Okinawan Tattoo Designs
Okinawan Tattoo Designs
Authentic Okinawan tattoo designs are difficult to come by in the U.S., but artists from the island have mastered the art. Many tattoo artists have created their own unique variations of these tattoos, including a new take on the traditional tribal design known as the Matsusaki. This image is based on an ancient tradition, when women in the island would put a raging angry face on their hands before pouring alcohol. The idea behind the angry face tattoo was to scare men away, but it became a symbol of female-kind and a good daughter or mother.
As early as the 19th century, hand markings were common, and the Ryukyuan religion recognizes all women as spiritual power. The brother-sister relationship is at the heart of festivals and rituals on the island. Traditionally, only women possessed hajichi, which are symbols born only in a woman’s body and represent the spiritual power she possessed. In 1952, as the Japanese assimilation policy had done its work, tattoos were socially accepted among the older population. However, by that year, the majority of younger women had rejected the hajichi as un-Japanese and were shunning the practice altogether.
The first Okinawan tattoo design was the Great Stone Shisa at Tomimori. The Japanese incorporated Okinawa into their territory, which was a part of their cultural identity. In the aftermath, the island was ruled by the Meiji government, which deemed the practice of hajichi unacceptable. As the Meiji era rolled in, the Meiji government banned the practice of hajichi and sarongs.
During this time, the culture was deeply rooted in religious beliefs. The Ryukyuan religion recognized all women as spiritual power. The sister-sister relationship dominated the cultural landscape of Okinawa. In the past, women tended to get hajichi tattoos when they were young, before marriage. If they refused to get tattooed, they were threatened with exile to Taiwan or another country. In fact, it is highly unlikely that any women in Okinawa were able to marry without getting inked.
Tattoos in the Okinawan island were once popular in the Ryukyu kingdom. They were mainly made of dots and small crosses, but some designs were more sophisticated. Some were even shaped to represent a person’s social status. The Meiji government banned hajichi, but it didn’t affect the practice. It did not affect the tattoos of the islanders. They were, however, still widely visible.
The history of Okinawan tattoos can be traced back to the Ryukyuan culture. The hajichi were popular in the past, before the Meiji government incorporated the island in 1899. After the Meiji government of Japan had made Okinawan the nation’s official capital, hajichi had been popular for centuries. Afterward, they were also considered to be an extension of the Japanese cultural identity.