In case you weren’t familiar with the Japanese mafia, the Yakuza are a transnational organised crime syndicate. For many years body art and tattoos (or, Irezumi) were associated with the Yakuza for which reason there is still much stigma attached to them till present day. In any case, the link between the yakuza and tattoos are not completely gone, and although it is never flaunted the tattoos that yakuza gangsters wear are like a badge of honour and status within the organisation.

Tattoos in Japan were always meant to be a symbol of one’s status in society. Sometimes among the noble, and other times to brand slaves or criminals.

The yakuza began enhancing tattoos they got when branded as criminals, about two centuries ago.

The result, is pretty cool.

But, much like Irezumi, the tattoos are meant to be more than just random art.

Each symbol of the tattoo represents the wearers rank in the organisation and achievements.

The tattoos could cover anything from the upper boy to the whole body.

Since Irezumi is a manner of hand-poked tattoo, sometimes the tattoos are also gotten as a form of punishment.

The tattoos would incorporate images of dragons, snakes, lions and other animals that represent their own meanings.

Disclaimer: These images are for representational purposes, since real Yakuza members refrain from exposing their tattoos to people outside of their organisations.

Got that old plan to get a tattoo done?