The meanings behind the tattoos on arrested Yakuza boss' body

Yakuza boss Shigeharu Shirai was arrested in Thailand after pictures of his tattoos went viral on Facebook.


NSFW    LOPBURI, THAILAND — Thai police recently arrested fugitive Japanese yakuza boss Shigeharu Shirai after pictures of his tattoos went viral on Facebook.

The 74-year-old Yakuza boss fled his country after he was allegedly involved in shooting a rival gang member in 2003. Shirai's tattoos led to his internet fame when someone uploaded a photo of him playing a checkers game.

Other pictures showed that Shirai is missing a part of his little finger, that is the result of Yubitsume[c], a self-administered punishment when Japanese yakuza gangs make a mistake or break a gang's code.

While people are intrigued by Shirai's body art, tattoos were actually used as punishment for criminals in ancient Japan as it would make it difficult for them to re-enter society after they are released from the prison. However, the yakuzas see tattoos as a mark of pride as there are meanings behind each one.

The samurai on Shirai's back is quite common among yakuza folks, it represents the samurai code: honour, courage, loyalty, and proper action.

The flower on his nipple could mean three different things: a peony, lotus, or chrysanthemum. A peony represents wealth, elegance and prosperity, it also can relate to masculinity or a daredevil attitude. The lotus in Buddhist culture means the struggle for something to reach its full potential. A chrysanthemum represents the Imperial family and links to longevity and joy.

According to Kotaku, the flower has yet to be coloured on Shirai's abdominal area is called sujibori, a tattoo that has an unfinished story, while the water tattoo element on his lower back illustrates change, adaptation and life.

According to Thai authorities, Shirai will be charged with illegally entering Thailand and then deported to Japan to face murder charges.
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