Saturday, June 5, 2010
Tattoos in Tokyo
Tattoos have a long history in Japan which has made it hard for modern Japanese citizens to get tattoos. Throughout Japanese history tattoos have been outlawed for various reasons. This has made trying to find a tattoo parlor very difficult.
On the first free day in Tokyo I planned to get a tattoo of a koi fish because koi are so prominent in Japanese culture. I thought that it would at least be somewhat easy to find an open tattoo parlor while in Tokyo because it is the second largest city n the world. I was so wrong.
The people at the front desk of our hostel gave me the name of a local tattoo artist and directions to his shop. Two other girls went with me to look for the shop and it was a lot harder to find then I ever could have imagined.
The map only gave us a few land marks so we had to ask multiple people for directions as to where the shop was. Most people made funny faces when we asked, because of the continued stigma of tattoos. After searching for a few hours we were lead to an apartment building by a nice shop keeper. Many Japanese tattoo artists still tattoo in their apartments instead of the traditional shops in America. This scared me quite a bit but I really wanted this tattoo. When we rang the doorbell the man who answered said that the tattoo artist was away on business in Australia.
Undeterred I decided to look for more tattoo shops online. With help from others in the class I found another shop, this one was a traditional American style shop where you can just walk in. I figured out the directions to this shop and planned to go on our last day in Tokyo.
We took the train all the way to Harajuku and walked down the main street during rush hour. It was packed full of people in the strangest clothing I have ever seen. This made it extremely distracting and hard to find the tattoo shop. Eventually we found a body piercing shop and asked for directions to the tattoo parlor. The shop keeper said it had left and that there were no tattoo parlors in Harajuku. Disheartened but not totally convinced we asked another person on the street if they knew one. He called the number on the shop's sign but wasn't able to help. In the end I wasn't able to get my tattoo in Japan as I had dreamed.
For those of you who think it would be great to get a tattoo while in Japan, do your research way ahead of time. Have many backup plans and give yourself plenty of time to find the shops. Because of the still persisting negative opinion about tattoos and those who have them Japan is not the place to get one.