Epic Ink: How Japanese Warrior Prints Popularized the Full-Body Tattoo

  In the late 1820s, when artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi debuted his stunning new series of warrior prints, Japanese culture was well into a period of flux. Since around 1615, after the ruling Tokugawa family established their headquarters in Edo (the former name for Tokyo), the country had been set on a course of rapid urbanization and isolation from the global order. The private wealth of Japan’s thriving merchant class fueled the emergence of the so-called Floating World—shadowy urban districts devoted to nightlife and entertainment—and a host of media chronicling its…

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