The History of Yakuza Tattoos

Many years ago in the time of the Shogun, the Japanese Authorities would tattoo criminals to make them stand out from the rest of the population. These would take the form of black rings on the arms. As the sentence and convictions increased, so would the rings on the arms.

These tattooed men would stick together and form gangs and eventually they would be known as Yakuza. These tattoos where worn proudly as symbols of status and these Yakuza tattoos developed into magnificent, ornate tattoos that covered the whole body. These Yakuza tattoos have been known to take over two years to complete.

The Yakuza are believed to be one of the largest organized crime factions in the world and have been around longer than the mafia and their history can be traced back to the year 1612.

For the Yakuza it doesn’t matter which country you come from or from which class of society you belong to, Yakuza members must be willing to die for their boss.

Today’s many Yakuza gang factions are patriarchal in nature but women are integral parts of Japan’s gangland society. Wives, mistresses and girlfriends of top Yakuza figures often undergo extensive tattooing. These women sometimes use tattoos to demonstrate their affiliations with the gang lifestyle. In some cases it’s done to show loyalty and obedience to the Yakuza member they are involved with.

Irezumi is the art of tattooing in Japan. This word means insertion of ink. This can be referred to a tattoo artist, the person who gets the tattoo, or the tattoo itself.

The Japanese Samurai who would tattoo themselves so if they died in battle would also use tattoos and their clothes and armor looted after; there would still be a means for them to be recognized.

In modern Japan, it is now widely thought that if you have a tattoo you are in the Yakuza, the Japanese mafia. A lot of establishments, especially hot springs and bathhouses, will not let you enter their establishment if you have any form of tattoo.


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