Growing Tribe of Japanese Proudly Defies Tattoo Taboo, Eyes Olympics Boost

Shodai Horiren got her first tattoo on a lark while on a trip in Australia nearly three decades ago. Now she is tattooed from head to foot, even on her shaven scalp, and is one of Japan’s most renowned traditional tattoo artists. Horiren belongs to a proud and growing tribe of Japanese tattoo aficionados who defy deeply rooted social taboos associating tattoos with crime, turning their skin into vivid palettes of color with elaborate full-body designs, often from Japanese legends. Banned from spas, hot spring resorts, some beaches and many gyms and pools, they hope the presence of tattooed foreign athletes at last year’s Rugby World Cup and next year’s Tokyo Olympic Games, postponed a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, will help sweep negative perceptions away. Tattoos have been linked to criminals in Japan from as long as 400 years ago, most recently in yakuza (criminal gangs) members – whose full-body decorations stopped short of their hands and necks, allowing concealment under regular clothes. (Reuters) 


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