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You cannot but be impressed by Japanese tattoos. The intricate detail and stunning colours set Japanese tattoos apart, placing them in a league of their own. They are thought of, by many, to be the pinnacle of tattoo art.
Japanese tattoos are complicated and very detailed. Often they extend over large portions of the body, for example the entire back of the wearer. Getting a Japanese tattoo is long and often painful process, but one that is worth the effort for the rich clarity and detail of the scenes. The tattoos are truly works of art, not some horrid piece of ink slapped on in a drunken haze on holiday as are too many tattoos these days.
The history of Japanese tattoos as an artform is interesting. In the early 1600s, tattoos were worn proudly by Japanese people. The tattoos would be shown off and were much admired. A stark contrast to today where very often, tattoos are regarded by large portions of society as something to cover up and hide, especially in corporate contexts. There is one "corporation" though, that still encourages tattoos; the Yakuza.
The Yakuza are basically the Japanese mafia. A strictly organised criminal society, that has spread its influence throughout Japanese society - politics, media, you name it, the Yakuza will have infiltrated it. And with them, the Yakuza have brought their tattoos more and more into the mainstream.
Japanese Yakuza tattoos, also called irezume are often still hand-poked - in other words, they are created without the aid of electric tattoo needles, making the actual tattoos more expensive and more painful to have done, not to mention slower - in fact some of the larger more intricate tattoos have been known to take years to complete.