A growing number of Japanese enthusiasts are trying to tackle a 400-year-old taboo associating tattoos with organised-crime gangs such as the yakuza.
And, although some spas, pools, beaches and gyms ban body tattoos, photographer Kim Kyung-Hoon met some of them at a public bath in Tokyo.
The annual gathering of the Irezumi Aikokai (Tattoo Lovers Association), in Tokyo, in February, “is important because usually we hide our tattoos from society”, its head, Hiroyuki Nemoto, says.
“But just once a year, we can proudly show off our tattoos and show each other what new tattoos we’ve gotten.”
Attendee author Hiroki Takamura, 62, says: “In the 2000s, tattoo magazines began to increase.
“And even women began to get more tattoos.
“I thought there was hope that tattoos would finally be accepted the way they are in Europe.”
But Rie Yoshihara, 33, who works dressing tourists in kimonos, still feels unable to show her father her full back tattoo.
Her tattooist, Shodai Horiren, says: “Your house gets old.
“Your parents die.
“You break up with a lover.
“Kids grow and go.
“But a tattoo is with you until you’re cremated and in your grave.
“That’s the appeal.”
Bookkeeper Mina Yoshimura, 40, says of her husband, Hiroshi: “If I had tattoos and he didn’t, he’d be able to go places that I couldn’t.
“But since we’re both the same, we can go anywhere together.
“I think that’s nice.”
Mari Okasaka, 48, had her first tattoo 20 years ago.
Now, her son, Tenji, 24, is working towards having his whole body covered in colour.
“Some people get tattoos for deep reasons,” she says.
“But I do it because they’re cute, the same way I might buy a nice blouse.”
But when Mari leaves the house, she wears long sleeves so her neighbours won’t talk.
Tenji says: “Some people probably look at me funny.
“But I don’t pay attention to it anymore.
“Yes, there are times when people think I’m part of a gang.
“But I don’t worry about it that much.
“I’ll keep on going until I don’t have any skin uncoloured.”
Office worker Hideyuki Togashi, 48, whose leg was amputated in March 2019, says: “I think that because of the tattoos, part of me became stronger psychologically.
“And because I was so strong, I was able to recover quickly.”
*Photos are subject to copyright.