The Legacy of The Japanese Tattoo

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horiyoshi_Japanese Tattoo

Does modern day tattooing still owe a debt to Japan’s past? Read more about the legacy of  the  Japanese Tattoo !!

This dissertation will look at the history of Japanese tattooing and discuss its influence on modern day tattoo art. It will also seek to show the importance of the relationship between the tattoo artist and client in contracting a collaborative agreement in what work should be undertaken in terms of technique, location on the body and subject. It will also describe some of the principal techniques that underpin the art of Japanese tattoo and reflect on its continued use today. It will also seek to look at the continuing influence its cultural history plays in guiding the work of modern Japanese designers.

It has to be said that Japanese tattooing is one of the most popular and vibrant styles in the modern day art that is tattoo. However it has been a long and difficult journey for the tattoos that enthusiasts can enjoy today. From its earliest roots in Japanese Tattoo culture it has been subject to banning by Japanese governments of different periods and it is therefore testament to the power, beauty and sheer skill of the work of their creators, that whether under the cover of clothing, (by pure necessity), or overshadowed by the stigma that wearing a tattoo often bears, the masters of the Japanese tattoo have been able to continue to practice their art and by doing so have continued to exert their powerful influence in the world of tattoo art.

Among many others, Horiyoshi I (Fig.1), II, IV have continued to practice throughout these difficult periods, pushing boundaries of their masterpieces to the absolute limits and Horiyoshi 3 brings tattooing to a modern stage through the use of the internet.


horiyoshi_Japanese Tattoo

Horiyoshi 1 (Fig.1)

Until recently there has been an interesting difference between traditional Japanese and western tattoo artists in the way in which they find and develop relationships with clients and this difference will be discussed later. The true Japanese tattoo masters did not advertise their work or trade outwith the confines of their studios. Instead, it was treated very discreetly and secretively with most of their clients seeking them out through the word of mouth of former and current clients. The prospective client was then offered the opportunity to meet with the master in order to discuss the various decisions to be made between the two parties. If the artist and client agreed, a contract of sorts would be struck between the two and a relationship begun that might last for the lifetime of both participants. Indeed it may outlive both as will be discussed later.

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