A BRIEF HISTORY OF JAPANESE TATTOOING

Jun 30 08:10 2012 tim hope Print This Article

Japan gave the west an art that is now dying in their own country and growing in our own.

Like in the majority of countries,Guest Posting the early history of tattooing is quite obscure. Scholars in Japan have put dates around the third century B.C. Clay figurines (haniwa) uncovered in ancient tombs show tattoo markings on their faces. With other evidence removed and examined during such excavations, dates were approximated to be 200 B.C. Recently, however, other evidence points to even earlier tattoos. During 1977 in Osaka, a large tumulus grave mound was opened. In relation to tattoos, two important finds were made of clay figures clearly showing a depiction of tattooing. Further study in archeology revealed the latest possible date of creation would be 15th century B.C. This hard evidence clearly demonstrates Japan’s exceptional long history in body art and more so of deliberate coloring the skin.

The main purpose of Japanese people tattooing their skin in ancient cultures is vague. We know through certain periods of time that some punishments were met with a person being tattooed but this kind of reprimand was also used for beautification and religious purposes. Since it is widely believed that the haniwa finds were honorary statues, suggesting that being tattooed during this period would almost certainly symbolize your status.  Other material like Kojiki (Japan’s earliest records) back up and propose that numerous Japanese cultures did create tattoo designs in order to distinguish social rank.

It’s pretty much accepted by Japan’s own historians that by the fifth century A.D., this practice had apparently all but disappeared.

Moving on to other records, notably those of Nihon Shoki (additional Japanese records) that were created in the year 720, these documents tell the story of a man named Azumi. For the crime of treason Azumi was punished in the traditional Chinese way – having his face tattooed. In any event this type of punishment did become popular for the Japanese authorities to use and surly would have been replicated from China. Forehead and arms was typically the chosen body area for the tattoos to be applied. Though widespread throughout Japan, punishing a person by such methods was used sparingly. For Japanese and Chinese people, to be branded in a way for others to see would be a far greater punishment than going to prison and for many even death. Your social ties with family and friends would be crushed and dishonored by wearing a tattoo for a crime considered serious enough to be punished in this way. Unquestionably, unless in close village like conditions where few families live; you would not be tolerated in communities and therefore unable to remain or face serious consequences. Mirroring this behavior were untouchable classes of Japanese society whose tattoos would be a mark of their class and standing.

When the late seventeenth century arrived the tattoo of crime had stepped aside for the decorative type. Not quite the pictorial ones we readily see today but markings and words that were common among thieves, prostitutes and even religious types. Not until the late 1700’s did tattoos become popular in Japan and it’s this style of tattoo design we still associate with Japanese artwork. It carved a way with its intricate detail and assured skill for other countries to follow but still no other country has become a prevailing social fashion like Japan in regards to tattoos. Without question, the west became attracted to this form of art and a way of showing individuality and likes by what they had tattooed on their person. Some upper classes of western civilization and sailors could have their fascination with Japanese tattoos realized by traveling there just to be tattooed. King George V and his brother Duke of Clarence both received tattoos in this way.

Today in modern society, traditional Japanese tattooing is slowly vanishing and with it the skilled masters who for so long could paint the most beautiful artwork into skin using nothing more than a pointed stick dipped in ink. We have in Japanese tattooing the entire history of the craft, from punishment to its glorious transition of colorful decoration and now to its present decline. Japan alone gave us artwork, imagination, patience and beauty through its tattooing.

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tim hope
tim hope

For further information regarding tattoos or body modification please visit Tattoo Designs

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