Heads Will Roll: Namakubi Tattoos for Tattoo of the Day

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Heads Will Roll: Namakubi Tattoos for Tattoo of the Day

These brutal Namakubi Tattoos will get you in the mood for some serious action.

These namakubi tattoos show that some Japanese motifs are a little more brutal than cherry blossoms and koi. Well known for the blood red splatters and detailed swords that pierce eyes and noses, namakubi are severed heads flying through the air. While sometimes these heads were the heads of criminals, the right was also performed by warriors. Seppuku, also known as harakiri, was a right reserved only for samurai for a very long time. Wikipedia states, "seppuku was used either voluntarily by samurai to die with honor rather than fall into the hands of their enemies (and likely suffer torture) or as a form of capital punishment for samurai who had committed serious offenses, or performed because they had brought shame to themselves." During the Edo period the ritual of seppuku was very detailed, but the action is in two parts. First, the samurai puts a knife deep into his abdomen, and next a trusted person, another samurai, swings his sword in order to complete the decapitation. So, these namakubi tattoos show the last part of the sacred ritual: the head gliding through the sky.

Just like most tattoo iconography, there are many ways namakubi tattoos have been designed and carried out. Of course, the most traditional is Irezumi, Japanese tattooing. However, many artists have also adapted the famed severed heads in their own style creating interesting and captivating takes on the namakubi tattoo. Wes Holland has merged the main concept here with Medusa, making a new and exciting play on the idea. Leonardo Borri's piece has a very modern feel, while Ooqza uses her incredible skill with manga to take the dark art of namakubi tattoos to another level. It goes to show that under the talented fingers of highly skilled artists an old idea can have new life breathed into it...although...since these heads are dead maybe that's not quite the right metaphor to use...

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