Japanese tattoo art has a lot of names – irezumi and horimono in the Japanese language. Irezumi is the word meant for the basic visible ink covering big parts of the body like the back. Japanese tattoo art has a extremely extensive tradition.
Since the influence of Confucianism and Buddhism over the Japanese culture, tattoo art has a damaging connotation for the majority of the Japanese population. In the eyes of an typical Japanese a ink is considered a mark of a yakuza – a member of the Japanese mafia – and a macho emblem of members of the lesser classes.
The Early History of Japanese Tattoo Art
Archaeologists believe that the initial settlers of Japan, the Ainu citizens, used facial tattoos. Chinese papers tell concerning the Wa inhabitants – the Chinese name meant for their Japanese neighbours – and the individuals lifestyle of diving into water for fish and shells and decorating the total skin with tattoos. These reports are in the region of 1700 years old.
For the top developed Chinese culture, tattooing was a barbaric undertaking. As soon as Buddhism was brought from China to Japan and with it the solid influence of the Chinese culture, tattooing got harmful connotations. Criminals were marked with tattoos to punish and identify them within society.
Tattoos in the Edo Period
In the Edo period – 1603-1868 – Japanese tattoo drawings became a part of ukiyo-e – the suspended world culture. Prostitutes – yujos – of the pleasure quarters used tattoos to improve the individuals prettiness for customers. Skin tattoos were furthermore used by labourers and firemen.
From 1720 on, the tattooing of criminals became an legitimate punishment and replaced taking away of the nose and the ears. The criminal received a ring ink around the arm in support of every offence or else a character ink on his temple. Tattooing criminals was continued until 1870, at what time it was abolished by the new Meiji government of the Japanese Emperor.
This visible punishment produced a further genre of outcasts which had no place taking part in society and nowhere to go. A lot of these outlaws were ronin – master less samurai warriors. They had no alternatives than organizing gangs. These men created the start of the yakuza – the controlled criminals inside Japan inside the twentieth century.
Japanese Tattoo Prints
In 1827 the ukiyo-e artist Kuniyoshi Utagawa published the original 6 emblems of the 108 Heroes of the Suikoden. The Suikoden were something like ancient Robin Hoods – honourable bandits. The story is based on a classic Chinese novel – Shui-Hi-Chuan, which dates from the 13th and 14th century. The novel was initially translated into Japanese in 1757 by Okajima Kanzanion.
By the turn of the 18th to the 19th century the story was available with illustrations by Katsushika Hokusai. The novel of the 108 honourable bandits was extremely accepted in the sphere of Japan and created a kind of Suikoden trend amongst Japanese towns inhabitants.
Kuniyoshi’s Suikoden ukiyo-e emblems bare the heroes in colourful, detailed body tattoos. Japanese ink prints and tattoo drawings in general subsequently became stylish. Tattoos were considered iki – cool – however were restricted to the poorer classes.
The richness and fantasy of the Japanese tattoo print emblems revealed by Kuniyoshi are used by a few ink artists up to this moment.
The Meiji Restoration until Postwar Japan
Within its strive to adopt Western civilizations, the Imperial Meiji government outlawed tattooing as something thought about a barbaric relict of the past. The funny thing was that the Japanese irezumi artists right away got brand new customers – the sailors from the foreign ships anchoring inside Japanese harbours. Hence Japanese ink designs was spread to the West.
In the course of the first half of the twentieth century, horimono remained a forbidden art form until 1948, as soon as the prevention was officially lifted. A few say that this step had become needed to sanction the demand by soldiers of the American occupation forces for horimono and irezumi.
Tattoo Art in Modern Japan
A number of younger individuals may well think about tattooing being cool, the majority of the Japanese population still considers it while something connected to the gangland of mafia gangsters and a rough low caste tradition at the finest.
Younger folks who consider tattoos as iki – a marginal amongst Japanese youth – tend to use partial tattoos inside Western style on the persons upper arms, someplace it is not directly visible.