Japanese tattooing was shaped and grew by disciplines almost as exacting as the ones used for bonsai trees. Design influences are primarily from the realm of the temple wood block print. Heroes, gods, goddesses, sacred animals. Whatever the subject matter, it must be done nobly and on a grand scale. Layout and shaping had evolved over the years to be covered, hidden by the average clothing worn by tattoo collectors. Sleeves end in five, seven or nine-tenths variations. Background and fill are based on patterns of wind, water and nature. If Japanese tattooing history and pictures of Japanese tattoos are what you are looking for, these are books that are especially good for their content on the subject.
The Japanese Tattoo
by Sandi Fellman.
She was given the chance to use an experimental oversize Polaroid camera, and she decided to use it to take life-size portraits of the secretive underground irezumi, the tattooed Japanese. This book is a must for anyone who has ever admired the Japanese style of tattooing. The amount of detail shown in the pictures is unparalleled! The image on the cover of the book The Art of the Tattoo, shown below, is one of Ms. Fellman's from these Polaroid sessions.
The Japanese Tattoo
by Donald Richie
Mr. Ritchie was one of the first Westerners to live in Japan and study the tattoo culture there. This book features pictures of Japanese tattooing from the 60s and 70s, and you can see the dramatic change in body style that the artwork has taken in that short time.
Bushido: The Legacy of Japanese Tattoo by Takahiro Kitamura, Katie M.Kitamura.
This title is very hard to find but well worth it! BUSHIDO focuses on the work of Horiyoshi III and how tattooing is changing in modern day Japan. There are pages of interviews/discussion and tons of full-color pictures of recent works.
Designing With Kanji: Japanese Character Motifs for Surface, Skin & Spirit
by Shogo Oketani and Leza Lowitz.
A pair of Bay Area authors and translators have put together this fantastic guide to over 130 kanji, for the purpose of English speakers being able to find and use the kanji included for art or tattoo purposes.
Tattoos of the Floating World: Ukiyo-E Motifs in Japanese Tattoo by Takahiro Kitamura. The second book by Takahiro Kitamura is just as stunning as his first. For the first time, historical ukiyo-e prints are discussed in direct relation to the modern day tattoo themes that still are drawn from them.
Check out this body art!

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