Japan inked: Should the country reclaim its tattoo culture?

by Jon Mitchell

Special To The Japan Times

Tattooing is the most misunderstood form of art in contemporary Japan. Demonized by centuries of prohibitions and rarely discussed today in civilized circles, people with tattoos are outcasts in their own country — banned from many beaches, pools and public baths. Ask anyone to explain the reason for this vilification and most will blame the yakuza and their penchant for body ink; better-informed citizens may even trace the roots of negative attitudes to the 17th century, when criminals were tattooed as a form of punishment.

However, such explanations for Japan’s longstanding animosity toward tattoos are, at best, an oversimplification — and, at worst, downright incorrect. Instead of targeting wrongdoers, Japanese prohibitions against tattoos have historically been aimed at the working classes, women and ethnic minorities, and today the bearer of a full-back tattoo is increasingly likely to be a sensitive salaryman rather than a punch-permed thug.

The history of body modification in Japan is long and vibrant, dating back to the Jomon Period (roughly 10,500 B.C. to 300 B.C.), when clay figurines were molded with marks that modern historians interpret as either tattoos or scarification. Later in the third century, Chinese records noted that all Japanese males bore heavy tattoos on their faces and bodies.

The end of the Edo Period (1603-1867) was the golden age of tattooing. During this time, Japan was a military dictatorship governed by a corrupt samurai elite who had barricaded the country from the outside world and imposed a strict social hierarchy on the population.

These leaders kept a tight lid on both the rights and artistic expressions of the lower classes, particularly merchants whose emerging wealth threatened to upset the status quo. Tensions were most evident in Edo (modern-day Tokyo), where they helped to give birth to some of Japan’s best-known arts: kabuki, ukiyo-e woodblock prints and, the black sheep of Edo pop culture, tattooing.

All three of these arts developed alongside one another and they often overlapped. Kabuki regularly featured renegade heroes with large makeup tattoos — characters who were then depicted by woodblock artists in their portraits and advertisements for these dramas. Such images were copied and exaggerated by tattooists themselves and their work, in turn, was reinterpreted by kabuki makeup artists.

This interplay of skills — combined with a cycle of one-upmanship — elevated the art of tattooing to new highs. Among Edo residents keenest to be inked with large tattoos were firefighters seeking protective symbols of carp or water dragons and those working near-nude in the city’s humid summers — carpenters, delivery men and palanquin bearers.

At this time, both tattooists and woodblock artists adopted the title hori, or “to carve.” They based some of their most famous designs on the 12th-century Chinese story of Suikoden — as told in “The Water Margin” — whose underdog heroes’ battles with authority struck a chord with Edo-ites struggling against their own oppressive masters.

It was difficult for the samurai to ignore these indelible critiques so they imposed bans on tattooing. However, its popularity rendered such laws almost impossible to enforce.

It took a cataclysmic event to end this boom in tattooing: the uninvited arrival of foreign ships to Japan in the middle of the 19th century. At this time, Western powers were colonizing large parts of Asia, subjugating local populations through force and/or opium, stripping their natural resources and demanding they sign unfair trade deals. Isolated for more than 200 years, Japan lacked modern technologies such as steam power, telegraphs and heavy weapons, and so the risk of conquest was very real. It had to modernize — and modernize fast.

“To avoid occupation by Western countries, Japan needed to appear civilized,” says Yoshimi Yamamoto, author of the 2005 book, “Irezumi no Sekai” (“Tattoo: The Anthropology of Body Decoration”). “One of the ways to project this image was to ban tattooing, which the Japanese government thought foreigners would regard as backwards or barbaric.”

The first of these national bans on tattooing was introduced in 1872, with further prohibitions in the following years. According to Yamamoto, these policies were experienced most harshly by those on the nation’s periphery, where Japan’s newly-formed Meiji government felt more vulnerable to foreign incursions: in the north, Hokkaido, and Okinawa to the south. Here, anti-tattooing ordinances were designed both to demonstrate to Western powers that these people were under Japanese rule and to homogenize them into the Japanese Empire.

For many generations, Ainu women in Hokkaido had marked their faces and arms with tattoos made of soot from the family hearth. These tattoos were believed to ward off evil spirits and ensure safe passage to the afterlife. The Japanese government had first tried to outlaw Ainu tattooing in 1799 but following the arrival of Western powers, it passed a stronger ordinance in 1871. Given the spiritual importance of the custom, Ainu reacted angrily to the ban and many women continued to tattoo in secret.

