Unlike the Chinese people, the Japanese people are currently very big on tattoos, but that was not always the case. In fact, for a brief time near the end of WW II, getting or giving a tattoo in Japan was actually illegal. The end of the war brought an end to that crime as well.
The alphabetic characters that appear in many Japanese tattoos are called Kanji. These characters, alone or in combination with others, can display a whole range of human emotions, thoughts, proverbs and poetry.
In addition to the calligraphic-like Kanji characters, there are many different animal, spiritual and nature-oriented symbols and images that make their way onto people’s body parts in the form of a Japanese tattoo.
Irezumi, one of the more traditional Japanese tattoo styles depict dragons, koi and other symbols of Japanese culture and lifestyle. These types of Japanese tattoos are becoming increasingly popular with women who are having these sometimes intricate tattoo designs placed on their hips, back, ankles and arms. Even an occasional breast dragon has been spotted in the wild or during a wet T-shirt contest at some spring break bar in Florida or Mexico.
History of the Chinese Tattoo
The recorded history of Japanese tattoos goes back to around 5000 B.C., and it’s likely that Japanese people were drawing tattoos on each other even before then since early Japanese artifacts dating back earlier than those days include clay figurines with tattooed faces.
In the early days of the Japanese warrior clans, large and elaborate tattoos symbolized the warrior’s ability to withstand pain. The larger and more intricate the Japanese tattoo was, the braver the warrior.
As warriors began to fall out of fashion, and the Japanese culture moved towards the arts, Japanese tattoos shifted to symbolize an appreciation for the finer things in life and were frequently associated with wealth and power.
Today, many Japanese people, as well as people from around the world, admire the beauty of Japanese tattoos and the skills of the artists who create them.
Why Japanese Tattoos
Because you love sushi and you want to show solidarity with your favorite itamae, or sushi chef. Or maybe you’re a history buff and you want to join in with King George V, Winston Churchill’s mother, King Oscar of Sweden, and Grand Duke Alexis of Russia, who were all known to sport a Japanese tattoo or two.
People also choose to adorn themselves with Japanese tattoos because they are enamored with the classic simplicity of the Japanese Kanji characters which can say so much in so little a space.
Chinese Tattoo Trends
Asian-fusion, Sony, video games, all of those Japanese tourists with three cameras around their neck, and a sushi bar on every corner are all contributors to the Japanese tattoo trend.
You don’t have to eat raw fish to enjoy a Japanese tattoo. All you have to do is have a love for the simplicity of the Kanji characters, or an appreciation for the spiritual and natural elements that form the basis of many Japanese tattoos.