June General Meeting – Stigma or Art? Reconsidering the Japanese Tattoo

Date: Wednesday, June 9, 2021, 10:00 – 12:00 JST
Venue: Over Zoom
Topic: Stigma or Art? Reconsidering the Japanese Tattoo
Speaker: Alice Gordenker
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In Japan tattoos are associated in most people’s mind with the Yakuza, Japan’s criminal underworld. There is widespread discrimination against people with tattoos, who are barred from many bathhouses, gyms and even public beaches. But has this always been true?

Alice Gordenker, an American journalist, will give us a talk about the history of tattoo in Japan, including their deep connection with ukiyo-e woodblock prints. She will delve into the surprising process through which tattoos came to be thought of as the mark of gangsters. She will interweave the talk with images from her new documentary, “Horimono: Japan’s Tattoo Pilgrimage,” a short film that challenges this stereotype by following group of individuals with full-body tattoos on their annual pilgrimage to holy mountain shrine. This session is an opportunity to think about how we know what we think we know, and how the media and unconscious biases can affect what we believe about other people.

Speaker Profile –
Alice Gordenker is an American journalist and long-term resident of Japan. She majored in Japanese at Princeton University and did graduate work at Japanese universities on a scholarship from Rotary International. After working in New York and Washington in international trade and journalism, she returned to Japan in 2000. Since then, she has made it her “life work” to share her love of Japan in English through various media including her long-running and columns in the Japan Times, NHK Worlds’s English-language programming and now film.

Michiyo Nakamoto and Caroline Olcott – 2021 General Meeting Program Coordinators

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