Tag: tattoos

Access all areas: a photojournalist’s two years with the Yakuza

I love this sort of reporting. Journalists going above and beyond to get a unique story, I especially love the sort of “access all areas”  (however carefully stage managed by the subject) feature, when the subject is something that happens behind doors that are usually well and truly closed to the public.

This photographer named Anton Kusters embedded himself in the life of a Japanese Yakuza crime family, producing a series of photos for an art exhibition and book. He blogged his way through the project here.

I arrive early. I’ve hitched a ride with two young recruits who will be trained here. I have no idea where we are, other than that we are at the beach somewhere, several hours away from Tokyo. We park the car and head on to the compound.

It’s a regular little seaside town, and the place we’re staying in is a traditional Japanese guest house. We walk up to the late Miyamoto-san, who is in charge of the annual organization, and greet him. He’s going over the daily routine together with Tanaka-sensei.

Tanaka-sensei is a master swordsman and martial arts teacher, who has fought in the Afghan war in the 1980′s by training the Mujahedin in different combat and sword fighting techniques. He is here to teach the recruits meditation techniques, unarmed and armed combat, and bodyguard practice.


There are a couple of images at these links that may or may not be disturbing – so I wouldn’t necessarily recommend buying the book or anything…

I can never figure out why, apart from an overdeveloped sense of their own grandeur or significance, a career criminal, or a criminal organisation, would want the exposure that attention like this brings.


“In the hotel bar I am only slowly starting to understand the minutial social order that is continuously happening within the Yakuza, the micro-expressions on the faces, the gestures, the voices and intonations, the body language. Everything seems to be strictly organized but at the same time seems to come naturally: strangely, I don’t need anyone to tell me what to do, where to sit, when to talk or when to shut up… it’s like I feel the boundaries, the implicit expectations, and I am slowly learning when I can do, and when to best hold back.”

Kusters describes the experience at some length here… – again, one of the slide show images will probably not be your cup of tea – so I’ve put the good quotes below.

AK: I was extremely nervous. Since they are gangsters, I thought I should be very careful, in case I shot something I wasn’t supposed to see. But this actually upset the gang. They saw my nervousness as disrespectful. I remember one time early on this guy pulled me aside and said, “You are here to take pictures. Act like a professional.” It turned out they respected me if I was really aggressive about getting a certain shot. To not take photos was a sign of weakness.

S: So who were the people you followed around? What were they like?

AK: I followed around two people mainly, who brought me into the bigger social circle. One was the kaichou, the president of the organization. The other was Shoichiro, who was the street boss.

The kaichou looked a university professor—wire glasses, white hair, a goatee. He always walked around in a tailored suit—all the higher ups did. The kaichou acted like a CEO, delegating tasks to a lot of people, always being driven around, surrounded by bodyguards. He liked golf. I thought he was friendly enough, but wasn’t very chatty. I didn’t expect him to be, he had a business to run all the time.

Shoichrio was a muscular guy, since he worked as the physical enforcer for all the gang’s ground operations. He was very gruff, especially on the phone and when he was around his subordinates. But he was a lot chattier than Kaichou, and I was actually closest with him. He was actually very particular about his appearance, and got his haircut and nails manicured once a week.

AK: Tattoos were originally used as a way for members to recognize each other at bathhouses, the traditional yakuza place of business. But these tattoos obviously have deep significance for yakuza, and getting one is a very big deal. It’s a sense of pride and belonging, as well as a testament to one’s manhood because the process is so painful.

Gangs typically have a certain artist working for them—but this wasn’t an “in-house” situation and there was no pressure on members from seeing other artists. These artists work through a very old medium of hammering four inked needles into the skin, at around 120 pokes per minute, at a precise angle against bodyfat. There aren’t too many of them operating anymore, so the gang treats with a tremendous amount of respect. Even the kaichou called his tattoo artist “sensei.”

To get a meeting with an artist, you first need an internal recommendation. Then you have an interview with the artist to see if he even agrees to take you on—they say the honor of being chosen by a tattoo artist is as important as the tattoo itself.

