Today`s taboo topic is the tattoo.
There are two main reasons I don`t have any. I view the largest organ of the body as a blank canvas, thus my first major hurdle is the limited color palate from which to choose. Being a “winter” in color, to use 80`s terminology in describing my skin tone, certain hues work better than others in preventing me from turning green when fully clothed, or not, in the case of being outfitted in tats. Until pimento, 4 variations of purple and all colors reflected off the ocean can be inked, I`ll pass.
The other is a long ingrained fear of commitment. Just like a home, I like a change of scenery every two years prompting Spouse to pronounce we should buy tents instead of houses. Other than the Clampitt clan- two of whom will leave in a few years anyway, and Spouse who I couldn`t part with because he really is funny, I can`t think of anything I`ve partnered with for longer than two years. Visions of me pouring acid on the tattoo site, scratching it off, or carving it out with a fish knife in a crazed fit of fear of commitment prevent me from entering the tattoo artist`s studio.
But now I have a third reason.
Unlike most countries in the world, Japanese still view tattooed folk with suspicion and distrust. Because of this, tattoos must be covered before the individual is allowed entry in to some places and might be barred from others.
Why? Tattoos have been used in Japan for several centuries to identify criminals. Prisoners were tattooed with inscriptions such as,
“I am an escaped prisoner, if found return me to xxxx prison”
This approach worked.
Similar to when I took Offspring #1 to Sesame Place and I wrote on his belly with a black sharpie,
“I am lost, please call my mother at xxxxxxxx.”Although not permanent, it was long-lasting. I got lots of well-meaning phone calls for the next two weeks when we went to the pool. (Not long after I discovered fingernail polish takes off everything.)
On and on through the centuries this practice continued of tattooing criminals which created a long-established “tattoo equals criminal” mentality. Eventually, gang members and other factions began to get similar tattoos for identifying each other. Tattoos became associated with the Japanese mafia- the Yakusa- during the last century.
Some poor children born in to crime families are tattooed at birth. I was able to take pictures of some recently tattooed toddlers nicknamed “CupiKuza.”
Bless their hearts.
Even covering the tattoo might not protect an individual from the stereotype. Recently an article appeared in the Japan Times which stirred the tattoo ink.
In the 1970`s many of the tattooed sanitation workers were associated with the Yakuza (Japanese mafia) and/or Tony Soprano. Healthy debate has ensued regarding civil liberties etc.
The event that instigated this whole affair however, was a teacher threatening his students with exposure to his tattoo/tattoos. Parents complained. This of course leads to the obvious questions- where are the tattoos and what is the subject material? The stuff of nightmares alright.
The presence of two full length pinky fingers, my inability to communicate a complete sentence in Japanese, and hair that grows against gravity would lead most Japanese to conclude that I was not a member of the Yakuza even if I were covered in tattoos, however, I would still be asked to cover them. Tattooed customers could scare away other potential patrons. And that`s the reason you should bring lots of band aids, long-sleeved t-shirts, and ace bandages on your next trip to Japan for covering any sized tat- just in case.