Even before I came to Japan, I’d heard stories about tattoos being a no-go if you wanted to go to an onsen (hot spring) or public bath and a definite no-no for getting a job. As far as the Japanese were concerned, the only people who had tattoos were yakuza (Japanese mafia).
But oh my goodness, so not true. (except for the part about them being socially unacceptable). Once I arrived and started talking to people and doing a little of research, I found out some very interesting information. For starters, tattooing in Japan has a very long history. (despite!)
Like all things rebellious, it was seen as a way of giving the proverbial finger to the ruling class of samurai who imposed strict controls over all aspects of society. It’s no surprise then, that the real height of tattooing in Japan was at this particular point in history.
The boom ended when Japan finally opened its doors to foreign ships during the mid 19th century. Due to its isolation from foreign influences, Japan lacked many of the modern technologies found in the rest of Asia and other parts of the world and thus, risked being conquered.
One popular argument as to why tattooing was banned is because the Japanese government thought Japan needed to appear civilised to its Western visitors and that foreigners would find the practice extremely primitive.
Funnily enough, Japan seems to have forgotten its history regarding this matter. Even funnier, is that when I asked around about places to get a tattoo in Hiroshima, I was told by some locals that there are no tattoo parlours in Hiroshima. Hmm. Let me just say here that Hiroshima is known to be one of the most conservative places in the whole of Japan and thus, I shouldn’t have been surprised by this response.
Nevertheless, there are a number of tattoo parlours here, all doing a roaring trade and considering that us foreigners are in the minority, that means that there are a lot more Japanese people walking around with tattoos than we or they think!
Most people I asked agree that Wild Monkey is Number One and a Google search will back that up. Just to highlight what I mean, for a large tattoo that requires many hours and a number of sessions there is often a six month or more waiting list. Yes, you read that correctly!
The other place that people mentioned was Gak Tattoo.
Despite all that, I ended up going to the third main place in town. A friend made an appointment for me without my knowledge and then told me I was finally going to get them done instead of just talking about them. Thank you, I needed that push!
The place she knew and recommended is Fujiyama Tattoo which has branches in Teramachi, Furuichi and downtown near Namiki Dori.
The guys here don’t speak English, but they told me they have foreigners in all the time. Somehow, they manage to convey their messages both ways and the person is satisfied with their tattoo. In my case my Japanese friend did the fine-detail translating for me and I must admit, it was very reassuring to have someone with me to make sure I didn’t A. Freak out and leave and B. Miss out on a vital piece of information about my tattoo because it got lost in translation.
Whichever place you end up choosing to get your tattoo, remember that the artists are all professionals who will give you the low-down on before and after-care for your tattoo. They will ensure you have the best experience possible and that you’re happy and comfortable before, during and after you leave the parlour. Remember, this is Japan, customer service and appearance is everything!
Granted, tattoos and tattooing in Japan is still a slightly taboo subject, but it is becoming more popular and more widely acceptable than in the recent past, even here in conservative little Hiroshima.
Tel : 082 – 542 – 5081
Tattoo Studio Biorhythm (Gak Tattoo)
730-0043 広島県広島市中区富士見町13-1 清建工業ビル2F
Tel : 080 – 4266 – 6613
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Twitter : @GAK_XIII
Instagram : @gak_tattoo
(Namiki Dori branch)