Monday, November 7, 2011

Tokyo Tattoo Convention

I've wanted to go to a tattoo convention for years but hadn't had a chance to before King of Tattoo in Tokyo. This one sounded particularly interesting because of the stigma tattoos have in Japan. They are very much associated with organized crime, and some businesses (especially pools, water parks, and onsens (public hot baths)) won't allow people in with visible tattoos. Water parks won't even allow people with temporary tattoos.

For the most part, it was booth space over three floors for tattoo studios to show their portfolios, hand out business cards and brochures, and do some tattooing. There were a couple jewelry booths and some live activities.

One event was body painting on a couple of bikini-clad models.

Another event was a musical performance on a traditional instrument (the name of which escapes me). (Edit: It's a shamisen. Thanks, Sidney!)
He wore sunglasses and that facial expression the whole time.

There was also a "tattoo pinup" contest. I entered just for the heck of it. I didn't really expect to win, but I hadn't seen a lot of big pieces on women that day. So you can imagine my surprise when all twelve of us lined up backstage and half of them stripped to their underwear and were just covered in brilliantly colored, exquisite work.

Striking the most pinup-y pose I could think of.

I'm pretty sure I've seen her in a magazine.
It was an interesting experience in spite of not really knowing what was going on because I don't speak the language and I was the first contestant. The whole thing ended up being a little less about looking like a pinup and a little more about just showing off tattoos. Shrug. If we go again next year, I'll have a better idea of what to expect.

First prize was to be the covergirl of Tattoo Burst magazine, I don't remember what the runners up were awarded.

We had class that evening, so we left right after the contest, but I'm glad we went.

(Big thanks go to Awezome Joey for taking lots of great pictures, some of which I stole from his Facebook page to use here.)

Edit: I'm in the Tattoo Burst issue that covers the convention. Achievement Unlocked!


  1. Sounds like an awesome time! I didn't know tattoos were so stigmatized in Japan—how does that work? Do people with large pieces just go around fully covered all the time?

    [the instrument is a Shamisen, btw.]

  2. Pretty much, yeah.

    It's getting to be more common to see a woman's tiny ankle or shoulder tattoo in the summer or the occasional half sleeve on a man, but 99.5% of the time you won't see any large pieces on anyone but a foreigner. I have no idea how they survive during the summer fully covered.

    When we were getting our scuba certification, we did a weekend of exercises in a community pool. That pool required that I wear a dive suit to cover my tattoos or I would be asked to leave. However, our instructor told us that once a gangster with a full body tattoo came in but nobody was brave enough to ask him to leave. Hmph.