Getting a tattoo in Japan


The night before I hand plans to meet a friend in Tokyo I had been up all night at an obligatory work party.  Every time there was a new hire we would go to a local dive bar and invite all of our adult students. The English school where I worked believed it was a way to get our students out of their comfort zone and have conversation practice. In reality it was a time when they asked me, the foreign teacher, what seemed like a million questions while they tested how much an American can drink. Slowly students trickled out of the bar and I thought I could go home and get some sleep before I headed out on the Shinkansen in a few hours. I thought wrong, my manager took me by the arm and told me I had to take a group of our male students out for karaoke. My students crowed around me as they drunk stumbled their way to the local Shidax karaoke joint.  From the time we arrived at Shidax I plotted every excuse I could think of and planned to use it in exactly one hour.  My plans were foiled again, by my well intentioned students as they picked out songs for me to sing in English and Japanese.  After hours of duets and more Umeshu they finally relinquished and I dragged myself home to pack squinting as the sun rose.

After falling asleep for an hour I managed to feel coherent enough to get on the train to Tokyo, unfortunately my booze induced sleeplessness lead to my decision to get a tattoo.  Having a tattoo was against my companies policy. I could get fired for what I was about to do. But, my tired self couldn’t muster a shit to give. I was so done with my manager’s nonsense and being worked to the bone. I carried that feeling of shitfaced resentment into the smokey apartment/tattoo parlor in Shinjuku.  I discussed a design with the tattoo artist who name sounded like the barbeque restaurant Gyu-kaku.  I would be getting an Okame with bunny ears hanging from a crescent moon. The tattoo artist thought it was clever and my friend said I was like an old Japanese lady. Apparently, my love of Japanese folk myth is not something young Japanese are into. My hope is to be somewhere in the middle. Here is the meaning; in Japanese folklore there is a rabbit on the moon pounding rice cakes. It’s equivalent to American’s saying there is a man on the moon. I loved Sailor Moon as a pre-teen so I went with the crescent, and I chose Okame, a goddess, because she is so cute and she brings good luck.  I garnered all of that information while drunk and with an hour of sleep, but that is where my consciousness ended. I don’t remember anything about getting the tattoo. I fell asleep curled up on the tattoo table for a couple of hours.

After a fun day coffee hopping in Roppongi, I  took a calming soak in my friend’s bath and finally got the sleep I yearned for. I walked back onto the train home and I began to panic as I saw Mt.Fuji gaining size in the distance. I lived a couple of JR stops away from the Fuji station and seeing the mountain grow ever larger was like a symbol of the amount of trouble I would be in when I got back to my office the next day.


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