Tuesday, April 15, 2008

day 108 - yakuza (or 'you meet the most interesting people at Hanami')

On Sunday we went with friends to picnic  under the sakura. A neighbouring group invited us to join them & after a few sakes this guy told us he was Yakuza (Japanese mafia.) He didn't need much encouragement to get his gear off and show us the amazing tattoos he's had since he was 25 (30 years ago.) His irezumi work was quite intricate and beautiful. This traditional form of Japanese tattooing was done by hand with ink and a bamboo skewer. It can be painful and very slow, sometimes taking years to complete. Full-body irezuma is an advertisement to the world that you're proud Yakuza. In an effort to keep crime out, many gyms and public bath-houses ban even the smallest tattoo. While they're heavily involved in Pachinko (slot machines), drugs and prostitution, the Yakuza are still seen by some as Robin Hood type figures and their history may go back as far as the 17th Century Kabukimono who were outlaws often championed by the poor. Even as recently as the Kobe (Hanshin) Earthquake of 1995, many people say that the local Yamaguchi-gumi responded more quickly than government authorities, effectively providing disaster relief (including the use of their own helicopter!)
(Tattoo- ban image courtesy of Wikipedia.)


Ben said...

I'm not sure what I like more - those tattoos or your t-shirt!

I hope you don't owe the Mafia any favours...

robwalkerpoet said...

Thankyou. I think all I owe is several paper cups of sake!.. They were actually very friendly and generous people.