A SHORT HISTORY OF THE YAKUZA TATTOO
Famous Yakuza Tattoo
The Yakuza is an umbrella term for many infamous Japanese mafia organizations that have existed since the 19th century.They lead a criminal lifestyle typical of gangs.
Members and outsiders continue to sport the distinctive Yakuza tattoo style they popularized.
A bunch of gamblers, scam artists, or even good Samaritans battling government-employed samurai undoubtedly formed the foundation of the Yakuza gangs.
Yakuza refers to a terrible hand in an ancient card game that these gangs of criminals and low-class citizens used to play.
This was meant to be a metaphor for the unfair circumstances of their lives, which placed them at the lowest echelons of society.
In addition to their traditional roles, they now function as typical Japanese businesspeople, dressing and acting the part.
Precisely what is the definition of a Yakuza tattoo?
Tattoos worn by the Yakuza have deep personal significance and express a person's self-expression.
Samurai Yakuza tattoos, for instance, are well-liked because they portray the wearer as a brave warrior who makes moral choices despite a lack of cowardice.
Typical Yakuza tattoos may range from simple black outlines to elaborate designs.
The term "Yakuza bodysuit" refers to the uniforms that envelop their wearers from shoulder to shin.
These traditional Japanese tattoos, which often include themes from Japanese mythology or the Yakuza's colorful past, declare the wearer's individuality to the world.
The Yakuza get inspiration for their tattoos from a wide variety of sources.
Ancient woodblock designs have long served as the foundation for enormous, vivid tattoos, and they are one such source of inspiration.
The same methods created traditional tattoos as woodblock prints: the artist would carve and gouge images into the client's skin, then fill them with Nara ink.
When oxidized beneath the skin, Nara ink takes on a bluish-green hue.
Tattoos like dragons, tigers, and flowers were popular among the Yakuza because they were based on images from the novel Suikoden, about valiant warriors.
More incredible pain endured during the tattooing process and a greater tattoo size were indicators of a member's dedication to the Yakuza.
As a result, it's not uncommon to see Yakuza members covered from head to toe with tattoos.
The Yakuza would even have onlookers see their own tattoos as part of a ceremony.
However, they cover them up with high-necked shirts and only show them off to other Yakuza members when they are in private.
Because tattoos are still considered very taboo in Japanese society, barely 1% of the population has them, thus those who do choose to hide them under clothing.
The Origins of the Yakuza Tattoo
Surprisingly, given that they are a covert organization, we have a wealth of information on their beginnings.Their backstories are secret, as is the case with most clandestine organizations.
However, the myths and legends surrounding their creation and evolution into modern times have yielded a wealth of knowledge.
The burakumin class was the lowest in Japan's severe caste system enforced by the shogunate.
The burakumin, literally "hamlet/village people," were the lowest of the low.
Some were outcasts from Japanese society, while others had occupations nobody desired.
They were the outcasts of society and faced severe prejudice from authorities.
They had to stay together if they wanted to keep living.
The early Yakuza may be traced back to two primary groups of burakumin, both of low social standing, throughout the middle of the Edo era (1603-1868) in Japanese history.
The tequila was a gang that engaged in theft and resale, while the bakuto ran underground gambling dens.
The bakuto originated the custom of amputating the initial joint of the little finger as a means of punishing disloyal members of a group.
The goal was to establish a healthy amount of respect and terror for the boss.
A Yakuza member's little finger would be severed if he or she ever left the gang for whatever reason, forever marking them as an ex-member.
During this historical period, members of the lower classes of Japanese society developed their own ornamental tattooing style known as irezumi, which still serves as the foundation for modern Japanese body art.
This was a groundbreaking concept since these communities were repurposing the forbidden penalty of getting a tattoo—typically on the forehead or limbs—for a new purpose: a means of self-expression.
The government tattooed a criminal's name and identifying information in a prominent location, thus socially isolating them and making it impossible for any company to hire them.
In the early twentieth century, when the Yakuza first gained notoriety, tattoos were considered the mark of a criminal and were thus banned in Japan.
With their tattoos, the Yakuza were showing that they were proud of their roots and ready to take on the establishment.
Despite the crackdowns, the Yakuza culture developed to enormous proportions, and its members continued to meet, get tattoos, and figure out how to thrive in a society that didn't welcome them.
The Yakuza, a criminal organization in contemporary Japan, is responsible for a wide range of illicit activities, including extortion, smuggling, blackmail, prostitution, drug trafficking, and the ownership of restaurants and nightclubs.Others believe they are as divine as the samurai or as honorable as Robin Hood's Merry Men.
They are said to be leading their gangs not for the sole goal of going out and hurting people but for safety and survival, using both legal and criminal methods.
They're typically held up as examples of justice and decency.
The head of one of the most influential Yakuza organizations, the Yamaguchi Gumi, recently gave an interview in which he portrayed his group as a philanthropic organization whose mission is to aid struggling Japanese residents.
Tattoos in Japan: Both Adored and Reviled
When the Yakuza were initially forming in Japan, many individuals in the merchant class, dockworkers, construction workers, and anybody else in a physically demanding profession began obtaining tattoos.
It soon became a symbol of social disgrace.
Nonetheless, it carried a heavy social stigma due to its association with criminals and its opposition to Confucian ethics.
While the Japanese government finally legalized tattoos in late 1948, the practice remained stigmatized and associated with the criminal organization Yakuza.
