a request than a legal designation. At Kamakura, which is supposedly a tattoo-free beach, I've seen plenty of tattoos exposed, and exposed my own (can't really cover them), and both police and regular patrols never say anything.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

nothing more beautiful than a woman clean skin, when you put that graffiti on it it just soils an already clean pallet but you cant wash it off afterwards.

That's a matter of opinion of course. I love a woman with tattoos (though my wife has none, and isn't interested in them).

To me, it marks a person who (cultural traditions aside) at some time in their past had a momentary failure in judgment, sense and/or taste.

And again, a matter of opinion. I was quite deliberate in my choice of tattoos. You can think I have no taste, but I can equally think the same of you for the same reason. Neither of us is right or wrong - such is how taste works.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Tattoos have been around for millennia. It has become fashionable and then not fashionable. Essential and then not essential. A statement and then not a statement. It doesn't really matter.

My grandfather had them, 70 years ago. I got them (not quite that long ago). Other members of my family have them and plenty more don't.

They are part of me and I don't regret them. I don't judge people just because they don't get a tattoo done.

As for those who judge me on the basis of my skin, my choices? I refer you to The Dude's philosophical put down:

Yeah, well, y'know, that's just like, uh, your opinion, man.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

@pure gaijin

I take it that by 'progressive society' you refer to one in the same cultural sphere as your own. Different cultures have different values and one should not try to impose one's own on others or the world will truly become a boring place.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

I don’t have anything against tats, don’t personally like them myself on my body, but each to his own, if people want to do it, more power to them, but. I would never do anything like that or had any interest in getting one. I do think the Japanese often are ignorant about the entire tattoo culture thinking when associating everyone that sports a tat is either in the mob or is a bad guy. The country really needs to catch up to the rest of the modern word, they’re a part of our society these days and they’re going no where. Even in Fukuoka there are more and more parlors opening and more young kids deliberately and openly showing off their tats proudly, if it makes them happy, go for it.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I love my tattoo of "MOTHER" across my arm.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Neither of us is right or wrong - such is how taste works.

Yeah, well, y'know, that's just like, uh, your opinion, man.

Indubitably.

 they’re going no where

That's wot I keeps sayin'. You gets one, you'z stuck with it.

Not like those 70's/80's hairstyles we all thought were so cool back in the day, that make us cringe now when we see old photos.

I love a woman with tattoos (though my wife has none

Oooer, is that a confession? ;o)

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

for many Japanese tattooing is still synonymous with yakuza

I think "heavy tattooing' would be more accurate. Reckon most J ppl are absolutely fine and/or indifferent to smallish tattoos i.e kanji/thai characters on ankles/arms type or other fairly discreet tattoos.

Thing is what constitutes a 'heavy' tattoo, how big is too big, what's offensive & yakuza-like etc? Just think J society & many private businesses can't be bothered answering these questions and prefer the good ol' blanket ban.

Tattos are very sexy on men & ive been told the same on a women I love them..

Depends on the woman (and bloke I would think). Lipstick & pig.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

That's wot I keeps sayin'. You gets one, you'z stuck with it.

Interesting article on tattoos in ancient Egypt

https://www.ancient.eu/article/1000/tattoos-in-ancient-egypt/

2 ( +3 / -1 )

@cleo

Don't judge a book by its cover is not something you're familiar with? "Chronic failure"? I guess my tattoo covered body has chronically failed to earn a PhD, a tenure position, multiple homes, a beautiful family, and the respect of many famous artists and musicians who call me their friend? Can you say the same for yourself? My tattoos are not a trend. They represent my life, my experiences, my interests, and what I believe is cool. Some people express the things they've survived or their hard life or abuse through their tattoos. Have you made similar achievements in life despite the cards being stacked against you? But such people are 'failiures'? And what you believe is 'cool' may be something different. That's okay too. I don't judge you, but maybe you should check yourself. And you sound quite behind the times with your comments about baggy pants, etc. Maybe you don't like hip hop and its style, but millions do. So, all those millions just happen to be wrong, and you are right?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I met a man who had his whole body tattooed in many colors of being so addicted and already had the appearance of a chameleon. One day I saw him with a chameleon but his pet was so scared of him that the chameleon always changed its own color.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Recent research points to the ink in tattoos migrating to other parts of the body causing health problems.

I don't know if my other half would be too pleased in caring for me based on my decision to deface my own body?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

it's more a request than a legal designation

which part of the below did you miss??

and many businesses still refuse to allow inked people to hot springs, public baths, gyms, beaches, water parks — and even certain jobs.

Now. Let’s assume it IS after all, a “request”. I’ll be the dumb one and follow the signs while those without a care enjoy the beach or whatever space it may be? Cool.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

You sound pretty defensive, Dr. Wellington.

Have you made similar achievements in life despite the cards being stacked against you?

I've done OK, don't worry.

such people are 'failiures'?

Your PhD and tenure position would appear to hide a reading comprehension glitch. I did not say people with tattoos are 'failures'. I said that in my opinion a tattoo is a mark of a momentary failure of judgement.

There used to be a programme on UK TV, dunno if it still airs, in which a group of tattoo artists do what they can to 'fix' tattoos that the owners now find ugly/embarrassing. There appeared to be no shortage of clients regretting their past momentary lapse of judgement. Maybe you think they were wrong to regret, too?

you sound quite behind the times with your comments about baggy pants, etc. Maybe you don't like hip hop and its style, but millions do. So, all those millions just happen to be wrong, and you are right?

No, it just happens to be my opinion. That's what we're doing here, expressing our opinions. There isn't a wrong and a right, just different opinions and tastes. If I say I don't like natto, I'm not saying other people are wrong to eat it; all I'm saying is that I don't like it. Same with tattoos. They're not my thing, but if you want to inject toxic substances under your skin, go ahead, it's your body.

https://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2017/sep/12/tattoo-ink-contaminants-lymph-nodes

1 ( +2 / -1 )

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