In Japan tattooing is called Irezumi which denotes to inserting ink beneath the skin. There are some that think the art of tattooing in Japan dates back to at least 10,000 BC still there has never been any definitive proof to back up this belief.
What we do know for a fact is that tattoo designs were seen and mentioned by Chinese travellers between 300 BC and 600 AD. This does not affirm the widespread popularity of tattoos as it was also during this time that tattoos were looked at in a very negative light, outlaws were being marked with them as a form of penalization so that they would always be recognizable in any society that they subsisted.
From 1600 " 1868 the popularity of tattoos in Japan was very much up and down. Although they were still being used to mark criminals they were also being used a lot more frequently for decorative purposes and it was at the end of this time that tattooing began to develop into the amazing art form that we are so familiar with today.
A sudden spike in the popularity of tattoos was caused by the release of a great Chinese novel called Suikoden. Within this book there were many images of men that were heavily tattooed with elaborate designs of dragons, mythical creatures, tigers and flowers as well as a lot of religious imagery.
The many tattoos that were inspired by Suikoden were performed with chisels and gouges and the ink that was used was called Nara Ink which became hugely famous because of the fact that it turned blue-green when put under the skin.
Tattoos were banned in Japan in the very late 1800s but once again became legal in 1945. Today the art of tattooing remains legal across the country however it is still frowned upon by some due to the inescapable connection with the criminal underworld.