Full Body Tattoos
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Full body tattoos are historically most popular in Japan, where they have been seen on primarily men in the so-called Japanese mafia, formally known as the Japanese Yakuza. These full body tattoos cover everything except for the face, hands, feet and a small strip down the very centre of the chest -- the portion that’s visible when wearing a kimono. With this arrangement, you couldn’t tell the individual has a full body tattoo while dressed.
From a form of punishment, to body art, tattoos have a rich history, especially the full body tattoo. Tattoos date back thousands of years and they’ve even been discovered on frozen mummies, including Otzi the ice man. Otzi was discovered in a section of the Alps Mountain range between Italy and Austria known as the Otzal Alps.
An examination of Otzi revealed that he had body art! Tattoos created with carbon were found on his ankles, beside his spine and near his knee. He was found to have signs of age-related degeneration in these regions, so it’s believed that rather than decorative body art, tattoos were thought to be a form of pain relief.
Fast forward hundreds of years to Japan. Like Otzi the ice man, tattoos weren’t used as a form of body art. Tattoos were used to permanently mark law breakers -- a practice that Adolf Hitler’s Nazi party later put into use to mark prisoners during the Holocaust. Notably, many countries banned the practice of tattooing alleged criminals; Japan was the final country to ban this practice.
Tattooed criminals who had been permanently marked decided to get more tattoos in an attempt to hide their scarlet letters of sorts. It became a way to hide and conceal a shameful, difficult past. Convicted, tattooed criminals decided to get tattoos all over their bodies. This ultimately led to the practice of full body tattoos. (tattoo parlours melbourne)
The Japanese practice of full body art tattoos grew in popularity during the so-called Tokugawa period, which extended from the early 1600s to 1868. These full body tattoos were a form of protest and defiance. They were a part of a large social movement that arose in reaction to Japan’s extremely strict sumptuary laws -- laws that were designed to control consumption of all forms, from food and drink, to any so-called extravagance such as living in a luxurious home or wearing luxurious clothing. The Japanese sumptuary laws were actually designed to have a positive purpose -- they were intended to help level the societal playing field by eliminating the differential among the social classes. But these laws really only angered people.
The government marked violators with tattoos and they were transformed into outcasts. These outcasts revolted even more and got tattoos all over their body to conceal the tattoos that were forced upon them as punishment. These full body tattoos were a way to hide their shame and an underground movement was born.
These full body tattoos became the ultimate form of protest to these sumptuary laws of the Tokugawa period, as people literally embodied extravagance with their body art. Tattoos that took hundreds of hours to create were really the epitome of consumption. The trend of full body tattoos started in smaller towns and villages in the rural regions and slowly moved into the large cities of Japan, where full body tattoos skyrocketed in terms of popularity. The Japanese people were getting full body tattoos in revolt. The authorities condemned this movement and tried to suppress it, but they were unsuccessful. This led to the practice of tattooing everything but the portions of body that are visible while wearing clothing -- the hands, face, feet and a strip down the centre of the chest.
It’s this history that is responsible for the anti-tattoo display laws in Japan that exist to this very day. Even now where it’s a form of body art, tattoos cannot be displayed publicly in Japan. Though notably, the law is more of a paper law than a practical one. Similar to jaywalking laws, it’s rarely -- if ever -- enforced.
The Japanese Yakuza took full body tattoos and made them their own as a form of identity and body art. Tattoos have a very prominent role in Yakuza culture. The Yakuza are also known as the so-called Japanese Mafia. Every year, they gather at the Asukuza region’s annual Shinto Festival, where full body tattoos are celebrated and openly displayed.
While as a form of body art, tattoos are gaining popularity, full body tattoos are dying out in terms of popularity in this particular culture. Fewer and fewer Japanese Yakuza are opting for a full body tattoo.