In Okinawa, too, tattooing was primarily a female custom — all adult women bore hand tattoos called hajichi that were made from awamori alcohol and ink. These markings served as talismans and were often connected to the practice of female shamanism; a number of female tattooists held important roles in Okinawan communities that tended to be more matriarchal than those on the mainland.

As part of a swath of measures to suppress Okinawan identity, Tokyo prohibited tattooing on the islands in 1899. According to Yamamoto’s research, almost 700 women were arrested for breaking the ban over the following five years. The severity with which the policy was enforced suggests it was an attempt to reduce women’s status and secure authority for male bureaucrats appointed by the central government.

In contrast, on mainland Japan itself, officials were more lax in their enforcement of anti-tattoo prohibitions; for example, only about 500 arrests took place in the 70-year period starting in 1876. The ban did, however, succeed in driving tattooing underground. The police discouraged overt displays of body ink and raided studios, seizing tools and artwork as well as criminalizing the traditional master-apprentice relationships upon which the art depended.

Official prohibitions against tattooing remained until 1948 when they were lifted by U.S. occupation forces. Once again, Japanese tattooists were allowed to work without fear of prosecution and, in the following decades, a number of exchanges developed between Japanese tattooists and their U.S. counterparts.

These exchanges included those of Hawaii-based Sailor Jerry (who traded hard-to-obtain U.S. ink for Japanese tattoo designs) and Don Ed Hardy, the artist often credited for popularizing tattoos in the United States, where today approximately one-fifth of the population is inked.

Ironically, at the same time that Japanese tattooing was gaining acclaim in the West, people on its home turf were becoming further alienated from the custom.

“Japanese people have forgotten their tattoo history,” says Yamamoto, who blames this amnesia on an unlikely double-punch: modern plumbing and gangster movies.

“In the 1960s, more and more people began living in homes with indoor bathrooms so they stopped going to public baths where, in the past, they would have seen ordinary people — like carpenters and laborers — with tattoos. Also during this period, yakuza films became popular,” Yamamoto says.

With heavily-inked anti-heroes and titles such as “Brutal Tales of Chivalry” and “Kanto Wanderer,” these violent movies sealed baby boomers’ prejudices that tattoos were synonymous with gangsterism. In a case of life imitating art, many young yakuza also fed into this belief and rushed out to get themselves inked. This trend has since reversed and large tattoos have fallen out of favor among gangsters who, following strict anti-gang laws introduced during the past two decades, are trying to keep a lower profile.

For many Japanese people, though, the association of tattoos to thuggery is stronger than ever; bans on ink at swimming pools, hot springs and even some beaches are increasingly widespread. These misguided regulations often inflict collateral damage. Last year, for example, a Maori woman from New Zealand with a traditional facial tattoo was refused entry to a hot spring in Hokkaido — the owners seemingly ignorant of their own island’s long history of female tattooing.

Despite such discrimination, increasing numbers of Japanese people are going under the needle. Today there are an estimated 3,000 tattoo artists working in Japan, compared to approximately 200 in 1990.

Tattooists interviewed for this article confirmed the waning popularity of tattoos among yakuza. They cited a diverse new clientele that includes businessmen getting tattoos of their newborns, female executives requesting climbing carps to inspire their struggles versus corporate sexism and relatives seeking memorials for those they had lost to the Great East Japan Earthquake.

The work of 3,000 artists constitutes many hectares of ink, representing a resurgence in tattooing that suggests it is as widespread today as it was in its Edo-era heyday. Perhaps the current impetus is the same as back then — unprecedented frustration with an entrenched governing class that stifles the majority into stiff social molds.

As of yet, Japanese people’s tattoos remain largely out of sight. However, a day may come soon when a great wave of ink washes aside outdated discrimination and people can embrace again one of their oldest — and most persistent — forms of art.

  • Chandrakant Kulkarni

    [ I am a Body Therapist located at Pune, India.] A Tattoo on my patient’s body part(s) really confuses me in my study of his/her muscle contours. I cannot easily find those peculiar ‘landmarks’ on my patient’s body for applying Camphor Flame Cups – in Cupping Session.

  • itoshima2012

    Tattoos are truly idiotic….

    • Charlie Sommers

      Why would you make such a statement?

    • 田辺先生

      itoshima2012> Always? On everyone? Absurd. Please do not assume all humans in the entire world need appreciate the same art.

