Thursday, August 28, 2008


Taking the "tat" out of tattoos

The textbook made mention of tattoos- I decided a digression was in order and sketched down a few of the tattoos I've see on friends and acquaintances over the last few years. I then asked the students whether they thought these were a Hit or a Miss.

The students probably thought that this was an exercise in expressing one's opinion. In fact, as far as I am concerned, there are definite right and wrong answers for each. Let's have a look, shall we?

Sono 1

"shinobi" meaning "endurance"
also appears in the word "ninja"

"Hit!" said my two students.

"Good God, no." I said. "He might as well have tryhard tattooed on himself. The only excuse he has is that he was sixteen when he had it done."

Sono 2


"Miss!" said the students. "He must not have known what it meant."

"Actually, it represents the year of his birth." I said. "And it's a hit."

"You like to keep balance," said one of the students, pointing at the scoresheet where I was recording the votes in the Hit and Miss columns.

Hmmmm. Harmony isn't exactly my watchword.

Sono 3

The Superman logo.  And I'm not even joking.

"Miss!" beamed my students.

"Damn your insolence!" I cried. "It's a hit!"


I then got snarled up in the ugly business of trying to explain the difference between Hits and Misses. It basically boils down to cheesiness.

The kanji tattoo, an ubiquitous cliche of our times, inherently runs a pretty high risk of being cheesy. "Shinobi" is a prime example. "Hitsuji" (sheep) actually has some individuality and relevance about it, so it doesn't rate so highly on the cheese-o-meter.

Getting the Superman logo tattooed on yourself is possibly the most cavalier usage of one's skin that I've ever been privileged to witness and, as such, transcends mere notions of cheesiness.


My brainwave for redeeming kanji tattoos from the realm of coffee shop-spirituality is this: to get a really obscure kanji with an absolutely terrible meaning, thus combining the aesthetic with a suitable touch of irony.

And here's the tattoo I'm going to get:

Most Japanese wouldn't recognise this.

It means "leprosy."

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