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The history of Yakuza tattoos

Tattoo5 has posted a detailed history of Yakuza tattoos, including an interesting timeline.

Later in the 8th century, the oldest book of classical Japanese history – the Nohon Shoki, relates the story of the Emperor punishing a traitor by having his face tattooed.

The Japanese had, by this time, come under the influence of Confucian ideas which suggested that one should not intentionally alter or harm the body. This set to further ostracize those with tattoos.

As time progressed, criminals found themselves being punished more and more by the branding of a tattoo bar or circle on their arm – something that had become well-entrenched by the Edo Period. Certain areas of the country also employed tattoos to keep track of the Japanese untouchable class (Hinin) and even lower caste villageres (barakumin). Inevitably, such people found an identity in their exclusion from main stream society and began to embrace tattooing.

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