In Japan, tattoos are often placed on the top part of the body, such as the chest, back, or upper legs, where they cannot be seen when sleeveless clothing is worn.
In Japan, having a tattoo is still widely seen as taboo.
Tattoos are still associated with criminality and the Yakuza in modern Japan, so much so that many businesses still refuse to hire anyone with them.
Tattoo Styles Popular among the Yakuza
Many people have imitated Yakuza tattoo designs to seem harsh and shady, like the Yakuza.
Yakuza tattoos may be colorful or include primarily black ink, depending on the design.
The meaning of these signs is usually one of dominance.
These tattoos are not for the weak of the heart; they are ferocious.
Here are a few common motifs seen in Yakuza tattoos:
Yakuza Tattoos' Primary Design Elements
It's common for Yakuza members to have full-body tattoos, which is a recurring motif.
Yakuza tattoos are often huge and bold, covering almost the whole body from the back of the neck to the ankles.
The Hiroshi artist, who specializes in irezumi tattoos, is another fundamental idea in Yakuza culture.
The studio of a Hiroshi artist may seem less like a tattoo parlor and more like a library.
The elaborate designs of an irezumi tattoo are a beautiful and integral element of Japanese tradition.
The utilization of traditional Japanese symbols with significant connotations in Yakuza tattoo culture is another common thread in Yakuza tattoos.
The definitions of some of these symbols are as follows:
Dragon Tattoo in the Yakuza Culture
Irezumi tattoos often include a dragon as the focal point of the design.
No one can fathom or explain the source of a dragon's incredible strength.
Having a dragon tattoo not only makes you look terrific, but it also gives certain people reason to be afraid of you.
Dragons, the supreme beings of the sky in Japanese mythology, are often depicted on or around the head in Yakuza art.
In Japan, a dragon tattoo symbolizes strength and patience because it represents the eternal struggle between the heavens and the Earth.
Meaning of the Yakuza Tiger Tattoo
In contrast to dragons, tigers are revered as cosmic masters.
As a result, a Japanese tiger tattoo is traditionally placed on the lower torso by the Yakuza.
Tattooed tigers should also be oriented such that the head is looking upward, particularly if a dragon is placed above the design.
This is due to the tiger's symbolic meaning of power, tenacity, and afterlife direction.From the underworld, they are helping people on the surface.
The battle between good and evil, symbolized by a dragon and tiger, is shown in another popular Yakuza tattoo.
The symbolism of the Cherry Blossom in Yakuza Tattoos
The cherry blossom, formerly a symbol of suicide pilots, now signifies the transitory beauty and constant change of life.
The implication in Yakuza culture is that one should make the most of their limited time on Earth.
Additionally, it is a samurai emblem, signifying an inclination toward material success.
Taboos of the Yakuza and the Samurai in Tattoo Form
The Yakuza take inspiration from the samurai and their noble, Robin Hood-esque aspirations, adopting many of their customs and even dressing the part.
As a result, people often obtain samurai tattoos to remind them of the value of a strong moral compass. This ink is a symbol of bravery, dedication to the Yakuza, and personal honor.
The symbolism of the Yakuza Koi Fish Tattoo
The koi fish is a popular motif for Yakuza tattoos because of the good fortune and success it is said to bring its owner.
The koi fish, according to a myth from ancient Japan, can traverse any waterfall.
That's why it's a sign of grit and determination to achieve whatever it is you set your mind to.
Furthermore, it represents the will to overcome fear and make it to the top of that waterfall, whatever it may represent to you.
In sum, a koi fish tattoo is quintessentially Yakuza because it represents a person who has triumphed over adversity and is prepared to take on the world.
The Significance of the Yakuza Phoenix Tattoo
One such tattoo sign that represents rebirth and overcoming adversity is the Phoenix, a Yazuka tattoo emblem.
If you're a fan of the Yakuza, this mythical creature's journey is a metaphor for starting again and burning your previous life to the ground.
Snake Tattoo in the Yakuza Culture
Large and bold, the Yakuza snake tattoo is commonly found on the back or chest and can represent both negative (bad luck, poor health) and positive (power, wisdom) traits.
It's possible that this tattoo has a symbolic meaning for the Yakuza, who may believe that the strength gained from adversity will help them become powerful and smart.
Like the Italian mafia, the Yakuza developed long-lasting organizations.Yakuza tattoos are a fascinating facet of Japanese society because of the exceptional pride its owners have in their ink while maintaining a strict policy of not publicly displaying their body art.
Travelers from all over the globe come to Japan to get inked by a Hiroshi, or one of the many other tattoo artists who have trained under great tattoo masters in their respective styles.
If you choose a Yakuza symbol and follow the rules for body placement, you may acquire a taste of the Yakuza tattoo at any tattoo parlor. However, for the most authentic experience, seek a parlor that specializes in traditional Japanese stick-and-poke tattooing.
Despite the fact that we discusse the practice of cutting the ink into the client's limb, Yakuza tattoo artists have been utilizing metal needles (or bamboo, if they're going old school) and manually pushing ink into the client for hundreds of years.
Because the painters employ ink types that have been handed down for centuries, the ink they use is generally handmade and has a restricted color range.
Yakuza tattoos, for example, are more than just a trend; they're also a deeply held set of beliefs and a piece of history that can be traced back hundreds of years.