The history behind Japanese tattoo designs is believed to have started around 5000 BC. Japanese men, women of young or old age used to tattoo themselves with some religious themes in that period. In Chinese tradition, tattooing was practiced to outcast someone or to punish a criminal, so it was new to the Chinese when they knew that the Japanese used tattooing for decorative purposes.
Around the year of 700 AD, attitudes towards tattoos changed and tattooing had become unpopular in Japan. It was treated as the symbol of criminals and as a way to punish guilty persons. It was a way to treat them differently and to outcast them from society. It was declared by the rulers then as an illegal activity for common people to tattoo themselves. Family members segregated their fellow members if he or she got a tattoo design on his or her body.
Even though getting a tattoo became illegal, there were still people who were passionate about getting one. They got themselves tattooed in places of the body that would not be visible to others, to prevent getting punished and to prevent themselves getting separated from their community or their group.
As the number of persons getting tattoos reduced, the popularity of the native designs and techniques started to fade. Only a few tattoo designers were still able to continue their tattooing work and most of those that were skilled found different jobs.
Secret shops were opened to serve those individuals who were passionate to get tattooed. After World War II, tattooing was declared as a legal activity and anyone who wished to get tattooed could act according to their wish without hiding from the general public. Japanese tattoo designs got a chance to flourish and even the Western world started to notice the appeal of these designs and tattooing techniques.
When we get to learn the history behind Japanese tattoo designs, we understand how the perspective towards tattooing changed from the purposes of decoration to the purpose of punishment and then back to decorative accessories.