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The Yakuza criminal organization originated in Japan. Known for ruthlessly enforced codes of conduct, Yakuza gang members are involved in a variety of different criminal enterprises, from gambling and extortion to kidnapping and murder. During the 1960’s, at the height of their activity, Japanese police estimated the total Yakuza membership at more than 200,000. Despite lower numbers and dwindling membership in recent years, the Yakuza remains criminally active both domestically and abroad.
The yakuza are involved in criminal activity such as prostitution, organised gambling and racketeering. Beautiful Yakuza Tattoos and Their Traditional Japanese tattooing, or irezumi, has been intertwined with the yakuza since their inception. In the Edo period (1603 to 1868), criminals were tattooed by authorities in a practice known as bokkei, making it hard for them to reenter society and find work. The tattoo culture of the yakuza evolved in protest to this branding. (Source:Symbolic Meaning
The meaning of yakuza tattoos are usually related to imagery and symbolism in Japanese art, culture, and religion. The full body suit tattoo, in particular, is a product of yakuza culture. In the past, it was obligatory in many yakuza clans for members to get tattoos. In modern times, the practice is not as common; many yakuza in the 21st century maintain clean skin to better blend in with society. Conversely, more and more non-yakuza in Japan are getting tattoos. Despite these changes, being tattooed is considered a rite of passage for the yakuza.
The role of woodblock prints in Japanese culture and the growth of body art didn’t stop at inspiration. As demand for tattoos grew, it was the woodblock artists themselves that began applying them. Utilizing the same tools that they used for carving their woodblocks, the artists would chisel and gouge designs into the bodies of their clients. Another important contribution from the woodblock artists was their use of nara ink, the famous pigment that changes from blue to black when aged under the skin.
In 1948, after the defeat of Imperial Japan, American occupying forces raised the ban on tattooing in Japan, although the association with Japanese Organized crime and Yakuza tattoo remained. With thousands of soldiers stationed on mainland Japan, and almost all of them looking to get ink, traditional Japanese tattoo found a new home. Despite Japan’s embarrassment over their nation’s body art and their visibility as Yakuza symbols, once people in the West saw this incredible tattooing they were hooked. (
The popularity of Japanese culture and irezumi tattoo among US soldiers directly influenced the growth of the American Traditional tattoo art. In fact, world famous tattoo artist Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins was so enamored with the tattoo art of the Japanese masters that he got the nickname “Hori Smoku”—his own play on the honorific hori bestowed on tattoo masters and the exclamation “holy smokes!”
The crane in Japan is very important and symbolizes peace and hope. So, this Japanese Yakuza Tattoo is also considered a worldwide creature, is respected and admired profoundly, and is the subject of interesting legends. The bird brings fortune and luck, but also longevity and wisdom. The design is usually detailed, and other images like a sun or flora can be included. Therefore, a placement option with sufficient space is required for this information. As you often see, the arm or the thigh are great spots, but you have more scope to create audacious and colored art. (Source: