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Why TJP doesn't help with Japanese Tattoos

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It is important to first point out that the Chinese character tattoos currently trendy in the West and Japanese tattoos are two completely different, unrelated creatures.

True Japanese tattoos are typically full-body works of art incorporating historical and mythical imagery and drawn using traditional artistic styles. The roots of Japanese tattooing go back almost 2000 years, but the practice has recently passed into disfavor in contemporary Japan due to its association with the underworld.

On the other hand, the Chinese character tattoos that many Westerners think of when they hear ‘Japanese Tattoo’ is a very recent fad. This fad capitalizes on the current popularity of Asian culture in general, and of Japanese culture specifically. Getting a tattoo of beautiful script from a distant and ‘mysterious’ culture seems to be quite trendy these days.

These Chinese character tattoos have become a sore spot for all of us here at TJP. There are several reasons for this.

To begin with, tattoos are meant to reflect a part of the wearer’s personality. Having a well-thought out and meaningful design permanently engraved on one’s body can certainly be beautiful and expressive. The problem is, what does it say about your personality when you are completely ignorant about the meaning, nuance and subtle beauty of the image tattooed into your skin? We here at TJP have no desire to participate in someone else’s ignorance and stupidity.

Another important point is that a poorly designed and written character tattoo does nothing but ridicule and demean the cultures from which they originate. We here at TJP invest much (if not all) of our lives to diligently studying the language and culture of Japan. The last thing we want to do is participate in any act that cheapens what we work so hard to appreciate and understand. If you can’t make the effort to learn about the Japanese language, then don’t ask us to do it for you in the name of what amounts to little more than a trendy fashion statement.

Other Points to Consider:

-- Just because someone told you that your character tattoo means ‘I dance with death,’ doesn’t mean it does. For all you and your tattooist know, those characters read ‘Kung Pao Chicken.’

-- Phrases that you think might sound cool in English are very often (in fact, usually) ridiculous once translated into Japanese. ‘Shadow Warrior,’ ‘Spirit Woman’ or ‘Free Spirit’ might sound nice in English, but anyone who can read Japanese would laugh at the translations of any one of these. And since neither you nor your friends can understand your tattoo, the only people who can understand it will be laughing.

-- Even well-thought out, well-researched and well-designed tattoos can be subject to mistakes during the tattoo process. Chances are high (close to 100%, in fact) that your tattooist doesn’t read Japanese or Chinese. The tattooist therefore has no idea whether or not he is properly writing the characters. Even minor errors can change your ‘Tar Heels’ tattoo to ‘Bug,’ or your ‘Proud Warrior’ tattoo to ‘Proud Dirt.’ There have even been plenty of examples of characters being tattooed upside down or in mirror-reverse. Just take a moment to imagine, if you will, smiling ever so proudly as you show off your ‘cool’ character tattoo that reads ‘Angel,’ all the while not realizing that it's an upside-down version of ‘Heaven’s Turd’. . .

--Mukade 00:20, 27 October 2006 (EDT)

-- Generally, a person who has a tattoo will have trouble if they need to purchase a life insurance policy in Japan. Even though they can buy a life insurance policy, in Japan it is considered legal that a life insurance company can refuse an insurance payment for an insured person who has a tattoo.

-- Some hospitals in Japan will not give an MRI exam for a tattooed person because several type of tattoo inks cqn cause a burn on their tattoo.

Related pages

Tattoos in Japan

Hanzi Smatter

MRI reaction with tattoos

Personal tools