Essay on Tattooing

December 3rd, 2010 in Japanese,Tattoo

Tattoos are viewed differently where ever you go. Some places they are loved and adored as pieces of art – some view them as tradition and have deep cultural roots. Then there are those who cannot tolerate them.

History of Tattoos

I won’t go in depth about why people cannot tolerate them, it’s evident and undeniable (Even Otzi, a 5,300 year old mummy from the Copper age has tattoos throughout his body) that every native culture and peoples have developed their own form of tattooing and tattoo art. Although along with these beautiful peoples, traditions, and cultures they have all been lost. The spread of Western ideals such as Christianity and early European attitude of it being a barbaric practice – although this attitude of barbarism didn’t just apply to tattooing, but also of these natives’ other practices, religions, and lifestyles.

Face tattoos of the Maori people

Today’s tattooing may not represent the cultural and traditions of our native heritage but there are still many artists and collectors (of tattoos) that honor these endangered traditions of our ancestors that have been eroded or destroyed by Western and Religious fanaticism. This is my mindset when it comes to Tattooing. The style I choose as my favorite is the traditional Japanese tattoos of the Edo Period.

Tattoos and Ukiyo-e in the Edo Period

Tattooing during the Edo period (1600-1868 AD) in Japan represented many things. With tattooing came hours and hours of pain, for those who could endure these hours of pain showed strength – and only those of wealth were able to afford these full body tattoos. So in this period tattoos represented strength and wealth – it was a status symbol shared only by few. The style of prints during this time was Ukiyo-e or “pictures of the floating world” – woodblock printing allowed artwork to be easily distributed to even the common people. These prints and motifs had a huge influence in Japanese tattooing, the artist that drew these prints did not print them but instead took them to someone who specialized in making these drawings into woodblocks to be printed. These same people who engraved these woodblocks became some of the first tattoo artists, they would take the prints and engrave them – only this time on skin.

I want to bring tattooing back to it’s roots – being a beautiful piece of our heritage and culture. I specialize in Japanese motifs and hope to bring as much influence to Japanese Tattooing as the first woodblock artists did.


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