Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Friend or Foe


Body Modification Ezine has the largest online gallery which features all sorts of body modification. One section I am particularly interested in is the Kanji tattoos, where clients and tattooists submit their pieces to be showcased. Although almost all the photos have some kind of caption, but most of them do not include translation and simply labeled as “Kanji”.

One of the recent entries (shown above) belongs to a tattooist named Babakhin Dmitry. I have emailed him asking if the photo was mirrored or it was indeed the actual work. He then replied that he has scanned in the photo mirrored and the actual work is fine.

Update: One of Hanzi Smatter's readers points out that in the photo, the tabs on the clients' jeans are on the right side, where they should be. Unless the clients were wearing jeans that are made with tags on the left side (which are very rare, almost non-existent), the tattooist has indeed tattooed the mirrored character on the clients.

= friend, companion; fraternity

The question remains:

If the mirrored photos are proudly displayed in the online gallery and assume to be correct, then how many suckers are out there with the actual mirrored image tattooed on them?

Mirrored examples:


Upside-Down examples:



  1. I doubt the photo is mirrored because on jeans, usually the label is on the right as it appears in the photo with the mirrored hanzi. If this photo is actual mirrored, flipping it would cause the label on the jeans to be on the left which could be but is not usually the case.

  2. Anonymous,

    You are absolutely correct about the jeans' tabs. Most jeans are made with the tab on the right side.


  3. Here's another way to test the tattoo artists' knowledge. What if you find a photo of a kanji tattoo that looks okay, but ask the tattoo artist if the photo was mirrored anyway?

    I wonder how many of them will say "yes"...

  4. The last example isn't mirrored, just upsaide down, no?

  5. Another way to check would be to see if you can find a reference to the image between them in the background on the wall.

    It seems vaguely familiar, and I think the photo is the right way round...

  6. Yes, the last two are upside down examples.

  7. When I first saw the pic, I thought the tattooist was going for "che" (vehicle). It's perfectly awful.

  8. re: the upside down examples,

    i think those tattoos are in the orientation that the owner wanted. normally, you don't get a tattoo so that you can read it. it's to display to someone else. when looking at those people's arm's, it would be correct.

  9. Anon,

    I agree with you about some individuals would get tattoos to be displayed to others.

    If so, then the photos should be displayed correctly in the gallery instead of upside down.

    To illustrate my point, here is an example of what has happened when someone is mimicking someone else's mistake:

    Dogging the Past

  10. Heh. This is great.


  11. The story about Andy Sakai (aka. disgruntled Japanese tattoo artist) is a fake story.

    How gullible are you people?

  12. In Chinese New Year, people purposely post the "福" upside down onto the wall to mean "福到" because 福倒 sounds exactly the same as 福到. That's why when you see some Chinese restaurants have bat scruptures on their main wall, they are all upside down too, just like how bats hanging in the cave to represent 蝠倒. Wonder if the guy who got the upside down 喜 actually got the happiness coming for him.

  13. The last two upside down examples could be right but just how it was photographed. The first looks like it's on a wrist and the second on a leg. Not the easiest things to photograph yourself without someone to help you. Especially if you don't want your work to look distorted from twisting body parts so it reads the right way up ^_^

  14. Oh I wrote the above and just wanted to add that what I mean is, it's probably done so it reads correctly to others and not to themselves so to others it makes sense. If that makes my point any clearer?!

  15. Easiest way to photograph your own forearm upside right, would be to take the camera, aim it at your arm, take the photo, get it printed, then turn the photo clockwise 180 degrees ;)
    With the basics of photo editing, that is simple as hell even if you arent printing it off, just save it upside down.
    But I have to admit, if they were smart enough to do that, chances are they wouldn't get a word on their body and call it art.

  16. I am just wondering what those guys are doing in the original pic? Are they taking a leak together? A sign of true 友谊, I guess. "Hey dude, I have to take a piss...wanna come with?"

  17. sorry for all those hickups...

  18. "But I have to admit, if they were smart enough to do that, chances are they wouldn't get a word on their body and call it art."

    Anything can be art to the eye of the beholder. What is wrong with getting hanzi/kanji tattoos to represent something important or life-changing? You may not agree or understand but that is part of the beauty of life--everyone is different and unique.

  19. that is only if the hanzi/kanji are done correctly.

  20. If you truely understood what 'art' you were getting done and it is 'important and life changing', you should at least spell-check it.
    If I get my boyfriend's name on my butt, I would make sure the artist spelt it properly in a stencil before it was permantly etched under my skin, that becomes a little harder if you don't understand what it says, and it becomes simply an image, a painful one at that.

  21. the mirrored tattoo photo was obviously not mirrored. because there was no reflection from the camera flash and how can the person to take a photo of their clients in that position??

  22. Just a wild guess but with the crew-cut, developed upper bodies, the "at-ease" pose and "fraternity" tattooed on their back... maybe these guys are U.S. Marines. Maybe :)