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  • Juju Kurihara

Japanese Tribal Tattoo, Jomon Tattoo

When you think about Japanese tattoos, you probably think about something like this. (Read more about Japanese tattoo designs and History of Japanese tattoo)

But there are also different patterns, called Tribal tattoo. You may have seen Maori Tattoos. This is one of the common patterns you can see among Micronesia and Polynesian culture.

And Japanese tribal tattoos are like this.

These are called Jomon (縄文) Tribal Tattoo and often seen among The Ainu (アイヌ人) and Ryukyuan people (琉球民族). The Ainu is a Japanese indigenous tribe who live in Hokkaido (北海道) and Ryukyuan live in Okinawa Islands (沖縄諸島). The people who live completely opposite points of Japan have something in common. That’s tribal tattoo. Most commonly, Ainu women got a tattoo around their mouthes after getting married and Ryukyuan women on their hands which is called Hajichi (ハジチ).


Ainu women

Why they have a similar culture and tattoo patterns? This is because of the Mongoloid who is believed to travel from Siberia to the South America, also traveled through Asia and reached to Polynesia. Tribal tattoos are seen in all these areas. And Japan is one of them.

Then why this tribal tattoo is only used among Ainu and Ryukyuan people? First, we are talking about the time which is between 15,000 and 2,300 years ago. This era is called Jomon era (縄文時代) in Japan and the study is mostly focused on the archaeology, especially the recent cultural taboo over the tattoo.

Secondly, the ethnical reason. When Japan was connected to the continent, people came to Japan and created Jomon culture. These people came from Siberia and called Jomon people (縄文人) who lived in Hokkaido. Then later, people came from China who are called Yayoi people (弥生人) and created completely different culture. The appearance is also different between these two ethnic.

On the left is Jomon people and on the right is Yayoi people. About 75% of modern Japanese people are mix of both ethnics. But Ainu and Ryukyuan people are the direct descendent of Jomon people. This is why tribal tattoo culture has been kept among them.

Recently a Japanese tattoo artist and a photographer have had a project, “縄文族 Jomon Tribe” and revived the Jomon tattoo. Most of the patterns are taken from Jomon earthenware. Here are some more of their works.

You can also see at Apocaript gallery :

So now, what sort of Japanese tattoos would you like to have?


Jomon people and Yayoi people :


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