My Tattoos

See the finished product at the end of this post, but in the mean time, here’s a little background…

Right Shoulder

火水 (Himizu – as discordant as fire and water)
My first tattoos, I got them and one other, the day I turned 18 (2000). A symbol of discord, internal conflict; overt vs. covert, I vs. me.

Endo

円相 (Enso – circle)
In 2010, the addition of the Zen symbol, Enso, a simple imperfect circle, is a contrast to the aforementioned discord. A sort of representation of harmony; a show of me, becoming what I am, living in the now. Yet all the while, putting forth an image of imperfection.

Chest

Smiling Girl Hawaii

Short Haired Smiling Girl
A drawing by a girl in Japan that I fell in love with, Tokunaga Chinami. This drawing comes from an event in Hawaii, where I (and others), got to meet and spend time with her. This and the following tattoo, I got in 2013.

Medachitai, I Want To Stand Out

目立ちたいっ!! (Medachitai!! – I want to stand out)
Stylized Japanese text, the logo for the first concert I went to in Japan, 2009, preformed by my favorite band, Berryz Koubou. Beyond that first significance, the translation itself, “I want to stand out,” partially represents my desire to do just that; on one level, as a big black guy travelling to Japan, I stand out quite a bit.

Smiling Girl, Long Hair

Long Haired Smiling Girl
Another drawing by Chinami (who is a member of Berryz Koubou, if you haven’t connected the dots yet). I got this and the next tattoo in 2009, immediately following my first trip to The Land of the Rising Sun.

Berryz Logo

Berryz
The name and logo of my favorite band. This and the tattoo above are positioned over my heart, as a representation of love not only for the band, but my love for the person who drew the picture.

Left Shoulder

Sunflower

Sunflower
As you may guess, Chinami drew the picture; it’s also her favorite flower. I got this tattoo at the same time as the one on my right shoulder, in 2010. It was shortly after a trip to Hawaii where I got to meet and interact with Chinami for the first time. In addition to that, my twin sister has a sunflower tattooed on her right ankle. I got this, on my upper body left side, as sort of as a mirror to that; my sister and I are opposites in many ways, but at the same time, there is a strong connection I have with her, and this sunflower represents that. Originally it was going to be in color, yellow and orange, our sister and my favorite colors growing up.

Back of Neck – Not Pictured

龍 (Ryuu – dragon)
The third of my three tattoos that I got when I turned 18 (2000). Meant to represent my thick skin. How on the outside, I appear unaffected by anything that is thrown my way.

Chest (Again)

Rilakkuma, I am Me, Become What You Are

“I am me” is a bit of a fallacy, for I am nothing, just as I am everything. Though perhaps even then, isn’t that a false dichotomy? No matter, and no use trying to explain the depth of its meaning. To me, on the surface, it is something that points to a time in my life of profound identity confusion; of the constant question nagging me at the back of my head, “who am I?” Unable to answer, because the person I was when the question was asked was not the person I was the moment after. Constantly reminding myself that “I am me,” the phrase just sort of lost its meaning. If you say something over and over again, it all just starts to sound like gibberish, does it not? Well, I acknowledge that it doesn’t mean anything, yet I’ll continue to say it, because that’s just how my brain works and there’s no use in fighting it. I am me, always have been, always will be. This revelation, if you want to call it that, is what allowed me to become what I am; or is it the other way around?

“Become what you are” is related to that last sentence there, yeah. It’s also the title of a book by Alan Watts. Backing up a bit, “The Way of Zen” by the same author was an interesting book that discussed a lot of concepts that to me, just clicked and made sense. From the history to an introduction to the concept of Zen, the material is presented from an out of the ordinary point of view that makes the read through an enjoyable, relatable and informative experience. It’s not a life-changing book by any means, but it did open my eyes a bit. “Become what you are” is somewhat of a continuation of that, and it perhaps helped stabilize me during a turbulent period in my life. I don’t claim to be a Zen practitioner, or to be all that knowledgeable of it really, but it made an impact I think.

The seven bears (well, six bears and a bird) are from the Rilakkuma universe. Rilakkuma, Relax Bear, a Japanese character so there’s that, the connection to Japanese culture. They are based on the various aspects of my personality, somewhat influenced by the zodiac and the concept of key phrases that are associated with them. These seven, and the last two tattoos I got in 2013. From top to bottom:

Rilakkuma, Relax Bear; Key Phrase: I Relax
Korilakkuma, Young/Female Relax Bear; Key Phrase: I Shine
Scorpio, Scorpion Rilakkuma; Key Phrase: I Desire
Leo, Lion Rilakkuma; Key Phrase: I Will
Virgo, Virgin Korilakkuma; Key Phrase: I Analyze
Kiiroitori, Yellow Bird; Key Phrase: I Critisize
Cancer, Crab Rilakkuma; Key Phrase: I Feel

The final result:

Tattoos - Right

Tattoos - Left

Tattoos - Center