Art you can wear: The precision and perseverance of the Japanese tattoo

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Tattoo by Miyazo. Photo by Kip Fulbeck.

Kip Fulbeck from the front… and from the back

Thinking about getting a tattoo? Thinking about getting another? A new show that opens Saturday celebrates the art, culture and tradition of this form of expression: Japanese tattoos, with a focus on seven internationally acclaimed masters.

Tattoo by Miyazo. Photo by Kip Fulbeck.

There’s nothing hasty or typical about these tattoos. And while the artists represented in the show are revered around the world (one must petition them before being accepted as a client,) in Japan, the art form is still largely underground. Tattoos must be hidden.

“They’re emblems of rebels against society,” explained Kip Fulbeck, the designer of the show, who was raised in southern California. As interesting as his description of the history of Japanese tattooing were his own personal examples: He gave me a tour of his sleeves, and then, after we’d spent a while together, proceeded to hike up his shirt and show me his spectacular back piece, 28-sittings in the making.

Hear Fulbeck on the tradition of Japanese tattooing below.

Perseverance: Japanese Tattoo Tradition in a Modern World/March 8 through September 14 at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo.  100 Central Avenue