Japanese; Tattooed Identities Under Siege:
Being Japanese and having tattoos, is as controversial a topic today, as it has been for decades now. Japan has at the same time, one of the most beautiful and detailed tattoo cultures, as well as traditions around the world. But they also have a culture that heavily frowns upon tattoos, and has done so for decades. However, even in Japan tattoos are once again on the up-rise.
Thus it becomes relevant to consider, what it means to be tattooed in Japan today. Without going into a giant sociological discussion (and inspired by a very interesting article on the topic), we will consider it here for you guys.
It is important to look at more than ever, since Japan seems to be at odds and divided among it’s population, more than ever, on this topic.
Especially with how tattoos even in Japan are becoming more and more mainstream. The younger generations especially, are finding themselves constantly at odds, with an older generation and even government, that constantly discriminates them, even openly.
Tattooing for themselves:
One thing is very clear, tattooing in Japan is not like it used to be. It is just as beautiful and breathtaking in most cases. But it is no longer just Yakuza that get tattoos, nor is it only traditional Japanese tattooing that takes place. Today, it is all sorts of styles that are being performed, in the tattoo parlors of Japan.
Another change which is apparent, and which Japan shares with the west, is how individuals are now more likely to get tattoos for themselves. Tattoos that they personally reflect upon, that have deep personal meaning or at least has a personal connection to the wearer.
Many people even get them, to claim their own identity, in a country that constantly wants them to conform to the norm. They do what they can, to put a piece of themselves in their skin as well as to stand out just a little, from the crowd. However, many still keep their tattoos hidden, as they fear discrimination or in worst case scenarios, being fired from work or shunned by their family.
The Tattoos Changes One’s Perception of Prejudice:
Another interesting perspective, pulled from the article we linked to earlier. Is the fact that tattoos can change how you look at and observe prejudice. Rui Tanaka, after getting her tattoos is starting to notice, how people treat her differently. they are more cautious about her and what they say to her.
They show the same prejudice towards her as they do any other minority. That is indeed how you might view tattooed people in Japan, as yet another minority. They are treated differently, viewed differently and even openly discriminated within society. Such as being denied entrance to restaurants and public baths.
But tattoos at least also seem to change their wearers own performance of prejudice. They seem to become more open-minded, considerate and sympathetic towards others, because they now feel like a minority in Japan.
This positive change, might at least give some hope, for changing the public opinion, of people with tattoos in Japan.
Japan and the Japanese people, continue to be fascinating in many ways. No less so when it comes to their always tumultuous relationship to tattoos and body-art. But there continues to be hope. The youth of Japan do not seem to want to merely conform. They want to find and grasp their own identities, just like the youth of the west. Hopefully future Japan will be more open-minded, and embrace a beautiful part of their culture.