Burmese TatTattoo After Caretoos

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When we look at Tattooed Ladies, we often think of them in the context of individuality, self-expression, and self-ownership. And in the United States, the history of women and tattoos is generally one of self-determination and independence. But in Asia, the relationship between women and ink is very different. Tattooing in Japan, especially, has many threads of cultural legacy that still inform the practice and its connotations today.

In antiquity, the Japanese were known to favor tattoo shop in porto tattooing and decoration. Visiting Chinese remarked on the practice as “barbaric”, since most “civilized” Chinese subscribed to the Confucian ideal that tattooing was polluting to the body.

The Chinese did practice tattooing, however – but mostly in the form of marking criminals for life. Outside the sophisticated Confucian elite, soldiers were readying themselves for battle by getting talismanic tattoos of axes, and women living south of the Yangtze River were decorating their hands with tattoos of insects and snakes.

By the middle ages, decorative tattooing had been replaced by penal tattooing in Japan. Serious crimes were punished by tattooing symbols of the crime on the arms and even faces of the criminals. Such a punishment often resulted in being shunned by family and friends, as well as strangers – a dreadful outcome in a culture where relationships are central.

But in more remote areas of Japan, tattooing was alive and well. The Ainu people – who have lived continuously in Northernmost Japan for over 12,000 years – have a tradition of tattooing that is exclusively female. The Anchipiri (“Black Stone Mouth”) women were tattooed around the lips by a “Tattoo Aunt” or “Tattoo Woman” to repel evil spirits and show that they are ready for marriage. The pain of having a tattoo placed in such a sensitive area was also supposed to help the young woman endure the pain of childbirth. Though the pain may have been eased by the incantations given along with the soot: “Even without it, she’s so beautiful. The tattoo around her lips, how brilliant it is. It can only be wondered at.”

Ainu women also tattooed their hands and arms with braided geometric patterns. These patterns, which were begun while a girl was as young as six, were also designed to protect women from evil spirits. They were also similar to braided “girdles” worn secretly by women, and their designs were handed down from mother to daughter.