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Traditional Japanese tattoos take years to finish, especially full-body designs. Not to mention, they are a lot more expensive than normal tattoos. Finding a traditional Japanese tattoo artist also presents a huge problem. Practitioners of the craft are extremely hard to find. Most of them live in secret to avoid public scrutiny.
You need connections and referrals just to get an audience with a traditional Japanese tattooist. On the other hand, modern Japanese tattooing is done by using a regular tattoo machine. No need to travel to Japan to find a tattoo artist. Modern Japanese tattoos are also cheaper and take less time to finish. A full body tattoo can take less than a year to finish, a quick turnaround compared to the years that it takes for a traditional Japanese tattooist to finish the same design.
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Japanese tattoos typically come in a mix of black-and-gray and colors, though there are also designs that come in full black-and-gray. The main piece of the design is rooted in Japanese culture. The most popular ones include dragons, tigers, koi, geishas, samurai, and kabuki masks. The main piece is complemented by a black-and-gray background in the form of wavy patterns or clouds.
Here are a few tips on visiting Japan with ink. We'll start off with a little history lesson. The stigma of tattoos dates back to about AD where tattoos were meant to punish criminals.
Criminals that committed serious crimes would be marked with a tattoo that symbolized their offenses. These people were shunned by their family and ostracized by their community. When the practice of marking criminals ended Japan outlawed tattooing all together.
Because of the pain and permanent nature of tattoos the Yakuza viewed them as a symbol of courage and loyalty. Some Japanese people believe that tattoos make your skin dirty and impure.
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This belief is primarily held by people who are religious, but even those who aren't religious in Japan agree. Tattoos are also seen as disrespectful to your parents and ancestors who gave you your body, destroying it with tattoos is highly taboo.
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You've probably heard that you can't enter Onsen if you have tattoos, this is mostly true. Some facilities will allow you and some won't, usually they'll have signs up stating if tattoos are allowed or not. I've had an English teacher who had a full sleeve and was able to enter an Onsen because he covered them with tape, but it really depends on the owner of the Onsen. The reason for this is because not everyone approves of tattoos and will feel uncomfortable being around you with so little clothes on.
Meaning and application
You can probably get away with working out in a gym if you have a small tattoo that can be covered up, sleeves however, maybe a little bit more difficult to cover up. Covering Tattoos There are ways of covering tattoos if you don't want unwelcome stares while visiting Japan. If you have a couple small tattoos on your arm than covering up tattoos with foundation is no problem, but it's a bit complicated if you have sleeves. The only downside to this is that you can't go into the water with makeup or it will wash off and you could get in trouble. Changing Attitudes Over the years the attitudes towards tattoos have been slowly shifting.
With the constant influence of the west and more foreigners coming into the country with tattoos younger generations are starting to loosen up. While you may get disapproving stares from older Japanese citizens younger people will be more fascinated rather than weirded out by your art.