I was with the kaichou when he got a second tattoo. The gang had just entered into an alliance with another family, so as a show of loyalty he had his original full-body tattoo burned off with hot coals and replaced with a new tattoo. It took 100 hours to complete. They called him “The Master of All Pains.”

Crazy stuff.

It reminds me a bit of Gang Leader for a Day – which is an excellent book about the economic and sociological structure of an American street gang…

Why you should probably have second thoughts before tattooing your partner’s face on your arm

I’ve often told Robyn that I would allow her to get my face tattooed on her arm. I’m joking. By the way.

This girl’s new boyfriend gave her a voucher or something to get a tattoo of a winged tortoise. Which he’d designed. She surprised him by getting his face inked on her bicep. She posted the photo on Facebook, as a surprise. And got more than she’d bargained for in the comments. Now she’s stuck with a tattoo of her ex-boyfriend.

There’s a moderate language warning here – but it’s a life lesson that is just too important to let go by.

Click here, or the picture, for the big version.

UPDATE: So, turns out this was a pretty awesome prank.

Religious inkling v religious inking

Chris Eckert is an artist. And a philosopher. Of some sort. Though all artists would like to think they’re philosophers. And I really like this “Auto Ink”

He wanted to represent the truism that the greatest predictor for your religious beliefs is where you live. Which is true. It’s not the only factor, but it is a factor.

So he designed this…

It’s a tattooing machine that will randomly assign you a religion – and you’ll be stuck with it for life, symbolically tattooed on your wrist.

What I’d like to know, is what happens if you want to choose a religion after doing the hard work of thinking about it (what would I know though, my parents are Christian so my compliance was virtually assured). Can you get a second tattoo? Over the top of the first?

Here’s the blurb from the machine’s web page:

“The strongest indication of a person’s religion is geography. You are born into your religion. That doesn’t make it irrelevant or incorrect–religion provides a framework for basic morality that’s very powerful and it gives people a cultural identity that spans borders. I’ve attended mass in Dutch, German, French, and Spanish and I’ve always felt like I belonged. While my personal experience with religion is one of inclusion, a system that unites people from different regions and cultures, the public face of religion is often one of exclusion. Muslim, Christian, and Jewish zealots who know what God wants. More specifically they know what God doesn’t want and apparently God does not want me…or you. This public face of religion is always so certain, self-confident, even arrogant. That anyone could possibly know the “truth” when that truth is randomly assigned at birth is just funny.

Auto Ink is a three axis numerically controlled sculpture. Once the main switch is triggered, the operator is assigned a religion and its corresponding symbol is tattooed onto the persons arm. The operator does not have control over the assigned symbol. It is assigned either randomly or through divine intervention, depending on your personal beliefs.”

It’s provocative and creative. So it’s art. Watch it work.

To do tattoo

If I was going to get a tattoo it’d be something coffee related, or this, and it would be on my wrist. But I’m not allowed. My wife says no. And I respect her judgment.

The girl behind this tattoo is from Townsville – so Townsville friends should keep an eye out for her. She is now world famous because of Neatorama.

This is taking the whole Getting Things Done thing a little too far, I think. But it is practical.

Best Headline Ever

Did you hear the one about the guy who tattooed his frenemy’s back as a “peace offering” – only, he didn’t. He drew a giant phallus instead. It happened in Ipswich, Queensland. Which is typical of things that go on there.

Yahoo’s news service produced arguably the funniest headline I’ve ever read in response.

Australian tattooist charged over rude doodle

The sub editor who wrote that deserves a substantial raise.

It feels weird tagging a post about Ipswich in “Culture” but there you go.

Cool stories from the news

I have starred a bunch of news stories in the last few weeks that were cool but probably not quite worthy of individual posts (in my opinion) in order to clear my queue a bit I’ll post them all at once.

The Brazillian Soccer Heist

Have you seen any bank robbery movies where the robbers tunnel their way into the vault from a vacant neighbouring building? These thieves had. If I was a bank I would be buying up neighbouring businesses and being very careful about who I rented them out to.

