When we were visiting Nara the other day, we stopped for a picnic lunch in a local park. As I was chatting with one of my spouse's Japanese colleagues about her time in LA over some really awful white bread sandwiches, the conversation suddenly stopped dead.. I looked up and this nice young lady (and her little dog, too) was staring at the tattoo on my leg. "You have a tattoo!" she exclaimed.
Well, yes, clearly I do, miss, because you are looking right at it. (And the young think us oldsters are slow.)
Feeling both perverse and amused, I rolled up my pant leg and gave her the full view. And then I pulled my shirt off my shoulder and showed her the other one (my bluebells). "Look, mom, TWO tattoos."
No, I didn't say that (but I wanted to). Then the younger Frenchling got into the act and showed off her glorious cherry blossoms which run from her shoulder to the center of her chest. We were having a fine time and then I went a bridge too far. I turned to my spouse and said, "And he has..."
At which point my spouse (her boss) gave me a glare that said that right now would be a very good time for me to shut up. So I did.
I have not been in Japan long enough to understand all the cultural baggage around tattoos. The reactions I've seen range from horrified fascination to "So what." I do know that places like public baths can refuse people sporting ink. Has to do with organized crime, I hear. I'm sure that some Flophouse Japanese near-native reader can clue us all in.
Some families have shared interests like camping, hiking, books, drawing each other's blood over the dinner table. Our family gets tattoos. We all have them (even Mr. I Am Gainfully Employed) and most were done in Seattle. Mine were done at Two Birds Tattoo and Super Genius. The latter had one artist, Ashley, who has become a favorite of the Frenchlings - she does amazing work.
So trust the Frenchlings to find a tattoo place in Osaka. It's called Three Tides Tattoo and it's about a 20 minute walk from our house.
Last night we leisurely strolled over to that side of the neighborhood and walked into their studio. I installed myself downstairs on a comfy window seat and the younger Frenchling bounced upstairs to get her fourth (or is it fifth?) tattoo.
Very nice. So nice that her mom intends to go back for a consultation. There is this scar, you see, that marks the spot where the chemo shunt was inserted and later removed. It's not pretty. Not that I need an excuse, mind you. This body of mine went through the cancer wars and emerged in its present state. After everything that was done to it, what joy it gives me to have bright colors and pretty patterns imprinted on it by choice.
I am mindful of the cultural associations that go with tattoos - be they images of bikers, prisoners on parole or yakuza - but I don't lose any sleep over them. As a former foot soldier for international capitalism, I learned a lesson long ago that the really Bad Elements don't advertise evil affiliations and intentions with tattoos or piercings or baggy pants. Sometimes they show up wearing suits and ties.