Despite modern perceptions of tattoos in Japanese society, which often see them linked to organized crime, the tradition for body modification is perhaps more deep-rooted here than perhaps anywhere else, with elaborate designs dating back to around 10,500 B.C.
Japanese-style tattoos are something that people study for their entire lives," says Adamson. "Composition and balance are key to this style. It outlived the nineties era of dolphin tattoos, zigzag tribal, and it will be there when others fall out too."
Japan has had a long tattoo history. As The Japan Times points out, there's a theory that tattoos were important in the country's Jomon Period (10,000 B.C. to 300 B.C.). There isn't any physical proof that the Jomon people tattooed themselves; however, a Chinese historical record written at around 300 A.D. said all Japanese men tattooed their faces and bodies. This history is marked by a love-hate relationship: In the 17th century, for example, criminals were tattooed to blatantly mark them in shame instead of punishment through mutilation. As VanishingTattoo points out, some criminals even had the Japanese for "dog" (犬) inked on their foreheads.
Irezumi is the official term for ancient pigment modifications from the island nation. In Japan, full-body ink jobs were originally associated with the samurai. In the modern era, this connotation evolved to indicate kinship with the Yakuza, but ink isn’t reserved for underground sub-cultures anymore. Fortunately, tattoos have become integrated into mainstream Tokyo styles, and the advanced form of expression is taking the country by storm.
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