Irezumi Renaissance with King George V ~ The Blue & Red Dragon Tattoo
Georgie Porgie, Pudding and pie, Kissed the girls and made them cry, When the boys came out to play, Georgie Porgie ran away.
George V came to Japan in 1881, got drunk on sake, aquired a blue & red dragon tattoo* and then presented the Empress Haruko with two smelly wallabies.
His mummy, Queen Alexandra, had actually given him a lovely portrait of herself and Edward VII to present to her Imperial Highness, but naughty Georgie Porgie had of course sold the painting to pay for his tatoo ~ ブルー＆レッドドラゴンタトゥー
Tattoos (刺青) have played an integral part in Japanese society since the Jōmon period. Fluctuating from significance of rank, the branding of criminals to the most prevalent today ~ the Yakuza. Respected around the world as a great art form, irezumi in contemporary Japan is still taboo.
On March 8 2014, the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) in Los Angeles opened the largest-ever exhibition dedicated to irezumi. Titled “Perseverance: Japanese Tattoo Tradition in a Modern World,” the six-month exhibition featured lectures, live tattooing and life-size photographs of irezumi inked by some of the most famous tattooists working in the world today. The exhibition of course never came to Japan. And if King George V tried to enter a bath house in Tokyo today, he would of course been met with the responce ~ “I am sorry your majesty, you are not permitted due to your tattoo”.
How to reclaim the art of Irezumi from the world of criminality and take back a great heritage respected around the world?
Its all about association.
Fukushi Masaichi was a Japanese physician, pathologist and Emeritus Professor of Nippon Medical School in Tokyo and the founder of the world’s only collection of tattoos taken from the dead. His research on the subject of human skin brought him into contact with the art of irezumi and in the following years he collected an archive of about 2000 “hides” and 3000 photographs, most of which were lost in the bombing of Tokyo in march 1945… Operation Meetinghouse, or Night of the Black Snow as it is known in Japan.
Fukushi’s collection of full human body skins introduces an academic aspect to irezumi, a pathological path to a subject usually relegated to the back pages with tawdry crimes.
The Chinese Wei chih ~ AD 290 ~ describes the Japanese as having tattoos on their faces and painted designs on their bodies to signify rank ~ an assertion born out of archeological findings.
And with the development of woodblock printing (木版画, mokuhanga) during the Edo period, irezumi experienced a renaissance when master woodblock artists began tattooing using many of the same tools for imprinting designs in human flesh as they did to create their woodblock prints, including chisels, gouges and, most importantly, unique ink known as Nara ink, or Nara black, the ink that famously turns blue-green under the skin.
So to reiterate. How to reclaim the art of Irezumi from the world of criminality and take back a great heritage respected around the world? Associate irezumi with Royality, Fukushi’s collection in Tokyo university, the masters of mokuhanga, the great tattoo artists working in japan today and haute couture…
Decorating The Body
King George V
The Blue & Red Dragon Tattoo
Couture Fashion Show & Auction
in aid of UNICEF
Returning to the shadier part of life.
Lets not forget Georgie Porgie was son to Edward VII ~ the first gentleman of Europe and entente cordiale.
What Edward didn’t know about French bordellos wasn’t worth knowing… like father like son.
Already we are talking of tattoos and Royality in the same breath and removing irezumi, one step, from criminality.
Its all about connotation. Stage two is Haute couture with tattooed models entitled ~ King George V ~ The Blue & Red Dragon Tattoo.
George V by Garry Brown
* 1881 Oct. 27th. T6ki6— MIKADO. 41
Back to breakfast at 9.30 and then the tattooer finished our arms. He does a large dragon in blue and red writhing all down the arm in about three hours. He first sketches the outline on the skin in Indian ink and water, and then pricks in the colours required, blue or red, with little instruments that look like camel-hair- brushes, only instead of hairs they consist of so many very minute needles. One man mixes the colours and the other tattooes, holding the instrument in the right hand and grasping your arm with the left, while he tightens the surface of the skin on which the drawing is to be made between his thumb and fore-finger. We did not find the pricking hurt at all, but this varies with different people and according to the part of the body on which the drawing is made : the best parts to have tattooed are those where the veins do not lie near the surface. The man who did most of our party was beautifully tattooed over the whole of his body, and the effect of these Japanese drawings in various colours and curves on his glistening skin was like so much embroidered silk. Like so many of their old customs tattooing has been abolished by law, but these two artists were allowed to come to us in our own room here. Two others went on board the Bacchante, where they took up their quarters for two or three days, and had their hands full with tattooing different officers and men. After this, we started off to some curio shops over the Ni-hom-bashi (or ” Japan bridge “), from which as from a centre the distances used to be reckoned along the To-kai-do and other roads throughout Japan. The sides of the bridge, as of most others here, are constructed of curious stone-
work in posts and bars, evidently imitated from wood. It was near here that the old English pilot, William Adams, lived in a sort of honourable captivity in the reign of Queen Elizabeth.
The Cruise of H.M.S Bacchante 1879 – 1882.
Taken from the private journals of His Royal Highness Prince George of Wales (George V 1865 – 1936)