  • Demosthenes

    I say just do what makes you feel good. In Japan, there’s never any point in hoping for social change to make you or what you like more acceptable. I doubt tattos will ever be considered ok in the mainstream. But who cares? And why bother waiting for change. If you want a tattoo, I say just stick it to society and go and get one.
    In all cultures there’s the trade off between ego (your wants) and superego (social pressure.) With each decision we make in pursuing the former, we must determine whether it is worthwhile to suppress it in favor of gaining greater rewards by bowing to the latter. But with Japanese society this is an easy calculation to make: Japanese society is so miserable and pathetic that even if you do bow to pressures to fit in, it can never be worthwhile for you in the long run. So the answer is obvious, I’d say.

    • Jessica (shika)

      you lost all credibility with this beauty – “Japanese society is so miserable and pathetic that even if you do bow to pressures to fit in, it can never be worthwhile for you in the long run. ”
      to say one culture or society is ‘miserable and pathetic’ is beyond ignorant. As someone from Australia who speaks Japanese (and has lived there and witnessed the good and bad) there are countless things I can say are beyond sad in Western countries as well.

      • Demosthenes

        You are correct in calling me out here. Indeed, there are some things about the West which are truly sad – reality TV shows are maybe an example. And not everything in Japan is “miserable.” (I guess the people I see on the trains each morning or those I pass in the street at all hours of the day are actually quite happy, and only look suicidal because it’s the polite thing to do when in public, perhaps.)

        But I digress. I guess the crux of what I was trying to say was – Don’t sell yourself out just to fit in. I’ve seen too many Japanese co-workers run themselves halfway to death at work, to be convinced that Japanese culture is little more than a system based on guilt and manipulation, that aims to convert human beings into slaves for the tribe.

        When comparing cultures, sure, things are different by degrees. But I think that, by any standard – even those of Japanese themselves – life in Japan is just too hard. Something needs to change. It might as well start with tattoos.

      • 田辺先生

        “just too hard”…? In some ways, harder than mine here in the US. In other ways, far less stressful. Ease of transportation, safety even in large cities, equitable access to healthcare, job availability & security (better than the US!), very low rate of SIDS and other infant/childhood tragedies, equal access to education….for some, these things matter. I have no qualms about tattoos and hope the Japanese attitude relaxes in regards to tattoos (my 3 kids all have ‘em), however in the grand scheme of things are they such a high priority?

      • Demosthenes

        You make some good points Mr Tanabe. But I still think that it’s difficult to argue that life in Japan is objectively “better” than the West. The ability to pursue one’s own goals, and one’s own way of living is crucial to personal happiness. Japan suffers poorly in this area, as there are just far too many social constructs and control mechanisms that dictate one’s path in society. Women, for example, still need to live with the expectations of leaving their career once they are married.
        You don’t even need to quote anecdotal evidence to prove this. Choose any study conducted into levels of happiness around the globe, and you will see that Japan often ranks poorest in the industrialized nations. The country has a problem. And with the economy continuing to sink, you can bet that happiness level is only going to continue going down, not up.

    • Bagaboo

      You seem to be misled. It’s not like there are a bunch of people in Japan who actually want tattoos but are repressing their desire due to societal influences. LOL. People just don’t want them.

      • Demosthenes

        I’m actually taking a broader view in my points here. I’m more concerned about the very constricting social noms that are placed on Japanese people, in general.

      • Bagaboo

        I look at Japanese society and see a lot of people living life well. It’s a tolerant society with a lot of people able to live a decent middle-class life. People have loving families, eat well, pursue hobbies, have healthy marriages, have a good health care system, and more. Of course there are problems with Japanese society, but there are problems with every society. According to you there are “very constricting social norms”, but there are also many great points about Japan which I hope you can open your eyes to. Besides, there are people that will not agree you about these social norms, that other societies also have norms which are just as constricting, if not moreso, or that perhaps constricting social norms is actually a good thing. Anyway, this article is about tattoos and you did make it sound like people don’t get tattoos in Japan due to societal pressure not to. I assert that most Japanese don’t even want tattoos, regardless of what “society” says.

