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.

A secret love

The article recalls that Akimitsu Takagi is one of Japan’s greatest contemporary writers. A best-selling author specialising in crime novels, it is less well known that Takagi was also passionate about traditional Japanese tattooing. Known as horimono or irezumi, tattooing was a popular art form 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 the tattoo artists, reached an unequalled level of sophistication.

The photographer behind the writer

As an amateur photographer, introduced to Tokyo’s underground tattoo scene, Takagi documented tattooists and tattooed people in the 1950s. Discovered 70 years later, in 2017, these images lift the veil on the famous writer’s keen interest in traditional Japanese tattooing. Hitherto unknown, it comes as a surprise to the general public.

The tattoo writer

Ultimately, this interest in tattooing comes as no real surprise to those familiar with the author’s career. Tattoo culture in Japan was present right from the start of his literary life. It was central to the plot of his first novel, published in 1948. Entitled Shisei Satsujin Jiken, it became a bestseller on its release. The book launched his career as a writer.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.