Japanese Tattoos are beyond Yakuza organized crime

The majority of people in are wary of . In the past they were outlawed and those who bore them tended to belong to criminal gangs. They are particularly associated with the yakuza (Japanese mafia). So, although are increasingly seen as fashionable among ’s younger generation, the art of irezumi, or traditional Japanese tattooing, has been forced underground and remains a secret world that few people get to see.

rezumi are created using a style called tebori, which uses bamboo poles, home-made needles and sumi ink made from charcoal. It is a difficult style and pure practitioners number no more than 10, the majority of whom have yakuza among their clientele, supporting the notion that tattoos are in some way associated with crime and are therefore something to be feared. However, according to one pure tebori style artist, Kenichi Kato, who works under the name of Horimyo, the roots of tattooing in Japan did not start with organized crime, but come from an art form that was believed to bestow powers onto those who bore tattoos.

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