RESTRAINT The most ubiquitous of all mythological beasts in Japan is the dragon, which one encounters as ornament or decoration in all aspects of daily life. Symbolically it denotes wealth (the emperor's clothes are called "dragon robes"), and because it lives as easily in water as in air it protects from fire. The dragon is an all-powerful being, a "composite monster" that draws strengths from each of the creatures forming it. It is a serpent that has the horns of a deer, the scales of a carp, the four-clawed talons of an eagle, the nose of a goblin, and, inexplicably, whiskers and a mustache and flamelike appendages at shoulders and hips.
Tattoo master Horikin is best known for his Japanese style full-body tattoos. However, this client asked only for a single dragon, perhaps to celebrate his having been born in the Year of thé Dragon, the fifth year of the Oriental Zodiac, or perhaps to "strengthen" his right arm. Moreover, he asked for nukibori or Western-style tattooing, recently popular in Japan among the young. In nukibori the outline of the pattern is filled in with solid color rather than the more characteristic shading and feathering of Japanese traditional methods.
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