IREZUMI - What is behind the traditional Japanese tattoo art?

Irezumi – Was steckt hinter der traditionellen japanischen Tattookunst?

IREZUMI - What is behind the traditional Japanese tattoo art?

Tattoos have a long tradition in Japan - so far, many say about traditional Japanese tattoo art, in Japan as Irezumi known. If you are a Japan fan and want to wear warriors, predators or beautiful women in the irezumi style under the skin, you should find out more about the origin and the importance of traditional motifs. You can find out what you should consider in the search for suitable artists and motifs in our helpful IREZUMI guide.

Names for tattoos in Japan

  • IREZUMI (入れ 墨) - literally means "bring in ink" and is still the most common name for tattoos in Japan.
  • Bunshin (文身) - literally translated "sampling body"; The characters can also be read as "irezumi".
  • Shishehei (刺青) literally means "pierce with blue". The name goes back to the traditional Nara ink, which turns blue under the skin.
  • Gei (黥) is another (modern) name for tattooing.
  • Horimono (彫り 物) is next to irezumi One of the most common names for tattoos. Translated literally, the term "carving" means and goes back to the connection between woodcuts and tattoos in Japan.
  • In Japan, tattoo artists are called Horishi today.

The story of Irishzumis briefly explained

Tattoos have been part of culture in Japan for thousands of years. The oldest evidence decreases up to 4500 years before the beginning of our Christian era. Even then, Japanese indigenous people, the Ainu, wore, Anci-Piri Art as awards on the skin. From the 5th century, tattoos were used to use criminals and were only valued by the outsiders of society and by dealers from abroad.

Magnificent carvings

Traditional motifs, as we know them today, probably emerged in the 14th century after the publication of the very popular Chinese book Suicoden. The book tells heroic stories about war heroes who wear patterns with tigers, dragons and mythical beings on the arms and upper body. The illustrations made from woodcuts served as templates for the first Horimonos - Woodcut artists transferred their technique from the wood to the skin and "carved" large -scale motifs with intact bamboo sticks and coal -based color in the arms, legs, back or upper body. It is believed that this trend in the Japanese upper class served as a status symbol, since a publicly splendid appearance was prohibited for rich people.

The classic Yakuza tattoo

In the 1870s, the Japanese government tried to improve the country's international image. IREZUMI art was officially banned and tattoos were severely discredited. This did not change even after the ban was lifted in 1948. IREZUMI art became the proud identification mark of the smugglers and players-members of the notorious Yakuza-Clans still wear large -scale irezumis that are engraved according to special rules and adorn the entire body for many. To date, it can occur in parts of Japan to not be let in public baths with tattoos.

Traditional tattoos with traditional rules

  • IREZUMIS are always hidden under clothing.
  • They used to be stung with traditional needles (very rare today).
  • The motifs are chosen by the artist or (in Yakuza circles) by act.
  • Instead of black contours and shades, modernity use horishi Blue color to hit the color of the traditional Nara ink. IREZUMI carriers remain loyal to an artist throughout their lives, who expands his full body motif over time and signed when completed.

Not an ordinary tattoo

If you are enthusiastic about the Japanese tattoo art and East Asian legends and myths, you may want to wear your own irezumi under your skin. Of course, you don't have to adhere to each of the rules listed above or even be a member of the Yakuza. Still you should Respect traditions and you deal with the culture behind it, before you get one of the meaningful motifs under your skin. In Japan, tattoos generally have a bad reputation and have some restrictions. If you visit the country as a tourist, try not to show your IREZUMI publicly. Otherwise, compatriots could feel offended.

How do I get an authentic irezumi?

  1. Find artists
    Horishi Work in Japan almost exclusively near international military base points or in Tokyo, since most customers come from abroad. There are about 300 tattoo artists across the country, of whom only a few use the traditional bamboo wedges with needles to jump. Horiyoshi III is one of the most famous active tattoo artists from Japan, whose work focuses on traditional Irishzumis.
  2. have patience
    The stinging of a complete sleeves also lasts three to six years at weekly sessions. Tattooed games have to heal completely before they can be expanded with new color. A colorful full-body tattoo in elaborate IREZUMI style can cost up to 40,000 euros.

Typical motifs of Japanese tattoo art

  • Warrior (also as a horror version with separated limbs).
  • Dragons and figures of East Asian mythology.
  • Waves and clouds.
  • Cherry and lotus flowers.
  • Predators (wolf, tiger, snake).
  • Geishas.
  • War scenes.