Is It Any Good?

The changing perceptions of Japanese tattoo artistry at the Japanese American National Museum

I think the Japanese American Museum has got a point. There are a lot of preconceived ideas and stereotypes surrounding the art of Tattoo and the Japanese. I think a Exhibit dedicated to shattering those ideas is a good idea. I even think the Japanese American National Museum is a good as hell place to hold that exhibit.

And thus, we are given Perseverance: Japanese Tradition Tradition in a Modern World.

So why the hell do I feel so uncomfortable here?

There’s a little brush up on the history of Japanese Tattoo artistry as it enters the mainstream world, and it’s all interesting.

But then you’re led into the room with the…with the…very tall, very life-size portraits of mostly naked (and some completely naked) people with the Tattoos all over their bodies.


Just say it.


It’s hard to walk through a museum exhibit with a bunch of life-size portraits of not that attractive tattooed people.

There I said it. Happy?

So long as you’re honest with yourself.

But the core of the exhibit can’t be about me or my ridiculous sense of shame. It’s about the Tattoo, and it’s place in Japanese culture, and how that place has been subverted by stereotype thanks to people’s ideas about the Yakuza, aka the Japanese Mafia (for lack of a more precise term). Tattooing has deeper roots than that, and the idea of showing people of all races and peoples participating in the process is a good one. We need to see it.

Heck, even the placement on the body is important. Hence…the life size portraits, and up close detail examinations.

So, Perseverance: Japanese Tradition Tradition in a Modern World did it right. It will teach you what you need to know.

Even though it made me squeamish as hell.

Perseverance: Japanese Tradition Tradition in a Modern World runs through through September 14, 2014.


IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP, PEOPLE: It’s like this people. It’s really up to you to determine whether or not this is an appropriate thing for you and your kiddies. Generally speaking, it’s totally appropriate. It’s no worse, or no better than your average art gallery.

Just go in knowing that these will not be nudes in the abstract, like a painting or a sculpture. These are photographs. Determine your own comfort level, and go from there.

Think of it as a PG-13 Exhibition.


PARKING: Scattered, and mostly limited to Paid lots and Parking Garages.  Expect to pay about $7 bucks, but that can vary.  If you’re willing to walk you may be able to find Metered Parking a a couple of blocks away from the Museum, down near Wurstkuche.   But when in doubt, consult the Little Tokyo Parking Guide that’s available at the Little Tokyo website.


Japanese-American National Museum
369 East First Street
Los Angeles, California 90012
Phone: 213.625.0414
Toll-Free: 800.461.5266
Fax: 213.625.1770