In this tattoo culture video, Wolfgang Herbert explores the influence of society on tattoo art in Japan. While traditional Japanese tattoos are accepted in Japan, they are still linked in society’s mind with gangs such as the Yakuza and other criminal personalities and to this day, the general belief in Japan is that tattoos are worn only by societal drop-outs and criminals.
The relationship between the traditional Japanese tattoo master and his apprentice is a strict one that requires the apprentice to practice his art according to the rules that are laid out by both his master and society. If the apprentice chooses to set out on his own and practice tattooing without the tutelage of a master, he essentially drops out of mainstream society and is viewed as a drop-out and a misfit. Tattoos have long been a subject of debate around the world because of the past links between the art form and criminals. This attitude is changing in modern Western society, where tattoos are becoming more acceptable and are often celebrated instead of reviled. In Japan, however, it seems that traditional ideals still apply, and these attitudes dictate that Japanese tattoos must follow a specific set of rules and any tattoo artist who steps out of this mould is cast out.
It’s possible that in years to come, more and more Japanese tattoo artists are going to begin exploring their own talents and creativity, breaking out of the rigid rules that currently exist and expressing themselves through this diverse art form. Though they may be outcasts within their own society, it’s likely that they will be welcomed with open arms by the international tattoo community because as with all art that springs from Japan- these guys will aim to knock our socks off and are likely to succeed.