Pen [ペン] devotes an article to the tattoo writer, Akimitsu Takagi‘s book of photographs of Japanese tattooing in the 1950s.

Founded in 1997 in Tokyo, the Japanese online magazine is a benchmark for Japanese culture and lifestyle.

“When memory resurfaces thanks to tattoos”.

The article recalls that Akimitsu Takagi is one of Japan’s greatest contemporary writers. A best-selling author specialising in crime novels, Takagi also had a passion for traditional Japanese tattooing. Known as horimono or irezumi, tattooing became a form of art in Japan in the 19th century. In the capital of Edo – ancient Tokyo – this figurative tattoo inspired by ukiyo-e prints developed and, thanks to the skill of tattoo artists, reached an unrivalled level of sophistication.

A key witness

An amateur photographer introduced to this underground scene in Tokyo, Takagi documented tattooists and tattooed people in the 1950s. Discovered 70 years later, in 2017, these images unexpectedly shed light on his keen interest in traditional Japanese tattooing. Previously unknown, this is a surprise for the general public.

The tattoo writer

The culture of tattooing in Japan was present right from the start of his literary career. It was at the heart of the plot of his first novel, published in 1948. It became a bestseller and launched his career as a writer. Entitled Shisei Satsujin Jiken, it was translated into French for the first time in 2016.Irezumi was published by Denoël.

The book has since been translated twice more, in 2022. In Italy it was published as Il Mistero Della Donna Tatuata by Einaudi. In the UK, it was published as The Tattoo Murder by Pushkin Press.

Read the full article online at Pen [ペン] magazine.