Modern Japanese Tattooing History
Between the Kofun Period and the Edo period the orgins and hsitory of tattoos and their usage becomes some what obscure. However, it is clear that tattoo came in and out of fashion during various periods of times. Tattoos were often still used to mark criminals but there are also periods of time when they became fashionable to wear.
Then finally during the Edo period the art form that we know today as Irezumi was developed. During this period of time the Japanese discovered or borrowed the art form of wood block printing from the Japanese. The Japanese artists would use chisels, gouges and ink to create these beautifully designed art works. They essentailly used their tools to carve out wood and then inked the wood with a strong permenent ink and pressed the wood block onto paper creating a art form called wood blocking. Thus the art of decorative tattooing was born.
These artists were not content just doing their work in wood or onto paper and they eventually started doing the work into skin creating the art form of Irezumi or tattooing. Amazingly enough they were able to use the same tools chisels, gouges and ink to do their tattoo work. Talk about a painful tattoo! Although interesting enough some people still practice this form tattooing today and they beleive that these tattoos have a deeper and longer lasting color then tattooing done with modern tattoo guns and inks.
It is unclear and a matter of debate who wore tattoo during the Edo period. Some scholars beleive that the mercahnt class were the ones that bore these elborate tattoos. While other beleive it was the lower clas who wore and even flautned their elborate tattoos. It is clear however, that during this period many firemen would get tattoos as a form of spirtiual protection.