Binding Brides: Traditional Japanese Tattoos of Jorogumo

Binding Brides: Traditional Japanese Tattoos of Jorogumo

Traditional Japanese tattoos of one of Irezumi’s most terrifying motifs — spider women.

Imagine sitting alone at a bar when a beautiful woman approaches you. You buy her a drink, and the two of you hit it off. Before you know it, you are both back at your apartment, tipsy and laughing. She asks you to undress and lay out across the bed. Then she straddles you, unbuttoning her blouse. As the garment falls from her shoulders, she looks down with a predatory glare, her cheeks morph into mandibles, and eight hairy appendages suddenly sprout from her back, pulling webbing from the spinnerets where her ass once was and bundling you up to suck out your bodily fluids. You’ve just had a one-night stand with a Jorogumo.

These frightening yokai come from ancient Japanese legends. In English, their name translates roughly to “binding bride” or “spider woman.” There’s actually a large, colorful species of arachnids called the Joro Spider that inhabits Japan. It is said that when one of these spiders grows over 400 years old, they become endowed with supernatural powers. They use an uncanny ability to take the appearance of maidens and lure love-starved men to their deaths, seducing them, spinning them up in silk, and feasting on their remains.

There are several legends about Jorogumo, but the most foreboding of these stories is about a lumberjack who falls prey to the Mistress of the Joren Falls. It is said that the logger went to chop wood by the waterfall. At one point he accidentally dropped his axe in the glistening pool, and a gorgeous woman rose from the water to return it to him. He was instantly enamored with her and returned day after day to gaze upon her face. As time passed, he began to grow sick, so he visited a monk, and together they visited the falls. The holy man chanted a mantra, and the maiden’s true form was revealed, a gruesome monstrosity skittering about on the opposite shore. Though she was horrid to look upon, the woodsman couldn’t forgo his love of her, and running to her, he became entangled in webs, pulled beneath the surface, and was never seen again.

Tattoos of jorogumo relay the same message about the dangers of love at first sight as the terrifying legends about them. With heads of geishas and abdomens of arachnids, Spider women have a simultaneous seductive and lethal aesthetic. They have the power to mesmerize you, just like the lumberjack in the age-old cautionary tale, drawing you helplessly toward certain death with their irresistible facade.

To see more traditional Japanese tattoos, make sure to visit these tattooists’ Instagrams. Should you want a piece featuring a jorogumo, have one of them execute an eight-legged and fanged femme fatale for you.

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