Saturday, October 7, 2006


My friend Alan Siegrist writes:

Hi Tian,

Just browsing bmezine’s kanji tattoo web pages can be entertaining indeed. I just noticed an astonishingly stupid Japanese tattoo:

It is supposed to be キンバリー, which is a reasonable Japanese equivalent of the name “Kimberly” but the stupid tattooist did it upside down!

And, since the text is vertical, the final ー should be oriented vertically instead of horizontally.

Kim should get her money back…

Thanks for your good work as always,



  1. The artists are not to blame it's the stupid customers fault.

  2. I'd say that they share the blame. Artists are responsible for getting the tattoo correct, and for making it look like it was worth what the customer paid. Customers who want art (images or characters) that the artist is not familiar with had better do their research to be sure that it can be copied correctly.

    If tattooists informed customers that they are not familiar with these characters, and if they did not stock badly translated flash, there wouldn't be as much of a problem. Then you could safely blame the customers for overriding the artist and demanding art that makes people laugh at them.

  3. Lol... it's backwards on purpose... it's so you can read it while she's on her knees giving you oral pleasure....

  4. Well, if she happens to be taking care of business with a Japanese boy and he forgets her name, at least it'd be convenient for him...

  5. Aha! Sort of like those ambulences with the word “AMBULENCE” in mirror image on the front...

    It’s an “eye of the beholder” sort of thing.

  6. anonymous, it isn't mirrored, it's upside down.

  7. "Kim should get her money back…"

    No. Kim deserves what she got. Ultimately, she is responsable for not doing the research and for being ignorant enough to get a foreign language tattood permanently on her skin without knowing what it is or how it should even be oriented.
    Even if she picked it out of a flash book, she still shouldn't get it done without verifying it first.

  8. Hold her accountable for the implications of her tattoo, sure, Sheniferous and Brent. But please don't critique her by presenting an image of her giving oral sex. Or are you trying to rid the world of cultural appropriation and racism through the cleansing force of sexism?

  9. Sexism?? What??

    It's amazing how many people have to be told that just because something has to do with "sex" doesn't make it "sexist".

  10. I had the feeling that I had seen the font used in this tattoo somewhere, and now I just remembered where.

    Go to this site, type Kimberly in the box, select “Traditional” as the style and hit Translate.

    This must be the source of the tattoo image!

    Someone must have then took the image, cut it apart, restacked the characters vertically and then tattooed the image upside down.

    As to who is to blame, naturally Kimberly herself was being foolish to get a tattoo in a language she does not understand and was obviously not prudent in her choice of a tatooist who also does not understand Japanese.

    Now obviously someone was trying to create the image for the tattoo on the cheap, using a free online source for the image.

    Perhaps Kimberly had gone to the tattooist and made the simple request to have her name tattooed in Japanese. If the tattoist accepted the commission, claimed that he/she can do so and used the online source, perhaps even showing several fonts to let Kim choose, and then went ahead and butchered the tattoo as we see, then the fault for the shoddy work and deception lies squarely on the shoulers of the tattoist.

    It is also possible that someone else used the online site and then delivered the hack job to the tattoist for inking (without indicating which way is up). In such case, that person must take their share of the blame.

    All in all, I think there is plenty of blame to go around.

    The moral of the story: don't be cheap when getting a foreign-language tattoo and use someone who really knows what they are doing. And have someone who does know the language look it all over if you insist on getting the tattoo anyway.

    Fail to do this and you may end up looking cheap and sleazy like our poor Kim.

  11. Aww look what you've gone and done. Some of these are so stupid that Im starting to believe people are getting messed up tattoos done just so they can appear on this site.
    Thats very irresposible of you Tian

  12. Sigh. This makes me sad. But I don't have much sympathy.

  13. Read this way, it's sort of like "one ribanki" or something (only each character is upside down). Now, if only we could figure out what a "ribanki" is.

  14. This is a bit late, but congrats on the Best of Phoenix nod from the Phoenix New Times, Tian.

  15. congrats on the Best of Phoenix nod from the Phoenix New Times, Tian

    Let me echo that, but for those who can't get that link to work, try clicking here.

  16. That appears to be the same URL, and still doesn't work. But (everything from § onwards deleted) seems to do the trick for me.
    Oh, and congrats for yet another great write-up.

  17. Well ... maybe she wanted it that way. The horizontal line is definitely wrong, however.

  18. That's incredible...

    the katakana " ン ” looks a lot more like hiragana " ひ”. Katakana isn't cursive, so the first time I read it I read "kihibari-ichi". Since yes, the "ー” is oriented the wrong way.

    I can catch this and I'm only halfway through my third-year Japanese classes.

    I'm just glad that wasn't me...

  19. What I think must have happened, was the person used the afore mentioned site, and they made the mistake of thinking that japanese is written right to left, (as in each letter), so they took the output and reversed it, then wrote it down the back.