When the Yakuza get tattoos, they do it as a right of passage into an underground world. The Yakuza tradition has been to have full body tattoos, the tattoos though are only to be in places where they can be hidden. Their tattoos are not for the company man, they are for them. The tattoos are used to keep them out of public baths, they are definitely a cause fo stigma.
When I got my first tattoo I was 21, and in the army, I did come from the punk rock scene in which tattoos were acceptable. We got our tattoos as a way to separate ourselves from the general public, from the yuppie world. They were not common and they did cause people to look at us. There was stigma, we welcomed it as we saw ourselves as outlaws in our way.
Rarely does one think about the future when they get a tattoo. What will it be like when we are 60, and that sharp image is now a blue blob. That beautiful lady now looks like a witch or something else. I certainly don’t recall anybody saying when I get this tattoo its going to look great when I get old. Why is that I wonder? Short sighted thinking? Recklessness? I saw my ink as being a bad of honor, strangely. Has that changed? Do I regret my tattoos? Do I regret getting them? Not at all, are there ones I don’t like? Well, I can say I had one on my chest, which I got after my first divorce. It said.”Prisoner of Love.” Now it had two meanings for me at the time, 1. It was meant to reflect the feelings of a man divorced man who has to maintain a relationship with an ex-wife due to there being a small child. 2. I was really into this cow punk bluesy shit which inspired me to get that at the last-minute. It was funny the tattoo artist at the time asked me if I was sure about that. I eventually covered those words up with a crows wing. People always ask me what about when you get old? I laugh and I tell them, your tattoos age with the person. They gain character and they morph. Having said that they grow on you literally. I also have no tattoo which I can’t cover up, I may feel different if I got a tattoo in a place that can’t be covered.
The Yakuza, when they are done and retire from the life, generally face a dilemma, that they are truly outcasts. Many Yakuza reflect on what has become of their lives. They find themselves in some cases discarded, permanently marked by losing a digit from their finger, and they are tatted up. They are unable to hide from their past…