During the Meji period the Goverment offically outlawed and banned tattooing. This was done in an effortto make a good impression on the West. However, this offical ban did very little to stop tattooing. Forgieners started comming into the country to seek out highly skilled tattoo artists and the ban simply drove the art form of tattooing underground.
Then during the occuptation starting in 1945 tattoos were offically legalized. However, much of the criminal history still seems to linger on throughout today. This association with the criminal has lead much of the development of tattooing to be done underground and mainly become part of the Mafia world known as the Yakuza in Japan. In fact to this day many establishements will not allow a person with tattoos to even enter their business. Most public baths, and hot springs have ban anyone with tattoos. They feel that it willdrive fear into their customers and they will lose improtant business.
In the past decade or so many younger generations of Japanese have started getting tattoos. Many of them are not going witht he traditonal Japanese themes or designs. Nor are the using the traditonal way of getting tattoos done. Instead they are getting more Western designs like tribal tattoos and etc. Thay also tend to favor using more westernized tattooing done with a tattoo gun and inks.
The old fashioned way of getting a tattoo done with Chisels and gouges is very time consuming and costly. A typical full body suit tattoo can take between 1 to 5 years to complete (one hour or more a week) and can cost around 30,000. However, despite these factors these forms of traditional tattooing do still exsist in Japan today.