There Are Hidden Meanings Behind The Tattoos On The Arrested Yakuza Boss
A retired Japanese crime boss was arrested last week after his Yakuza tattoos went viral. Shigeharu Shirai had spent 14 years on the run as authorities wanted to arrest him over his alleged involvement in shooting a gang rival in 2003.
Unfortunately for him, his elaborate body ink was spotted by a local Thai person, who was unaware of his identity. They then shared photographs of Shirai online and they ended up being shared more than 10,000 times.
The photos also showed his missing little finger - something that was particularly interesting as Yakuza members sometimes slice off a fingertip to atone for an offence, mistake or breaching gangland code. The ritual is known as 'yubisume'.
It was then that Japanese police made the link, and requested his arrest.
There's no denying that there is a hidden meaning behind a lot of Shirai's ink; virtually all the tattoos that Yakuza members have are linked to Japanese imagery, symbolism, art and culture.
In Japan, the process these gang members go through is called Irezumi.
In the Edo period (1600-1868), tattoos were used by authorities as a punishment to criminals; as they would be branded for life and would find it difficult to re-enter society once out of prison.
The Yakuza on the other hand, wanted to reclaim this as a mark of pride.
However, in modern-day Japan tatts are still viewed by some as negative, and that's why most, if not all, Yakuza members will have ink that stops at their wrists or elbows, at their neck and also has a gap running down the middle of their chest.
You can see how Shirai adopted these parameters and also incorporated some good ole Japanese mythology into his designs.
First up is the samurai on his back - which is fairly common amongst gang members.
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According to Ranker, they represent the code of Bushido aka the samurai code, namely honour, courage, loyalty, and proper action.
During that Edo period, when samurais were integrating into the broader Japanese community, some joined the Yakuza and got these types of tattoos to highlight their past.
Right on Shirai's right nipple you can see a yellow flower, which could be a peony, a lotus or a chrysanthemum. While it might seem boring to split hairs over what breed of flower it is - they mean very different things.
A peony, in Irezumi symbolism, represents wealth, elegance and prosperity. In addition to that, it can relate to masculinity and a daredevil attitude.
A lotus is heavily associated with Buddhist culture and tells the story of something struggling to reach its full potential.
A chrysanthemum is a symbol of the Imperial family and links to ideals of longevity and joy.
You can see another flower lower down with other designs which aren't fully coloured in. That's a practice called sujibori and, according to Kotaku, it means the story relating to that ink is still ongoing.
The final tattoo element related to Shirai is the water on his lower back. That's supposed to illustrate change, adaptation and life - which is probably what the crime boss was hoping for when he became a fugitive.
But clearly his past caught up with him.
While he admitted to police to being a part of the Yakuza, he's denied any involvement in the 2003 murder.
Featured Image Credit: PA
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