      • Demosthenes

        My eyes are very much open with regard to life here, thank you. And I’m not sure that I agree with you about Japan having a tolerant society. I definitely think that Japanese society is not inclusive – especially where non-Japanese citizens are concerned. I could also question your other assertions about loving families and healthy marriages.
        You seem to take a cultural relativist’s position when you say that all societies have problems. That seems a rather lazy thing to do, as surely it is in the interests of a society to try to improve the lot for its people. If we took your view, there would never be any attempts to improve society.
        And maybe constricting social norms are better – what an odd thing for you to say. In what way are they better, precisely? Do you mean they are better because of the high suicide rate in schools? Or maybe just in how couples interracial marriages are sniggered at when they walk down the street?

      • Bagaboo

        Well, you’re here spending your time complaining about Japan in English, even though you seem to live in Japan. Therefore your comments about inclusion aren’t really important. If you want to be included, then included yourself.

        Of course there are some unloving families and unhealthy marriages, but the majority in Japan are better than what we see in Western countries where divorce is rampant, people leaving spouses and kids on a whim.

        If you’re talking about a society that tries to improve, then is there another country on the planet that does this moreso than Japan? I think not.

        What’s so odd about saying that constricting social norms could be good? I didn’t say that that’s my personal viewpoint. I just said that it’s a viewpoint that you haven’t seemed to have considered. Just off the top of my head I can say that learning to be considerate of others is one benefit.

        I’ve never seen an inter-racial marriage “sniggered at”. In fact, most Japanese seem to hold “international marriages” in high esteem.

        This is starting to sound more and more like you’re just in a bad mood because of some personal issues.

      • Demosthenes

        LOL. Bagaboo, all that is what you really believe, then I think I might just leave it there. Thanks for your interesting conversation. I wish you the best for your life in Japan.

      • Bagaboo

        Your icon is fitting. A hard head. Good luck to you too.

      • weisefading

        Now thats cultural imperialism, the western way is the best way, all cultures have to “improve”. Other cultures are so backwards for not being like the west??

      • Demosthenes

        No. I am not saying Japan should be like the West. I am just stating that Japan owes it to its own people to try to improve – for Japan’s sake. Japanese business used to be firm believers in Kaizen, and this is all I am suggeting that the government do.

        But let me ask you, why shouldn’t Japan strive to be more like the West if the West has something worthwhile to learn from? There are a great many things about Western culture which are fantastic.

  • Bagaboo

    Tattoos and piercings are for people who don’t like their bodies as-is. I also extend that to make-up. One of my favourite things about Japanese society is the lack of the perceived need to alter one’s body.

    • Ururoa

      What country do you live in? Certainly not Japan. Japan has one of the biggest cosmetic surgery industries in the world, along with being the biggest consumers of cosmetics (both male and female). Come to Bangkok; Japanese are number one by volume customers for the cosmetic surgery and dentistry industries here.

      • Bagaboo

        You have a strange definition of “certainly”. What’s your first language? Anyway, just because there is a lot of cosmetic surgery and make-up in Japan, doesn’t mean that most people do that. The general population is quite large in Japan and Japan is also a rich country. Where did you study logic? (or did you even study it at all?)

      • Ururoa

        Hmm, well before you start spouting off, perhaps you would like to review some facts?

        Japan has 1831 registered plastic surgeons (4th highest in the world, after USA, BRAZIL and CHINA).

        Just guessing, but those plastic surgeons have to make a living, so perhaps they are practicing?

        Actually, P10K (procedures per 10K persons), Japan ranks at #5 worldwide, with 411,000 cosmetic surgery operations per year. This excludes of course those that head to BKK and elsewhere for their operations.

        Hardly reinforces your view that Japanese… “lack of the perceived need to alter one’s body.”

      • Bagaboo

        So, in other words, the vast majority of Japanese DON’T get plastic surgery. I look around and I see a whole lot of people without tattoos in Japan. And let me tell you. They’re looking good without them. I go to any Western country and it’s almost the exception for a white person between the ages of 30-50 to not have one. Also, let’s look at piercings. Very rare in Japan. Very normal in Western countries. So, you can sit there and twist the facts all you want, but I know what I see. I’m talking about average people, not exceptions. I’m talking about going out in public and looking at people from all walks of life.

      • AngelLita .

        @Bagaboo: Let’s clarify something. You are undeniably wrong. This is coming from someone who had lived in Japan for an extensive period of time. Make-up is a big deal with everyday people and “altering” your appearance is a huge deal in Japan, especially with everyday ordinary people. Japanese people are very big on: appearances and how people see them.

