The Beauty in Struggle: The Meaning and Influence of Irezumi
People from America and Europe would be so entranced by the allure of Irezumi that they would travel to Japan because there was nothing else like it back home. Irezumi’s popular designs include floral visuals, lotuses, koi fishes and demons and deities. Lotuses symbolize growth in the face of harsh realities. Koi fishes symbolize wisdom and loyalty. Everything etched onto the skin was never only for the sake of visual appeal. Every line and crevice paints a picture of truth and emotion. Swirls of red, blue, green and black— it is a contrasted fantasy put to life.
Some Japanese tattoo artists choose not to apply anesthetics in order for the clients to really endure the pain. They believe that the pain is part of the process and validation to one’s dedication to the artwork. It is all part of the experience.
The art and the skill are so loved by outsiders that the outpour of appreciation has impacted society in Japan by helping them regard irezumi in a different light, never failing to save it from extinction. It was General Douglas Macarthur that persuaded authorities to lift its prior ban on the country as he too witnessed its undeniable appeal. Today, the younger generation does not share the same views as its predecessors and perceives irezumi as a positive and empowering activity. Hopefully, the rest of the population follows suit.
Japan’s most famous irezumi artist is Yoshihito Nakano, famously known as Horiyoshi III. He specializes in full-body, traditional tattoos that embody Japan’s history and culture by heart. He is regarded as a irezumi legend as he inks with the purpose to represent Japan in its full form in strokes of reverie. His method is tebori meaning ‘carved by hand’. It is an ancient method using a queue of steel needles.
Japanese Irezumi – Tokyo | L’oeil étranger
Irezumi might be a touchy subject in Japan, and can we blame them with that historical rollercoaster? But is it not better to embrace beauty when it’s around you? Especially when it’s a unique and admirable experience sought after by all. Art must be celebrated in all its forms and transitions. There is no rainbow without a little rain.