Japanese word for men and women with tattoos which means "insertion of ink." Tattooing has a sordid history in Japan. For many centuries only people of low social standing such as gravediggers, criminals and prostitutes had them. It wasn't until the 17th Century that tattoos were embraced as an art form, despite laws that attempted to ban them. By the 18th Century the yakuza and other rowdy types began sporting full body art.

Japanese tattoos frequently contain images of crashing waves, autumn leaves, fish, and flames. The old school technique (rarely practiced today) involved the insertion of up to 10 ink-tipped at one time. Full body art could take as long as a year to complete.

Even today tattooing is frowned upon and Irezumi are considered part of the criminal underworld. To disguise the markings some will usually keep the strip of skin down the middle of their chest and their forearms tattoo free, so they can wear open shirts or short sleeves undetected.