Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino: Review

Italo Calvino's beloved, intricately crafted novel about an Emperor's travels—a brilliant journey across far-off places and distant memory.“Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else.” In a garden sit the aged Kublai Khan and the young Marco Polo—Mongol emperor and Venetian traveler. Kublai Khan has sensed the end of his empire coming soon. Marco Polo diverts his host with stories of the cities he has seen in his travels around the empire: cities and memory, cities and desire, cities and designs, cities and the dead, cities and the sky, trading cities, hidden cities. As Marco Polo unspools his tales, the emperor detects these fantastic places are more than they appear.

Are you curious about the history, culture, and design behind Japanese tattoos? Look no further than Brian Ashcraft’s comprehensive book on the subject. With a focus on traditional Japanese tattooing techniques and symbolism, this book delves into the origins and evolution of these intricate pieces of body art.

You’ll learn about the cultural significance of Japanese tattoos, from their association with criminal gangs in the Edo period to their modern-day popularity among both Japanese and Westerners. The art of Japanese tattoo design is explored in detail, including the processes involved in creating a custom piece and interviews with tattoo artists and enthusiasts. Whether you’re a seasoned collector or simply interested in learning more about this fascinating aspect of Japan’s visual culture, “Japanese Tattoos: History * Culture * Design”offers an insightful look into this ancient art form.

The Origins and Evolution of Japanese Tattoos

As you read about the origins and evolution of Japanese tattoos, you’ll discover how this art form has transformed over time. In ancient times, tattoos were viewed as a symbol of criminality and were used to mark criminals as outcasts in society. However, with the influence of Buddhism in Japan during the 6th century AD, tattoos took on a new meaning.

Buddhism emphasized the importance of self-expression and individuality, leading to an increase in popularity for tattoos among commoners. It was common for people to adorn their bodies with religious symbols or images that reflected their personal beliefs. During the Edo period (1603-1868), tattoos became even more prominent among certain groups such as samurai warriors and laborers.

Today, modern interpretations of Japanese tattooing have become popular all around the world. The intricate designs and attention to detail are admired by many tattoo enthusiasts who appreciate both its artistic beauty and cultural significance. While traditional Japanese tattooing is still practiced today, it has evolved into various styles that incorporate both old and new techniques. With this understanding of history comes appreciation for what these designs represent in contemporary culture – a way to express oneself while honoring centuries-old traditions.

Japanese tattoos hold immense cultural significance not just within Japan but also globally. As you delve deeper into this topic, you’ll find that each design tells a unique story about its wearer’s beliefs or experiences. The next section will explore just how important these tattoos are to Japanese culture and why they continue to be celebrated worldwide without losing their authenticity or uniqueness.

The Cultural Significance of Japanese Tattoos

You may not realize it, but the cultural significance of these inked designs goes beyond just aesthetics and personal expression. Japanese tattoos are steeped in symbolism that reflects the values and beliefs of Japanese culture. Each element within a tattoo design holds a specific meaning that can communicate one’s social status, occupation, or even personality traits. For example, dragons represent power and wisdom while koi fish symbolize determination and perseverance.

However, not all tattoos were accepted in Japanese society. In fact, for many years tattoos were associated with criminal activity and were taboo in mainstream culture. This association came about during the Edo period when tattoos were used to mark criminals as a form of punishment. As a result, individuals who chose to get inked faced discrimination and limited job opportunities.

Despite this stigma, Japanese tattoos remained popular among certain groups such as yakuza members and samurais who viewed them as a way to display their bravery and loyalty. Today, attitudes towards tattoos have changed significantly in Japan with many younger generations embracing them as an art form rather than associating them with criminal activity.

The cultural significance of Japanese tattoos is richly nuanced with complex meanings that reflect Japan’s history and traditions. By understanding this symbolism and its evolution over time, we can gain insight into the ways in which tattooing has become an important part of today’s global culture. In the next section on ‘the art of japanese tattoo design’, we will explore how these intricate designs are created by skilled artists using traditional techniques passed down through generations.

The Art of Japanese Tattoo Design

Creating these intricate and beautiful body art pieces involves a skilled process that has been passed down through generations of tattoo artists. Japanese tattoo designs are known for their intricate details, bold lines, and vivid colors. These designs have evolved over time, yet traditional techniques such as hand-poking and using natural materials remain an integral part of the process.

Japanese tattoos often depict mythical creatures like dragons, koi fish, and phoenixes. Each design is carefully crafted to convey a specific meaning or message. The placement of the tattoo on the body is also significant; for example, tattoos on the back are believed to represent protection while tattoos on the chest symbolize courage.

