Yakuza – The Mark of Death

No criminal group in the world is more closely identified with tattoos than the largest: Japan’s Yakuza, 80,000 strong.

In this video it goes deep into Japan’s underworld for an exclusive look at the stunning full body-suits of ink that mark the skin of today’s Yakuza.

Hidden within the layers of spectacular imagery are secret codes that reach back far into Japan’s bloody samurai history; violent warriors, images of hell, prostitutes, and a range of predators from tigers to dragons.

We hear from Yakuza as they share stories of their criminal pasts, the significance of their tattoos, and the pain they experienced in getting most of their bodies tattooed the old fashioned way: by getting poked over and over again with needles fastened to the ends of sticks.

Master tattoo artist and former Yakuza boss Horizen guides us through the intricate process of creating a traditional Japanese tattoo, or tebori, from scratch, demystifying this ancient craft in which everything, from making the ink to sharpening the needles, is done by hand.

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Crime OrganisationJapanYakuza