In 1970, photographer Martha Cooper spotted a man in a crowd. On his back was a Japanese tattoo, figures drawn in the style of a woodblock print. Entranced by this vision, Cooper followed him until he disappeared, and soon thereafter began questioning her friends about the subject. It was a touchy topic—it had been outlawed in 1872 and legalized again in 1948 and as the decades intervened, tattoos became symbols of the yakuza, the gangsters and the underworld of Japan. This is because the images of tattoos were seen in films, and is all too common, what is constructed for entertainment is taken as truth.
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