Japanese have been considered to be involved in the art of tattooing for ages but there is not much material available to prove it. In Japanese tombs though, there are statuettes with a resemblance to tattoos of Japanese letters on them. These statuettes are supposedly replicas of people who are said to have followed their dear ones to the grave.
It is interesting to note that documented proof dating back to 297 AD has been found in Chinese history about the Japanese traditional art as tattoos. It wasn’t well appreciated by the Chinese as they believed that it was an unrefined practice. After sometime, the Chinese culture influenced the Japanese culture and society to such a large extent that the Japanese traditional art as tattoos was degraded and was used as punishment. In certain area, tattoos of Japanese letters or a symbol for “dog” were tattooed on a person’s forehead that would proclaim him an offender. All the tattoos were made on prominent places on the body to make it noticeable by others and the person is identified as a criminal for life.
These people were treated as outcastes as no one would associate with them in any manner and were abandoned by their families too. A culture which gave a lot of importance to social status, the stigma attached to being tattooed was far greater than any other form of punishment.
After a period of time the view on tattooing changed and there were two diverse approaches. The first one continued to be to humiliate offenders and the second was to indicate that the person is of high esteem. This exercise, later on became a tradition with samurai warriors. Soldiers would have the Japanese traditional art as tattoos so that they could be identified in death during battles.
In recent times tattoos are a symbol of winning rather than a punishment. It is called “irezumi”. Traditionally, Japanese tattooing is done by hand but now many have adopted the American way of tattooing with machine. The design is at first drawn and then the inking process is done by using a sharp device. The device is penetrated into the skin with the help of a hammer.
Though tattoos of Japanese letters and Japanese tattooing has become world famous it still is associated with criminals as far as their culture is concerned. The most prominent thing about Japanese mafia known as “Yakuza” is their tattoos. As the designs get elaborate it goes to show that the gangster is that much more powerful. The prominent members of the gang are encouraged to have their entire body tattooed. The Yakuza consider tattoos as a symbol of strength and masculinity just like their American counterparts.
The common ink gives them a sense of unity. However this trend is fast changing as the new generation is of the belief that it is more important to get away with the crime than to look hip. The tattoos tend to draw people’s attention and the gangsters can be easily identified. Nowadays the Yakuza do not use Japanese traditional art as tattoos but prefer more simple drawings. Tattooing however continues to be a favorite among criminals the world over. It is as deep rooted as the tattooing ink is.