19 June 2010

fundoshi & irezumi

THIS JUST IN: There is now a fundoshi page on Facebook.

Irezumi (also known as Horimono, or literally "body engraving") is a Japanese artform involving extensive body tattooing that the fundoshi is uniquely, um, suited for displaying. Long associated with criminality, and especially Japan's organized crime (the Yakuza), spectacular "waterfall" style tattoos can completely cover the arms, legs, shoulders, and buttocks, but often leave hands and feet blank and a wide, bare stripe down the center of the chest. That way, when normally clothed, the wearer's tattoos remain secret. The designs are usually taken from Japanese woodblock prints and traditional drawings, and can be quite detailed and richly colored. Often, it takes years to complete a full body-suit irezumi tattoo. For a long time, there was a ban on displaying tattoos in pubic that has been relaxed quite a bit in recent decades. However, many bath houses, hot springs and other businesses still prohibit tattoos, and participants in some of the winter Naked Festivals ("Hadaka Matsuri") are required to cover tattoos with bandages.

The first black & white photo below comes from reknowned Japanese photographer Tamotsu Yato's beautiful 1968 monograph, Naked Festival, and remains one of our favorite all-time fundoshi photos!

Of course, if you can't spare the time or don't think withstanding the pain is worth being clothed in a mural of resplendent ink for a lifetime, there's always this option:

So if you were to go under the needle, what would your irezumi depict?


Tim said...

Just wanted to say thanks for such an awesome resource on fundoshi :) I first tried wearing fundoshi a few months back, and found it a more satisfying experience than Western underwear, my only issue, was the 'sitting on a rope' sensation, but your advice of laying the material flat is a 100% improvement, as is the revelation of fundoshi in colors other than white. Up till now, I'd been wearing fundoshi of white, and off-white/cream, but have since purchased red material for fundoshi to swim in (don't want to be giving my mother in law ideas when a white fundoshi goes see-thru) as well as a white spot on dark blue fabric which has a very traditional Japanese feel to it. I chose to comment on this page, as I am in the process of having a traditional irezumi bodysuit applied, and it was the prospect of having my buttock/thigh area tattooed, which made me realize that my days of going commando had to come to an end, and silly as it may sound, but 'traditional Japanese underwear' (which was what I first googled for) seemed the only logical choice for me. Sure, the 'rope-style' got me wearing fundoshi, but it was your blog which really expanded my knowledge of the subject. Many thanks, and best regards :)

Tim said...

PS My bodysuit is comprising primarily family references, ie a cherry blossom for each cousin, kanji reading 'beloved sister' etc, and will also feature a dragon as the back piece :)

Fundoshi 4 All! said...

That will be awesome and meaningful -- and no doubt lots of time under the needle! If you want to share progress shots, or just pictures of the finished piece, I bet people would love to see them. Thank you for enjoying the blog!

Tim said...

Indeed, it's going to take quite a while to complete, but I know it will be worth it in the end :) I'd be happy to share some pictures of the finished piece, as well as a few progress shots when I have had more work done, as at present, it looks more like a collection of randomly placed tattoos, rather than joining into a cohesive piece :) My pleasure, and again, thank you for posting such a fantastic resource :)
PS I've since worn fundoshi while swimming, and had no issue of them loosening or slipping :)