Thieves in Brazil have stolen more than $6m (£3.7m) from a cash delivery firm, taking advantage of the nation’s passion for football, police say.

Police believe the thieves – who had dug a tunnel into the firm’s building – struck when season-ending matches were played in Sao Paulo on Sunday.

A security guard later told local media he had heard a loud noise but thought it was fireworks lit by fans.

Farmer plants land mines to thwart potato thieves
Only in Russia is it better to maim small children than have your potatos stolen. How else will you make the vodka that keeps you warm in those long winter months.

A Russian farmer has been convicted of planting landmines around his field to ward off trespassers.

Alexander Skopintsev, from the eastern region of Primorye near China’s border, laid the three devices on his land after building them in his garage.

The 73-year-old had apparently been concerned about the frequent theft of potatoes from his farm.

Ex Power Ranger challenges JCVD to MMA fight
That headline was just fun to write. Did you ever watch the “celebrity deathmatch” claymotion series? It was pretty dumb. It pitted sometimes obscure celebs against each other in wrestling matches that resulted in the untimely deaths of one or both of the clay figurines. This little incident is a bad case of life imitating art. It’s B grade meets D grade in a battle for martial art mediocrity.

The guy issuing the challenge is former White Ranger Jason David Frank, who tells TMZ, he’s had it out for Van Damme ever since 1995 when the Muscles from Brussels — who had been Frank’s childhood hero — allegedly blew him off during the premiere of “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie.”

As TMZ previously reported, Frank is now a scary-looking MMA fighter who has a fight next weekend in the Octagon — and Van Damme is reportedly looking to make his own pro fighting debut … so the timing couldn’t be better for Frank to settle the score.

Tattoo artist father wants to create a tattoo using his son’s ashes as ink

Creepy? Macarbe? Heartwarming? I can’t decide. A UK tattoo artist plans to turn his son’s ashes into tattoo ink so that he can recreate a photo of his son as a tattoo both for himself, and his wife.

A father from Herefordshire is to have a portrait of his dead son tattooed on his chest using the child’s ashes.

Mark Richmond, 39, and his wife Lisa, 31, said they wanted to do something as a lasting tribute to their son Ayden.

The couple, who own a tattoo parlour in Greater Manchester, plan to mix some of Ayden’s ashes in the ink for a 7in black and white portrait of him.


Tattoos used to be a sign of purposeful rebellion. A way to stand out from the crowd. Now everybody has them. So they’re not cool. To be really cool you need to think outside the square – or perhaps – inside the mouth.

Put your tattoo where nobody will see it – because everybody knows that coolness is a state of being, not a state of seeing.

These may or may not be the teeth collected after Tiger Woods’ infamous “accident”…

Normally this artwork is created on the back teeth, the molars or bicuspids. Most people prefer having it on the cheek side of the tooth, some on the tongue side. Most considered these as some what a white collar tattoo. They are seen only when the person that has one wants to share what they have, by pulling their cheek out so it could be seen. The other advantage to these tattoos is that they can easily be removed in five minutes in the dentist’s office with just a little grinding with a rubber wheel. We show the artwork on the front teeth so people can see our artistic abilities.

You can have custom Artwork Hand Painted tooth tattoos on your teeth (crowns). There are many options for Gold Crowns as well.

Street cred fail

Anyone who grew up playing Streetfighter 2 knows that the Shoryuken is a most potent weapon.

Here’s Big Bird unleashing the awesome power of a shoryuken (dragon punch) on the cookie monster. He knows where it’s at…

But is it worthy of a tattoo? This guy thought so. But unlike Big Bird he doesn’t have a clue how to land the killer blow.

Unfortunately he made a little mistake. see, to hit that move you’ve got to do this →↓↘ + P

From kotaku.

On sticks and logs

Here’s a little story, picked up by the Friendly Atheist, that highlights why getting people who think they’re Christians to rightly understand how Biblical law works, how it should (or mostly shouldn’t) be applied today.

At the very least we should be able to point out that the law was written for the Jews, who were God’s people. So that they could be different to the people around them. It wasn’t written for the Jews to impose on everyone else.