        Here’s an example 3 of my female friends lived 1 h away from school. They had classes starting at 9. They would each get up at 6am to do their make-up (about an hour) and hair (for one of my friends is took her almost an hour to do her hair) in order to make it to the train by 8 and class by 9.

        Ignorance and saying “that is what you see” is not how you should approach this subject.

        Piercings, mostly ears, are a big market there as well. The current generation is also starting to go into other types of piercings.

        Everyone all over the world alters there body in one way or another through make-up, through clothes, exercise, tattoos and the like.

        Do not make a broad statement about something you obviously have no idea about other than what you see on TV, unless you either have: research to back you up or you actually have lived there.

      • Bagaboo

        Wow. You lived in Japan for an extensive period of time, and yet you didn’t even notice some basic things about the society? I’ve met people like that before. It’s interesting. I remember meeting this guy in Toronto once and I was certain that he was from Italy. He seemed a little shy and had a strong Italian accent. Actually he grew up in Toronto. He just had a lifestyle where he was always around his Italian family and friends and rarely got out. I don’t think there’s anything really wrong with you guys. It’s kind of cool in a way. On the other hand though, if that’s the kind of situation you’ve been living, then you should probably refrain from making certain types of comments about society since you’re not so familiar with the general culture.

        Yes, a lot of people will spend a lot of time on their appearance in Japan. A lot of people also spend almost no time on their appearance. I’m not sure if you ever noticed, but it seems like the vast majority of men in Japan get up, don’t have a shower, and maybe casually brush their hair. Japan is like a nation of bed-head men. It’s almost embarrassing when you see all of these boys and men with hair that sticks out all over the place. You may not be familiar, but in Japan most people have a bath at night instead of a shower in the morning. This is part of the reason.

        Another funny thing in Japan is you’ll see men shaving their faces with electric shavers while they’re driving to work in the morning.

        Of course there are also the millions of salarymen in Japan who wear basically the same clothes every day to work.

        How many of these men do you think have tattoos? How many do you think have piercings? And what if you compare those men to men in Western countries?

        It’s common around the planet for women to wear make-up, and some women in Japan wear too much of it. However, the majority of women in Japan keep their make-up minimal, and there are also quite a few women in Japan who wear no make-up at all. There are extremely few women in Japan who have tattoos. Although many women in Japan wear earrings, there is a considerable number of women who don’t have their ears pierced. Other parts of the body being pierced is very rare and unusual in Japan.

        So, you can keep talking about altered appearances and everything, but when I look at Japan, and then when I look at Western countries, Japan, hands down, is a much more natural-looking society.

        There’s a difference between wearing some nice clothes and upkeeping your basic appearance AND getting holes punched into parts of your body where you stick some jewellery and having ink permanently etched onto your skin.

    • La_Dolce

      Ppppfffffftt hahahaa. You’ve CLEARLY never watched Japanese TV, or perhaps even been to Japan. Have you seen the pounds of makeup that women cake on everyday? How about the commercials for goods that promise “bigger busts” or smaller thighs? How about the fact that a good chunk of women will fast for days if they think they’ve eaten too much at a barbecue? Let’s not forget the shoe-lifts that men love, the colored eye contacts, hair dyes and lastly (as stated below) all the cosmetic surgery (which, by the way, is actively and ostentatiously advertised in subways.)

      • Bagaboo

        It’s like you didn’t even read my posts. You’re also another sufferer of vocabulary. You don’t seem to have the same definition of “clearly” that I do. Are you one of those people who bases their ideas about Japan on the crazy stories they’ve heard from their friends or the videos they watch on Youtube? Japan has over 125 million people. Just like most people, the general population and who you see on TV are quite different. In general, TV is not very realistic, and to be honest, it’s not healthy to be watching a lot of it.

      • Timoty Sullivan

        Bagaboo, you are simply realistic.. but you copy my idea. I think exactly what you think. Also about TV , and japan. You can’t imagine how beautiful is to enjoy the onsen without people with tattos. Japan is one of the last places in the world where you can enjoy silent and clean people without tattos

      • itoshima2012

        Yep, right you are, last time was in Europe I had to put up with literally hundreds of fat morons with tattoos on the most absurd places…. Jesus, how I love japan, at least we’re not inundated by those cretins

  • weisefading

    What are you talking about. How is it cultural imperialism to praise another culture for something?
    Is it not cultural imperalism to try to impose acceptance of something?

