CARP The subject here is Horiyoshi III himself, as tattooed by his master Horiyoshi II. The scene is a fantasy of ocean waves and wind, eddies and whirlpools, all celebrating the persistence and fortitude of the heroic carp. Note the pierced nipple.
Above: Horiyoshi III holding his as yet untattooed son.
NINJA RAT This subject was born in the Year of the Rat, the first one in the Oriental Zodiac. He chose the Ninja Rat for his back tattoo by Horikin. No one can explain why the rat, a rodent and a pest, should be honored in Japan's mythology. Nevertheless, the rat is associated with the God of Wealth, one of the Seven Deities of Luck, and is depicted in iconography ferreting around the rich man's bales of rice. The rat is also connected with fecundity, as can be seen from this humorous tattoo, here and overleaf, with its chorus of rat children sniveling around the parent Super Rat. The rat also symbolizes the ancient Japanese art of subterfuge, or ninjutsu, where the ninja, secret agents or spies, could make themselves as
invisible as rats in order to enter a castle stronghold to steal, murder, or merely reconnoiter. Ninja were stealthy, appeared in the darkness of night (for invisibility), and mystically they were assumed to be able to take other shapes, notably the rat itself (as in the Kabuki play Nikki Danjo) or the "raccoon dog" famous for its ability to scale trees in an instant.
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