An American redneck decided to use a little bit of Old Testament sanctioned force to bash a homosexual man.

He even has a tattoo that proclaims the need to understand homosexuality as an abomination.

Now, it’s all well and good emblazoning that sort of verse on your arm. But, as even atheists know, this is problematic given a verse that appears just a chapter later…

"You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD. Leviticus 19:28″

We need to fix this kind of thing if we want to (rightly) argue that God’s intention for relationships between humans is for sex to occur in a marriage between a man and a woman. And that Christians should not be practising homosexuals (because the New Testament reaffirms God’s intentions and understandings of sexual expression).

Even Answers in Genesis can understand that this definition of marriage applies to Christians – they commented on a recent story where a judge in the US ruled that an interracial couple could not marry because the Bible forbids it… Which is strange.

What the Bible does say in the Old Testament is that Jews (the people of God) should not intermarry, and in the New Testament that Christians should ideally marry Christians – but that if two non-Christians marry and one becomes a Christian they should stay married.

Here’s what Ken Ham said (again mentioned in an article on the Friendly Atheist) when he was asked about interracial marriage in the Bible. It’s somewhat convoluted, but at the end of the day it is useful. From the Answers in Genesis website…

At AiG we have always taught that biologically there is only one race (Adam’s race), however, spiritually, there are two races (the saved and unsaved). It is the two spiritual “races” that God clearly instructs in His Word not to mix in marriage. In other words, when someone asks me “does the Bible deal with interracial marriage?” I answer, “it sure does, it makes it clear the saved ‘race’ should never knowingly marry the unsaved ‘race’—and that’s all the Bible teaches about ‘interracial’ marriage.’” Biologically, there is no such thing as “interracial” marriage as there is only one “race”—we are all descendants of one man, Adam.

I’m not sure that Ham’s stance would extend to the unsaved being able to enter into any marriage they want…

But at the end of the day we (Christians) need to make sure our house is in order before throwing stones, literally or otherwise.

They even provide this helpful infographic.

Unblocking the queue

Thanks to the awesome power of Google Reader I have a stack of things (more than 200) that I have the best intentions to post.

Sometimes these build up, and as you’ll no doubt note from the post of Mario stuff, and the post of clocks, they are often variations of a theme.

This post is all about Tetris. Enjoy.

The perfect Tetris fit out requires perfect Tetris cushions…

Like these

These Tetris shelves are part of a bigger collection from a pretty clever design firm. They’re the almost perfect modular storage system…

Tetris is so good that it’s captured the heart, minds and skin of fans.

There’s also this salt and pepper shaker created by this clever Flickr user.

Credit for finding these gems must go to Walyou.

Super Mario Art

There’s a whole lot of awesome Super Mario Bros stuff out there just waiting to be posted.

To save myself some of the trouble I’m going to compile it all into one post.

Found here.

This vibrating Mushroom Cushion ($US11.99) will give new life to your room.

This Etsy user has a whole stack of bed spreads and other 8 bit inspired manchester.

A game is only as good as its collection of villains. Here’s someone’s take on how the bad guys were cast…

Obviously Super Mario Bros was a good game. And much more entertaining than that video. Good enough to inspire this sort of street art

Or these sorts of incredibly painful tattoos

And this sort of painstaking dedication to converting things into Japanese artwork

This, for those not familiar with the whole Mario thing, is someone’s attempt to get everything turned into a handy graphical representation of a family tree – you can get a bigger version here.

And finally, this is a shirt laying down the life lessons learned from a life playing Mario games

Wrist watch

I thought the digital amputee who turned his prosthetic finger into a USB drive was hardcore. He’s got nothing on this guy. Who is pioneering a digital tattoo, powered by body movements, and from what I can tell, receiving time updates remotely.

Oink ink

Bacon obsessions are largely healthy – unless they include unhealthy consumption of bacon or getting pictures of bacon tattooed on your arm… like this guy


Sometimes people manage to find a superb silver lining to situations I can’t imagine dealing with. Like turning a lost arm into this…

From here – but there are some more disturbing images there… so be warned.