  • http://getironic.blogspot.com/ getironic

    It’s really tempting to psychologize about the desire to have a tattoo or tattoos.

    I’ve always been of the prejudice that if a person doesn’t distinguish themselves (to themself) by their own achievements, then they will seek to find a shortcut to concretizing their own identity, by whatever degree.

    Instead of having your own achievements, it is easier to attempt to fool your own mind by associating oneself with the supposed achievements of others, such as joining a gang, or group identification: ethnic, social or otherwise. Similarly this need for identity can motivate one to get tattoos, or style their manner of dress.

    The danger is that this “ego-replacement therapy” is not the only motivation possible; although I would wager it is unfortunately the most common one.

    So, when I see someone with tattoos, I tend to suspect collectivism and ego-replacement, thus aspects of weak character.

    In Western culture there are many kinds of group-associations with tattoos. People overlook them because there is often no specific conclusion to draw without further information. Japanese culture, however, has only one strong group-association with tattooing: criminal, and that is largely presumed as a social norm regardless of any individual’s actual independent judgment.

    It is the method of thought about homosexuality: “That’s cute, but don’t get married.”. “Tattoo? Oh, that’s interesting, just don’t display it around others.”.

  • Bagaboo

    Wait a minute. That’s not my mantra! Why are you so grumpy?

    • Dael

      people are grumpy because you’ve made an idiot out of yourself, generalizing your subjective preferences into universal good practices, and argued from inane assumptions about humanity, such as that people get tattoos because they don’t like their bodies. you’ve done so, apparently without any backing or even the most rudimentary familiarity with the people who get tattoos. then you’ve made a further idiot out of yourself, by being incapable of recognizing your initial idiocies as actual idiocies.

      people trying to engage with you are “grumpy” because what you’re saying is factually untrue and indicates a particularly hostile and unpleasant approach to other human beings, while remaining remarkably self-satisfied about the importance and merit of your unpleasant opinions. some of the people engaging you have tried to correct you in this. having to try and correct you in that is not a joyful experience.

      in general. most of us get through the day unwittingly thinking well of strangers, and you make that difficult. you remind us, firstly, that there are people in the world who make inane, overblown and unthinking statements and secondly, that those same people often defend them in a blind fashion, immune to discussion or reason.

      for those of us who believe well of humanity, you’re a trial. you make hope for humanity harder to sustain, experientially, for all the rest of is. that’s hard, and so we’re “grumpy” when normal human courtesy requires us to correct you.

      hope that clarifies.

      • Bagaboo

        I yawned thinking of how boring your life must be to write something like that.

  • 田辺先生

    We can agree to disagree. I see OPTIONS for all, and have lived in and out of Japan since 1977. I have relatives who chose non-college routes, had an apprenticeship or other training, all FREE, and now have good jobs. Others attended college-prep HS, graduated from ToDai and other “good” schools, and are working… some not. The equality lies in that ALL have access to an option. This was only ONE of my many points. I know Japan is not perfect, however I stand by my statements.

  • Timoty Sullivan

    I Like japan the way it is. I Like japan because tattos are not allowed to the onsen. Western countries( expecially Italy where i live) are tattos incriesing because idiot people are increasing. Please keep japan free from these idiot with tattos

    • https://flipboard.com/profile/DarwinEvolved David Gregory

      I work in medicine and do not want some tatted up person as my doctor or nurse- plain and simple. It is also known that there is some level of Hepatitis C risk with tattoos- this is well documented in peer reviewed journals. Third, they look stupid in the context of the 21st century- especially on women.

    • itoshima2012

      I couldn’t say it bette! Even my niece has now tattoos all over the visible parts, truly cretins!

  • DJDeepFried

    So you don’t like tattoos. Good for you. I do. Good for me.

  • John Brown

    what a great informative article.

  • https://flipboard.com/profile/DarwinEvolved David Gregory

    I am amazed at the spread of tats in the United States where getting inked has long been a mark of the underclass. Truck Drivers, Sailors, Carnival Workers and Jailbirds were the bulk of the inked. In many American businesses the standards for employees is to have no visible tattoos and I agree with that standard.

    Despite understanding the place tattoos have in Japanese history, I still hold them to be garish, ugly, especially hideous on women and generally repulsive. I would not personally hire anyone that has a visible tat as I think it reflects poor judgement for someone to disfigure their body with permanent ink.

    Do not date women with tats either.