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Japanese Tattoos - Namakubi

Updated: Jan 22

Japanese Tattoos - Namakubi

Japanese Tattoo imagery, a personal favourite – Namakubi, which roughly translates to “freshly severed head.”

Observing these tattoos without grasping their historical context might lead you to assume they're intended solely for shock value. However, like many traditional Japanese tattoos, the design holds a depth that goes beyond the surface.

To comprehend why someone would choose a tattoo featuring a severed head, we must delve into the ancient Japanese battlefields and the Eastern perspective on death.

Japanese Tattoos - Namakubi

First Things First

The Western perspective views death as tragic, a sentiment amplified by constant medical advances aimed at prolonging life. Conversely, many cultures, including ancient Japan, embraced death as an integral part of life. While attitudes towards death are evolving in modern Japan, a romanticised outlook on passing persists.

What is Namakubi and What Does it Mean?

Namakubi should not be confused with the Japanese Samurai tradition of Seppuku (Harakiri). Unlike Seppuku, where a disgraced Samurai voluntarily disembowels themselves, Japanese Namakubi tattoos involve the complete removal of the head.

Rooted in Feudal Japan's warrior class, both Seppuku and Namakubi symbolize the expectation of death at any moment. In battle, if a Samurai was defeated, tradition dictated presenting the severed heads to their ruler as a sign of respect for fallen warriors.

While this practice may seem gruesome, it signifies life coming full circle. Heads were displayed in various ways, from piles to ornate boxes, serving as a form of shrine.

Symbolism of Japanese Namakubi Tattoos

Namakubi tattoos hold multifaceted symbolism. They may represent respect for one's enemies, acceptance of fate, or a reminder of the inevitability of death. Courage is another element, not as the absence of fear but as the willingness to confront fear and move forward.

Geisha heads in Namakubi tattoos symbolise the power of love and freedom. In the Edo period, where harsh punishments included beheading, hanging, and boiling, a geisha could face execution for various reasons. The inclusion of a geisha in a Namakubi tattoo adds layers of heartbreak and drama to the narrative.

In conclusion, Namakubi tattoos transcend the initial shock factor, weaving a tapestry of cultural and historical significance. As we explore Japanese tattoo imagery further, we'll uncover more captivating stories behind these intricate designs.

Japanese Tattoos - Namakubi

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