The term “tattoo revival” has been used for a few decades in the tribal tattoo scene. Many tribal societies had used tattooing for culturally significant meanings. But the practice of tattooing was seen as barbaric and banned by later civilized societies. Tattoo revival is a cultural movement that aims to bring back these previously suppressed tattoos, and challenge to reclaim the primitive heritage of humanity that modern civilizations had taken away.



In Japan this movement is spearheaded by Taku Oshima, a leading figure in the neo-tribal scene. Taku has traveled all over the world with his unparalleled intellectual inquisitiveness and energy, and has made tribal tattoos of various regions his own, with his excellent analytical skills and reconstructive abilities.

In light of the breadth and depth of his fieldwork, his position is no longer limited to that of a tattoo artist, and it would not be wrong to say that he is a practicing cultural anthropologist.



With his Japanese identity, it was a natural consequence, and perhaps a sense of mission, that he has made efforts in the revival of tribal tattoos such as Ainu’s “Nuye” in Hokkaido and Uchinanchu’s “Hajichi” in Okinawa.

As he pursued these projects, he began to take on a more macro view of the entire Japanese archipelago and the Asia-Pacific Islands in general. In this journey, he honed in an ancient tattoo style that is said to have existed in the Jomon period. Taku’s exploration, which has so far traversed space, from region to region, has now transcended ten thousand years of time.



However reconstructing “Jomon tattoo” has been extremely difficult. While ordinary tribal tattoos, which are the subject of revivalism, were practiced just a few generations ago, and there is an abundance of accurate documentation to confirm them, this is not the case with the Jomon tattoo, which goes back thousands of years.

Although it would be possible to transfer the patterns carved on dogu (clay figurine) directly onto the human body, this is impractical due to the size gap. In Taku’s view, the patterns on dogu are merely symbolic representations of tattoos that were actually applied in ancient times.


In this moment of realization, Taku’s attention was drawn to Jomon pottery in the winding spiral shapes and the rope patterns that cover the surface. It would not be surprising if the design of such earthenware projected the aesthetic sense of the Jomon people, and were used in their tattoos. When I asked him about his opinion on the wriggling, indescribable pattern, he immediately replied, “It’s a snake.”



The snake is revered as divinity in many cultures. The “fear” of natural enemies, which once threatened their lives, must have turned into “awe” and then “reverence”. Perhaps they saw rebirth and immortality in the ecology of the snake that repeatedly sheds its skin and grows. It’s quite natural to try to take advantage of its great power.

In fact, according to Taku, tribal tattoos with snake-like designs are found in the Asia-Pacific islands and surrounding areas such as Taiwan, the Philippines, Thailand and Laos.


Taku explains that historically, tribal tattoos have tended to be applied in smaller areas as the custom of wearing clothes developed. There is no need for tattoos to be applied to areas that can be hidden by clothing, and as a result, tattoos were only seen on the backs of hands, fingers, and faces. As the Jomon people were a culture that wore little to no clothes, it is easy to imagine that the Jomon people would have been clad in tattoos all over their bodies. This is “the heyday of tribal tattoos,” as Taku calls.


From the very beginning of his career in the tribal tattoo scene, Taku has always placed importance on the viewing distance. In contrast to the market’s overemphasis on elaborate and complex designs, he continues to practice bold designs that strike a chord with the viewer, when viewed from a distance of 10 meters. In order to do this, it is necessary to use a wide area of the body as a canvas, and in this respect, Taku’s and the prehistoric Jomon people’s concepts are consistent.



“For me, Jomon tattooing is not only about reviving the Jomon era tattoos, but it is also about the pursuit of ‘The Tattoo’, I mean a universal tattoo,” Taku says. As mentioned earlier, there is no direct data on the Jomon tattoo, so in order to reconstruct what it may have looked like, imagination and creativity based on vast and meticulous data analysis are essential. There is no one better suited for this project than Taku who has been at the forefront of the neo-tribal scene in Japan and all over the world for that matter.

The primeval tattoo, the ancient black. The Jomon tattoo is available to those brave souls whoever are attracted to this project, which is free from the confines of Japan as a modern nation and goes back in time thousands of years. The door is always open to someone who wants to join the challenge of recapturing humanity’s lost heritage.


住所: 東京都新宿区大久保1-15-17 / 東京都八王子市高尾町1142-1(当面の間、大島氏の施術は八王子のスタジオにて)
Eメール: info@apocaript.com

Address: 1-15-17 Okubo, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo / 1142-1 Takao-cho, Hachioji, Tokyo (For the time being, Taku will only be working at his Hachioji studio)
Email: info@apocaript.com
※Appointment only.

HP: www.apocaript.com
IG: www.instagram.com/taku_oshima_tattoo

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