Historic Japanese Tattoo Imagery
Our go-to source for historic photos, including but not limited to tattoos, is The Selvedge Yard. What's particularly cool about the site is that editor JP also puts the images in context with interesting background info.
Our most recent fave, which Pat dug up, is this post on Japanese tattooing in the 40s called:
Ancient Art of the Japanese Tebori Tattoo Masters: Ink in Harmony.
Images include the one above of "A group of traditionally tattooed gamblers," hand-tattooing (tebori) on women, and preserved tattooed skins, among other beautiful photos. They illustrate the words of legendary Japanese master Horihide, which were taken (in their entirety) from his personal story told on Tattoos.com. Here's a taste of that story:
When I was an apprentice, feudal customs still existed in Japan. The apprenticeship was one of the feudal customs called uchideshi in Japanese. Normally, pupils lived with their masters, and were trained for 5 years. After 5-year training, the pupils worked independently, and gave the masters money that he earned for one year. The one-year service was called oreiboko in Japanese, the service to express the gratitude towards the masters. The masters usually told new pupils about this system, 5-year-training and 1-year service, when they began the apprenticeship.
[I chose this particular quote to shut up whiny tattoo apprentices today who think they have it so rough.]
For much more of Horihide's stories on Japanese tattooing--from apprenticeships to traditional designs to the tebori technique to tattoo thieves--go to the original article on Tattoos.com.
Our past posts on The Selvedge Yard: