Irezumi, The Fine Art Of Tattooing In Japan
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Irezumi, The Fine Art Of Tattooing In Japan

Japanese tattoos

The act of tattooing in Japan almost always meant that tattooing involved ritual and meditation just like any other countries in the world where tattoos are associated with prayer and in nearly all cases for protection for the wearer.

This assumes that the whole process is infused with spiritual significance instead of the mere physical act of applying the ink design into the body. And if the idea behind the tattooing was not primarily spiritual, it was always alternatively for decorative purpose, therefore an expression of art. As always however, tattooing is either for, or both reasons. Tattooing in Japan is called Irezumi.

History of the Japanese tattoos

Tattooing in Japan was a flourishing industry in 300 AD. And like kindred cultures, it was alive and a popular event that usually heralded some achievement worthy of recognition such as bravery in war.

Ironically, however, while Japan had its own history of the tattoo as an example of ritualistic and decorative art, the Japanese warrrior and martial arts system, the bushido on the other hand, had possibly and instinctively caught up with Chinese psychology regarding the idea that in war tattoos worn by Chinese warriors considerably increased their will to fight and thus bring victory and honor to China. This implied an understanding of human psychology and feeling particularly the emotion of fear that can unnerve or instill terror in people's hearts.

The ultimate consequence was to provide inspiration for the Japanese warrior following the example of warriors in the Chinese novel titled Suikoden that illustrated the proper mindset and uses of the tattoo in the area of battle. Since then, Japanese tattooing included designs intended as battle icons.

Tattoo in modern Japan

During the Meiji Period sometime between the last quarter of the 19th century and up until the middle part of the 20th century when Japan was struggling to shun feudalism and its backward connotations and trying to achieve modernity in an effort to gain recognition and respectability in the Western world, the Japanese government decided to ban tattooing. Essentially, Irezumi went underground becoming revived only after World War II with the permission of the occupation forces of General Douglas Macarthur in 1948.

However, skilled Japanese tattoo artists continued with their craft and what emerges today is an exquisite array of finely developed art in tattoos and ink designs. Japan is one of the most advanced countries in tattooing technology today.

Tattoo in the Yakuza

The Yakuza is Japan's version of the mafia and it is mentioned here only because it uses the tattoo on its members regardless of whether or not the mafia in other parts of the world do it themselves too.

But regardless, the tattoos on the bodies of the Yakuza members are gentle, persuasive and beautiful and they express the real artistry of the Japanese people.


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