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JAPAN: TATTOOS & ACCEPTANCE.

If you’ve got friends in Japan and know how they treat those with tattoos, then this article will definitely be of interest. Tattoos on the body have long been frowned upon and it’s that same societal stigma which has caused many to be denied entry into public bathhouses, but that’s all about to change.

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The popular resort, Hoshino Resort Company, just recently announced a new policy that will allow people to cover their tattoos with a free sticker at their hot spring resorts. Though it has not been fully accepted, this small step is still big news. According to management, they fear that “normal” people would be frightened, intimidated or discomforted by tattoos. Much of that fear is because of their fear that those who are “marked” are associated with members of criminal organizations who wore them. However, nowadays tattoos are no longer reserved for criminals.

The social stigma against tattoos runs deep. The mayor of Osaka, Toru Hashimoto, even demanded that all city workers reveal whether they have tattoos. That demand moved the issue from stigma to violation of privacy rights. It seems anomalous that what is more or less a fashion statement could serve as a reason to deny someone work, or a simple bath.

One motivation to change the ban is tourism. Hoshino Resort runs many different types of bathing facilities at hot springs all over Japan, and so is in the customer-service industry. Banning foreign tourists, whose numbers reached well over 13 million last year, from entering hot spring baths, saunas, gyms, swimming pools, public baths, or tanning salons no longer makes much economic sense.

 

Though it’s highly doubtful that many Japanese will ever become highly tattoo friendly, the breaking news of Hoshino Resorts is breaking new ground in that regard, and discarding old beliefs at the same time.

INSIDE LOOK: YAKUZA

The aura and mystique of the Yakuza has long been embraced in pop culture. Known for their brutality and strict code of honor, all of it seems to be overshadowed by the obsession we have with the ink which marks their bodies. Back in the days, a tattoo represented their loyalty, and much like a tattoo, that loyalty was permanent, and for life.  Now a Belgian photographer gives us an inside look into their culture as well as their art.

After months of negotiations, Anton Kusters successfully negotiated a deal which allowed him to spend two years with Japan’s most notorious Yakuza gangs. He was able to capture these priceless moments of them during  their business meetings, and visits to bath houses, night clubs, and even funerals.

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The range of emotions found in his book are impressive. 

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“893-Yakuza is a personal visual account of the life inside an inaccessible subculture: a traditional Japanese crime family that controls the streets of Kabukicho, in the heart of Tokyo, Japan,” says Kusters.

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No mistakes: A missing finger indicates repurcussions for a mistake 

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In 2009, Japan’s National Police Agency estimated that there were 80,900 active Yakuza, whose activities include drug dealing, extortion, illegal gambling and violent turf wars. Bound by a strict and ruthless moral code, the Yakuza are known to cut off the ends of their fingers to prove the sincerity of an apology.

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If you can still find it, Kusters put out a book titled Odo Yakuza Tokyo. The book has sold out in its two initial releases so if you’re lucky enough to find one pick it up. You can see more of his work on his website for more information.

 

SDT BOOK REVIEW: TATTOO IN JAPAN

When it comes to reference, there’s still something about books that we tend to love. Maybe it’s how personal it is to flip through glossy pages bound together by a hard cover, or maybe it’s just the fact that we’re old and magazines/ books are to us what iPads and websites are to younger generations. Needless to say, magazines may be on the experiencing a down turn but hard cover books (or coffee table books) are still a valuable resource that never run out of batteries. This time around we got our hands on a release by Edition Reuss entitled,  “Traditional and Modern Styles: Tattoo in Japan”. This hard cover book is a 1st edition release, which boasts 320 pages, and at 6.4 lbs it’s good enough for a doorstop or quite possibly even a weapon.

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An inside look at the pages of “Traditional & Modern Styles: Tattoo in Japan”  |  Photos by Garret Carter

 

In this opulently illustrated title, it chronicles a variety of methods and styles, which range from old school to modern. Of particular interest to us were the neo-traditional styles of tattooing and with rich photographs and a photo journalistic feel which is uncompromising and raw, the book is more than generous.  With text in both English and German, this is a must have book for your home or studio library. Inside, there’s page after page of Japanese style tattoos, which range from the mild to wild and the body suits featured in this epic volume, are timeless and tireless pieces, which deserves the attention it gains.

 

Tattoo in Japan, is a book that deserves to occupy space in your library and it elegantly captures Japanese culture and art in a package that is deserving of its high price point. If you’re particular in the way you examine tattoos you’ll find this book a great visual piece,  which will stimulate your creativity as well as your craft. So in closing, you already know that you get what you pay for so catch a budget and break bread.