Japanese Tattoo by Yoso

There are fine lines between preparation, understanding, acceptance and commitment, and they can often overlap or appear as blur. It is literally in the 'here and now' that we have a chance to witness and redefine what we choose to experience. Forever evolving as one commits to a code of conduct, can we ever be sure of what we perceive at any given moment? 

Everyone has the freedom of practicing their own mantra, compassion can be the greatest guide, a master and a friend on the journey, as it allows us to transform negative experiences into infinite wisdom.

Spontaneity allows us to experience life in the moment, freeing the mind as the hand follows, trusting the mind to flow with the hand. Forever evolving, like a dance, stroke by stroke, session by session, beyond preparation, focused on the present, it reveals its essence.

Often there can be a sense of risk, a fear of breaking the rules, a vivid awareness of the ego. Yet, an urge to express and experience our true feelings, is what helps us cultivating a deeper sense of belonging! 

Is the equilibrium between tradition and discovery for the unknown, the path towards freedom and 'self' realisation? Or are we we risking to restrict the very essence of 'our' existence?

Some commit to the rigour of the unsaid or written rules, where elements seem to be comfortably set with the path laid ahead of us, somehow sacralised as we learn to respect it; whether relating to daily choices, mythology, various cultural facets, seasons and our interpretation of nature, or other world views - step by step, we discover the present through the past hoping that it is relevant to the times we live in! Sometimes we keep wondering, is it really necessary? What does it involve? Where does it lead us?

One might seek to honour the work of previous generations by mimicking the gestures of the masters, while others attempt a more contemporary approach, through self discovery and risk taking - even tho not exclusive, the journey is unique to each one of us. The line never lies, a better technique does not mean it does not lack essence, but where does that essence reside? Can it be described?

Sometimes words and symbols by they nature seems to play tricks on our perception, like a maze from which we can not escape, they allow us to open closed doors, revealing new horizons, but can they trap us, as we are constrained by 'our' very own interpretation?  Symbols remains one of the most celebrated mode of expression, used by some to manipulate others, treated like seeds with respect by those who chose to celebrate growth. It is often when we are lost in translation, when travelling to experience new culture, confronted by the unknown, just that little step beyond our comfort zone, that the unsaid has a chance to manifests itself. This presents us with wonder and an opportunity for growth, the chance to celebrate discovery, respect, gentleness, inner strength and determination. It shatters separations, Eye to Eye, Heart to Heart, a sense of union. Weren't we supposed to be lost?

In many ways, this might help us identify the core values we wished transcended the boundaries between traditional or a more contemporary approaches to tattooing, life, or creativity in general. The ability to tune into individuality sometimes appears as an illusion, yet it can provide us with a deeper sense of understanding, like an invisible bridge, as beauty moves us in ways we can not always explain, we have surpassed our individual understanding and surrendered to our surroundings, it is too late to step back on the known path, can one more step be the answer?

Contemporary Japan is highly contrasted in its culture, which at times can seem paradoxal - yet, it has somehow managed to sustain and refine some of its core values, a mix of obvious martial traditions, with a clear refinement for balance, softness, respect and harmony, where the 'US' is the Circle that contains the 'I'.

While some aspects are sometimes considered unique to the Japanese culture, it is a reality often dreamed of beyond language or nationalities! We do know in the western world that too often individual success prevails communal growth! Whereby in contemporary Japan, where so much emphasis is placed on discipline, self control and joined efforts, we can not isolate the traditional approach to the Japanese tattoo from other aspects of its culture.

Even tho the Japanese Tattoo history is still tainted by cultural prejudice and challenged by the majority of citizens, especially, considering older generations, whether considered as a language, a way of life, or simply a form of expression, it has allowed communities to grow.

As if, not allowing traditional Japanese tattoo in the public spheres gave it a power that ignores borders, with its visual wealth being recognised beyond language, such as each drop of water contouring an obstacle - as the source is being protected by the initiated, and while it was reserved to the private eye and the inner circles, its resilience and necessity to survive, allowed it to flow and flourish to become the art form that is celebrated worldwide today. It has become an inspiration for the many artists who chose to look at it! So refined, it seems complete! Could this be the manifestation of a universal force that transcends borders and nationalities?

A refusal to be loud or assertive within the public space is probably one of the main reason why the Traditional Japanese Tattoo is still not truly celebrated within mainstream Japan itself, often perceived as overpowering, as if, ironically the result of reclusion imposed by he state, gave it the power the initiated has learned to embrace.

