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living empire

: living empire story | Lip Tattoo

Two years after declaring all of Ainu Moshir part of imperial Japan and renaming it Hokkaido, Japanese authorities banned the tradition of women’s lip and hand tattooing in the indigenous Ainu culture. The bans turned out to be a principal tool of imperial enslavement for Ainu women, depriving them of both a profession --- only women could tattoo --- and decimating Ainu women’s most important spiritual practice. For a while Ainu women resisted the laws. One recalled, “I was 20 years old before I had this little tattoo put on my lips. After it was done, my mother hid me from the Japanese police for five days.” But in the end, resistance was futile. Japanese ideas of modern female beauty colonized Ainu women and enslaved them more effectively than laws and edicts. Now there are no tattooed Ainu women left in Japan. Even though the Ainu rights movement has grown strong and wrested a range of rights from the imperial overlords in Tokyo, the enslavements of Ainu persist. The undead empire is revealed in every un-tattooed Ainu woman’s face.