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There are a lot of Japanese who tend to have a negative image of tattoos, because they were initially used as punishment, and now it has come to be associated with outlaws living on the fringes of society. We have a description of Japan given from a Chinese traveler in Gishi Wajinden(“Records of Wei: An Account of the Wa’”; part of the Records of the Three Kingdoms dating from the 3rd century), the oldest record mentioning Japan. In the chronicle we find that there already existed the custom in Japan of tattooing to ward off evil spirits. Tattoos were from time to time subject to prohibition edicts, but the custom continues to the present day. Japanese tattoos are traditional works of art. Whereas tattoos are fashionable overseas, they don’t come laden with ethical and moral meanings such as Japanese ones. In any case, the Japanese tattoos seem to be highly evaluated abroad.

Fine quality Japanese tattoos can be extremely difficult to remove, so tattooees should be prepared to carry them for the rest of their lives. It is often said that when we die, we cannot take anything with us, but wouldn’t it be beautiful to wear a tattoo in heaven?

                                      Translation by Eiko Aoki