28 June, 2012

Osaka, Yakuza, Mods, And I Love Robots

presented by
Mystic Metals Body Jewelry

Osaka, Yakuza, Mods, And I Love Robots

On Tuesday, I spent the day with comedian Gavin McInnes. If you're unfamiliar, get familiar because this guy is fucking hilarious. His new book, "How To Piss In Public" is fantastic and you need to read it. With Brian, his kick ass camera guy, we spent most of the day going through Philly before his standup gig. His tour diary is here, http://www.streetbonersandtvcarnage.com/blog/tour-diary-philly/. We shot a skit that'll be up on YouTube soon; I'll let you kids know when it's up. So check him out. This dude is the real deal.

I love the United States of America. I don't think that I have to tell you cats and kittens that anymore because I say it a lot. The freedoms that we have in this country are outrageous and wonderful. We should be proud to be Americans. We should be proud to be availed the liberties that we have, regardless of partisanship or affiliation with any group or protest-happy hippie nonsense. We live in a great country, and we ought to remember that whenever we leave the house having chosen our own clothes and our own beliefs and our own thoughts and feelings; other countries aren't so generous with what their peoples are at liberty to do.

Especially with modification. Being sleeved and stretched is a privilege that we enjoy often forgetting that it is indeed a privilege. Let's take a look at what is going on in Japan. Well, what's going on with mod specifically because I'm sure there's a lot of crazy shit going on in Japan.

I have never been to Japan but it is on the very short list of places I want to go before Saint Peter is telling me I can't get into Heaven. I watch a lot of films from Asian countries, many from Japan, and their culture and society is mindblowingly alien to me. And that is exciting. And Tokyo looks like it's straight out of Blade Runner. I need to see that; I love that damned movie. And robots. I love robots.

Modification culture has a big influence in Japan as well. Ancient traditional styles, characters and designs, three-quarter suits and other tattoo conventions have been important to Japanese culture for centuries. Then came the yakuza. The yakuza are a dense and well organized crime syndicate in Japan and sparsely in other countries, including the United States. Its origin is a bit of a mystery, and could be as far back as the 1600s, but now as a modern crime organization, the yakuza lays claim to over 100,000 members. There is a lot to know about yakuza culture, and its wildly fascinating, so go read that shit. For our purposes, we're going to focus on their modification practices and the social impact therein.

The yakuza has many rituals that reflect a samurai style honor code. One of which is cutting off a finger for an offense to the boss. When entering into the organization, members begin their full suit tattoos. These are done in the traditional style, slowly and painfully. They very rarely display them, and when in public, members are often covered completely to hide them. This is a big deal. Because of the yakuza modification practices, tattoos in Japan have not the same meanings as they do in the States. Yes, here in the States we have cats with gang tattoos and prison tattoos, but those mods don't tarnish the entirety of the modification culture in the way that yakuza mods do in Japan. It is easy to spot a prison or gang mod here in the US, and typically, we don't look at those mods and think that the broad with "Juicy" tattooed above her ass is associated with the Bloods. The yakuza mods have made tattoos in Japan a thing not to have and show because of the association with the organized crime syndicate. It's exciting to use the word syndicate, isn't it? How often do I get to use that word? Never often. That's the answer. Younger Japanese have begun to slowly buck this trend, trying to reintroduce tattoo mod into the culture in a more positive way without the association to the behavior of the yakuza.

OK, so in Japan you kind of have to hide your mods so people don't think you're a criminal. One cat is taking it a bit further, and we've reached the point of this drab blog 750 words in. Man, I suck at writing. The mayor of Osaka, which is the third largest city in Japan at nearly three million people, has thrown down some mandates. Mayor Toru Hashimoto is requiring public employees to own up to their mods so that he knows who is tattooed and who isn't. This isn't a drastically new social order. Many public places in Japan require the covering of mods because of the yakuza connection, such as public pools and bath houses. There are even companies who won't hire because of tattoo mods. But this Mayor Toru Hashimoto wants his public employees, with the emphasis on teachers, to disclose their tattoo locations, hidden or visible, and how long they have had them. The penalties, if you can call it that, have yet to be determined, but demotion to jobs requiring little or no public interaction is a likely result to the confessed mod wearers. Some speculate that loss of jobs could be another repercussion. Mayor Toru Hashimoto is focusing on teachers mostly, claiming that the mods are an embarrassment to the teacher wearing them and with the new mandate he hopes the teachers can "refocus on teaching."

What do we do with this information? Slippery slope, kids, because initially I am inclined to react in a way that speaks to infringement on freedoms and rights and all of that knee-jerktastic stuff. But our Bill of Rights doesn't apply to the Japanese, does it. Nor does our unspoken bill of rights which provides for us to do pretty much what we want to do. We don't have the yakuza issue that they have in Japan. Admittedly, I know very little about the social impact of the yakuza, and most of what I do know comes from the movie "Ichi: The Killer," which is probably not a very reliable source from which to form opinions. It's an awesome movie, though. There's suspension in it.

What I do take from the story of Mayor Toru Hashimoto and his mod mandate is that we have a great aesthetic freedom in this country. We can wear a t-shirt that says 'fuck' on it if we want. We can wear a tattoo of pretty much whatever we want without the government telling us what we can and cannot mod. Of course if you wear a swastika mod in North Philly, you're going to get brutally beaten, as well you should. But we have freedoms and rights here that we should celebrate in terms of modification. We are free to walk and live with our mods as living art and not as an association to crime and criminals. Is our culture better for that? I wouldn't dare say one nation's culture or society is better or worse than another's. Especially from lenses colored with the familiarity of only one culture, which is my own.

Political figures mandating anything makes my stretched and tattooed skin crawl. I don't like government telling its citizens that they have to do something that ought to be a choice. (see also, Obamacare) So when a government says 'you must,' I tend to react strongly. That's the ever growing free-market libertarian in me bursting through my chest like an alien baby. Don't worry, John Stossel; I'll be coming 'round soon. But again, I'd like to react strongly to Mayor Toru Hashimoto's mandate, but it is difficult because I am not thoroughly educated as to how the sociopolitical systems of Japan work, so it would be disingenuous of me to say he's wrong or right. I suppose with that said, I have arrived at absolutely nothing in this blog except a more keen eye to how other nations and cultures are treating and viewing the modification culture within their own communities and sensibilities. It is interesting to know what is going on in the wider scale. So don't forget that, yeah, you may get a pooface look once in a while because of your mods, but you don't have to register them with your boss so he can decide whether you have a job or not. Stay beautiful, kids.


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1 comment:

  1. It is interesting and somewhat confusing the way that the Japanese view tattoos when you stand from a western point of view isnt it? I myself am working on a traditional japanese bodysuit, done by a traditional japanese tattooer here in the states. You're spot on with many things, the ties it holds to the yakuza make it very frowned upon. There are even signs in public to remind you that no tattoos are to be shown where you are. I myself will never go to the onsen, or natural hot springs, when I make the journey there and no matter the season its jeans and a closed necked long sleeve shirt for me! But the same way (in my opinion) tattooing once being taboo here made it more enticing to people, the case is the same with the traditional japanese tattoo. It still thrives! The idea of itemizing your tattoos for your boss seems beyond ridiculous to me... and reminds me how lucky I am as well. I get to show off my tattoos if and when I like to here. But there is a great many of us, who cannot.