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How did tattoos turn from Edo Period body art to being associated with the yakuza and criminal gangs?

Japan has an uncomfortable relationship with tattoos, which are associated with the yakuza and the criminal underworld of Japan.

We’re joined by Japan Times contributor and former columnist Alice Gordenker, who hopes to challenge that stereotype, through a new documentary she’s produced called “Horimono: Japan’s Tattoo Pilgrimage,” which follows the annual pilgrimage of the Choyukai, a group united by their full-body tattoos.

We discuss Alice’s film, misconceptions about tattoos in Japan, and how tattoos turned from celebrated body art of the Edo Period to something thought of as a criminal accessory.

This episode is sponsored by Democrats Abroad Japan, a volunteer organization that helps Americans overseas register to vote. If you’re a U.S. voter living abroad and haven’t received your absentee ballot, or are afraid the one you’ve sent won’t arrive in time, you’re still in luck. An emergency backup ballot is your second chance! Head to to learn how you can fill out and send in your backup ballot per your state’s guidelines.

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Alice Gordenker: Twitter | Articles | Website
Oscar Boyd: Twitter | Articles | Instagram

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