Tattoo Blog

Art that adorns the flesh…

Watch Out!

September 2nd, 2010 by

Japan is a giant big ball of contradictions.  That statement in itself might seem entirely vague and a little presumptuous, but speaking as someone who lived there for 3 years, I stand by my belief that though beautiful and magical in so many ways, the world that the Japanese inhabit has more than its fair share of brain boggling contradictions.

By this point I’m sure that most of you out there know that tattoo in Japan is fantastic but also quite taboo.  Yes, things are slowly but surely changing, but the general opinion toward tattoos and tattooed people is more than a little archaic.  Ditto for marijuana.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to encourage anyone to smoke pot, but it seems that in Japan when something is taboo, there are often very extreme opinions of that specific thing.  A Japanese friend once confessed to me that she believed that marijuana and heroin were one and the same thing.  It may sound bizarre, but it’s not an uncommon belief in Japan at all.  This extremity of opinion is also a part of the reality that affects those who are tattooed, as well as tattoo artists themselves.  The most common belief in Japan of tattoos is that they are a direct link to organized crime, or the Japanese mafia, known as the Yakuza.  This misunderstanding of the unknown sometimes gets a little crazy in Japan.

An example of such craziness is a new idea by the Kobe municipal office in Kobe, Japan.  This summer during a music event at a beach in Kobe’s Suma Ward, several college students were arrested for alleged marijuana possession.  Taking this as their cue to “make a safer environment for the citizens”, the municipal office is now coming up with a law that will ban tattooed people from the beach.

‘‘It is our duty to make a safer environment for the citizens,’’ said a city official as senior officials of the city and Hyogo prefectural police are set to form a special team to work out details such as ways to restrict entrance to the beach.

Suma beach saw the lowest number of visitors in 25 years this summer, with about 620,000 people in 46 days. Some citizens have told the city office that they ‘‘hesitate to go near the beach’’ amid an increase in young people with tattoos, the officials said.’

I haven’t seen something this stupid and ignorant for a long time.  Banning people with tattoos from a beach because some kids were arrested for what may or may not be marijuana possession?  Are you kidding me?  First of all, this is Japan we’re talking about.  These people who are complaining about hesitating to go near the beach because of people with tattoos?  They’re living in a dream world.  Japan has one of the lowest crime rates in the entire world.  It’s not like these fear-filled residents are dealing with ghetto beaches, as if Kobe’s Suma Ward was worse or even comparable to South Central LA or something.  Come on.  Second, I fail to remotely see where there is any link between people with tattoos, marijuana and some sort of level of crime that apparently has still not occurred, but the threat of which is alive and well in the minds of local residents.

It consistently blows my mind how a country that is so many light years ahead of the rest of the world in technology and industry, to name a couple of examples, remains so depressingly ancient with regards to attitudes towards tattoos and the reality of the people who have them.

Get a clue, Japan.

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