This pushed the newer generation seeking to redefine a sense of identity to adopt a new visual culture, celebrating other movements such as the old school Americana tradition amongst the diversity that our global cultural heritage offers us. Challenging the established authority and opening themselves to the west, they chose to display other tattoo styles that could not be directly linked to the stigma associated with the Yakuza culture. Sometimes its only hope is to be accepted as fashion, yet many chose to preserve its tradition.

Is hiding meaning? beneficial to collective growth? Japanese tattoo is evolving as are other tattoo forms throughout the world, in many ways the circle has ben complete as we can witness Japanese symbolism depicted with the language of Western renaissance painters, within and out of Japan.  

The current challenge to those who chose the path of discovery and expression through the craft that is tattooing, or more specifically the art of Japanese tattooing within Japan, is to maintain and nurture its tradition, allowing for growth, with the hope that one day it will finally be welcomed as an art form by the public eye. And while it is said that the Japanese Tattoo has evolved in an hermetic way, it is hard to ignore the outside influences that helped form the complexity of its language. We have to remain aware of what created Japanese culture in a wider sense, keeping into consideration outside influences and traditions such as, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, the creation of Shinto, or other wisdoms that preceded Japanese History.

Microcosms are not excluded from the whole, yet should be celebrated for their inherent qualities, as each tattoo that is created for an individual celebrates a journey, the art is to manifest the very essence of that being, while keeping in mind that we are part of a much bigger picture. Flowing with the mind and the body, nourished by symbolism and energy, a commitment to connect heart and skill, a strong sense of decisiveness in the composition yet a refined appreciation for details and softness, without compromising spontaneity, those are the qualities that hopefully will remain within the tradition as it evolves.

While One's approach can be mainly focused on positive imagery, there are often lessons to be learned from what might appear at first as dark, conflicting, or repelling. Some see their tattoos as shields, some as a reflection of their inner journeys, their conscience, or a combination of multiple aspects of their lives. The variations are limitless as so is imagination. The core values are commitment and integrity, offering an opportunity for growth even through conflict, as in Tattoo or life in general, the pain endured, physical or psychological caused by misunderstanding or a general sense of suffering can transform into a catharsis that lead to inner wisdom and harmony.

We are extremely lucky to live in a time where tattooing is constantly challenged and evolving, whether our own culture and surroundings might be conflicting with what we perceive as a right to be, we must nurture the freedom of expression. What might be understood as creating separation, often arises from a deeper need to unite and communicate. We have the chance to celebrate tattooing as a craft, a tradition, an art form and a way of life. Even tho it is not always understood, and that too often we still witness prejudice towards tattooed people, the opposite almost never occurs, which is the irony?

Japanese tattoo can often look very similar to the uninitiated, as it is true for most discipline or unfamiliar ideologies, an overwhelming series of patterns and shades, some ever repeating symbols we see over and over, without clear assimilation, yet much more exists that we very rarely have a chance to witness. There is so much inspiration just in nature itself, or through self discovery? So why limit ourselves?

Taking our time and with careful observation, as our understanding is refined, we start to recognise and celebrate what is unique to each 'master', or what is unique to each one of us! Most importantly, we start to realise how commitment has transformed us, allowing an opportunity to realise what we might have in common. While we have the chance of experiencing various philosophies, seeing so many photographs, or getting a sense of reality online, often they do not make justice to subtile nuances that can be perceived with the naked eye. Somehow we allow the risk of being manipulated by an algorithm, or some pre constructed social prejudice, and they hardly ever describe the reality, what it means to commit to the journey.

It is the person you meet as much as the perception of what is carved that tells the story! A tattoo is earned through blood, sweat and perseverance! An opportunity to establish an honest connection between individuals.

We are all equals when it comes to learning how to get through pain, doubt, or challenging prejudice! Either we choose to share the journey with others, or first attempt to discover our inner truth without outside influences! It is always an opportunity to contribute to our collective wisdom!

While to some, it might feel overpowering, lets not be scared of Force, rather, let's embrace and master it!

If a book can not be judged by its cover, the skin is alive as is each one of us, light constantly changes, we transform, we create various impressions, from day to night, or according to our own moods. Lacking ability to challenge pre-conceived notions often reflect a sense of insecurity.

As some spiritual traditions describe!
There are two choices in life!

Love or fear!

Don't we say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder?

What ever arises out of the first impression, If we can walk that small extra step together beyond our own limitations and with respect for ourselves and others, and so while attempting to share knowledge with honesty! We might even realise that there are no such things as separation.

And remember, There is so much more than what can be seen with the eye in life, or during the tattoo journey.

In a sense we coexist! Those who chose the path, clearly know that there is also a fine line, between student and master! And it can often be blur!

Whether we like it or not, we are part of a legacy, so choose wisely and share with honesty! 

Enjoy the Journey!

Y.