Did you know that the ancient Japanese were intricately tattooed? Relics of discovered art such as statues and pottery revealed this. And the more interesting fact is that Japanese tattoo designs were first inked on the skin of Japanese who were in the upper strata of the society then. Many Japanese history scholars formed the conclusion that Japanese tattoo designs were used in ceremonies that define the ancient Japanese standings in society and to ward off bad spirits.In contrast to the reasons of ancient China’s practice of tattooing which had the primary purpose of labeling criminals and society misfits, the Japanese did it to elevate those worthy to be up there in society, thus, it was more of something that brought honor.

Apart from honor, Japanese tattoos were also made to inspire. The courtesans, geishas and artists wore tattoos that labeled who they were, what religions they believed and whom they loved. Well-practiced and kept values like religion and love were the common themes that were reflected on the skins of ancient Japanese people.

Some might find this odd, but do you know that the geishas had the names of their lovers’ names tattooed on their arms to prove their love of eternity?This is what they called vow tattoo. But of course, in present day Japan, tattoos have become more of an expression of art rather than showcasing promises.

At certain stages of time, Japanese tattoo designs were characterized with elaborate details. However, there was also a time that the tattoos looked like small markings that looked like a mole. This was during the time when the tattoo served as the reminder of of cherished romantic moments like what part of the body had been touched by a partner.

Interestingly, at a particular time of Japanese history, tattoos were used to express political and social sentiments. Regardless of their place in society, almost everyone in Japan wore tattoos to make their sentiments regarding the political status of Japan from the seventeenth century to the nineteenth century known.

On the whole, Japanese tattoo designs are closely related to the values, thinking and sentiments of its people. Prior to the existence and acceptance of full of body tattoos, the place where tattoo designs could be inked was the back of a person.  But over time, a full body tattoo bearing symbols of folk lores and folk tales became rampant. These days, another part of Japanese culture and belief are reflected by the tattoos that they have, such as carp and other elements associated with water. Amidst all these changes in the purpose of having a tattoo in Japan—from classifying social status, vow of never-ending love, reminder of romantic moments to political protest—there’s no denying that Japanese tattoos echo values, sentiments and art itself. Many of the Japanese tattoo designs that are popular today are very distinct to Japanese tattoo artists and are not only used on Japanese skin but on those who have been smitten by and in awe of the creative Japanese designs.

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