Modern adaptations to Japanese tattoo designs include incorporating elements from other cultures or adding a contemporary twist to traditional motifs. Despite these changes, however, the essence of Japanese tattooing remains rooted in tradition and respect for its history. Understanding this art form requires not only knowledge of design but also an appreciation for its cultural significance.

The design process involves collaboration between artist and client to create a unique tattoo that reflects personal meaning or identity. The final product is more than just ink on skin; it represents a journey towards self-expression and liberation. In the next section, we will explore how this collaborative process unfolds in greater detail.

The Design Process

The journey towards a unique and meaningful tattoo starts with a collaborative design process that involves both the artist and client. To begin, the artist will often ask about your inspiration sources and what meaning you want to convey through your tattoo. It is important to have these ideas in mind before starting the creative process. Sometimes, artists may even suggest adding their own creative techniques or incorporating traditional Japanese elements into the design.

Once both parties are on the same page, the artist will usually sketch out several rough drafts of potential designs. This is where your input becomes crucial – providing feedback and constructive criticism can help refine the final product to better suit your vision. The design process can take anywhere from a few hours to several weeks depending on complexity, so patience is key.

Overall, designing a Japanese tattoo requires careful consideration and collaboration between client and artist. By drawing inspiration from personal experiences or cultural traditions while utilizing creative techniques, an impactful and meaningful tattoo can be created for years of enjoyment. In our next section, we’ll explore interviews with various tattoo artists and enthusiasts to gain further insight into this fascinating art form.

Interviews with Tattoo Artists and Enthusiasts

As you delve into the subtopic of interviews with tattoo artists and enthusiasts, you’ll gain valuable insights into the industry from those who are deeply invested in it. Through their personal experiences and perspectives, you’ll discover what drives them to create meaningful designs that resonate with their clients. These interviews offer a detailed, analytical look at the art of tattooing as well as its cultural significance.

Insights into the Industry

Get ready to dive deep into the fascinating world of Japanese tattooing and gain insights into this thriving industry. As you explore the pages of Brian Ashcraft’s book, you’ll learn about the latest trends in Japanese tattoo design and how they have evolved over time. You’ll also gain a deeper understanding of the cultural significance behind these tattoos and why they are so revered by many people around the world.

One of the most interesting aspects that Ashcraft covers is the issue of cultural appropriation in Japanese tattooing. With more and more people becoming interested in this style, there has been some concern among traditionalists about outsiders appropriating their culture without fully understanding its significance. However, as Ashcraft points out, there are many talented artists who are respectful of Japanese traditions while still putting their own unique spin on things. This balance between tradition and innovation is what makes Japanese tattooing such an exciting field to be a part of.

As you transition into reading about personal experiences and perspectives, you’ll find that many artists have their own stories to tell about how they got started in this industry and what drives them to create such amazing works of art. Through their voices, you’ll gain even deeper insights into what makes Japanese tattoos so special – not just as beautiful pieces of body art but as a reflection of Japan’s rich cultural heritage.

Personal Experiences and Perspectives

Let’s hear from some of the talented artists themselves and discover what drives them to create such incredible works of body art. For many Japanese tattoo artists, the drive comes from a deep respect and admiration for their country’s cultural traditions. They view their work as a way to preserve and celebrate Japan’s rich history and mythology, while also pushing the boundaries of contemporary design.

However, these artists must navigate the complex issue of cultural appropriation when working with non-Japanese clients. While they welcome anyone who appreciates their craft, they are also aware of the social stigma surrounding non-Japanese people wearing traditional Japanese tattoos. Many artists approach this issue by educating their clients about the significance behind each design element, emphasizing the importance of respecting cultural traditions. Ultimately, these conversations not only lead to more meaningful tattoos but also foster a deeper understanding and appreciation for Japan’s culture among non-Japanese individuals.


Congratulations! You have just finished reading “Japanese Tattoos: History, Culture, Design”by Brian Ashcraft. You are now equipped with a wealth of knowledge about the origins and evolution of Japanese tattoos, their cultural significance, and the intricate design process behind them.

As you reflect on what you have learned, you may find yourself amazed at the depth and complexity of this ancient art form. From traditional motifs like koi fish and cherry blossoms to more modern designs that blend Eastern and Western styles, Japanese tattoos offer a stunning array of possibilities for those interested in ink.

Overall, “Japanese Tattoos: History, Culture, Design”is an illuminating exploration of one of the world’s most fascinating tattoo traditions. Through interviews with artists and enthusiasts alike, Ashcraft brings this rich culture to life in vivid detail. So whether you’re a seasoned tattoo veteran or simply curious about this unique art form, this book is sure to provide hours of enjoyment and inspiration.

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