So now that the primary munewari tattoo shape has been completed, what next?
Well, if you are an admirer of Japanese tattoo, you may have noticed there are several common forms of tattoo that appear outside the edges of a munewari or other large tattoo shape. I don't know if there is a proper term for this class of items, but I've always thought of them as sort of "finishing touches" that mark the completion of the tattoo. Visually, they are similar to a gate or border around the edges of the tattoo. I've always made a connection to the edges of protective seals used in the occult, like the outside of this fanciful seal from John Dee (notice the similarity to mandala!).
For me tattoos have always shared something in their essence with talismans. But that's just me. For everyone else, perhaps these are just interesting things to get tattooed once you're done with a big project but hungry for more ink. Let's look at some different types. Images are taken from "1000 Japanese Tattoos, Shisei Zekka Soran Vol. 1", sorry about the terrible quality.
Juzu, or prayer beads, are probably the most common type I see. These are used by Buddhists and Hindus to keep track while chanting or reciting mantras, etc. I suppose a rosary would be the Western equivalent. There are many types, from ornate to plain, and are usually made of wood.
Note the juzu at the end of the half sleeve
Another popular choice would a few kanji (Chinese characters used in Japan). I've also seen bonji, a script used to write Sanskrit (typically a mantra or sutra).
Please don't let this say "BAD MOTHERFUCKER"
And yet another option I've seen, but less frequently, is a dragon.
Small drag and juzu
In speaking with Shinji I discovered he saw the overall shape/effect of my tattoo as being akin to a temple. Seen in this light, the outer edge is similar to the temple gate. I was pleased that his view was quite similar to my own. In keeping with the "gate" theme, we selected two dragons.
For those of you not familiar with the layout of a Buddhist temple, a refresher - at the temple gate in Japan, as well as in China and in Korea, typically stand two fierce looking guards. In Japan these are known as "Nio."
These figures are the protectors of the temple, and are a complementary pair. The open-mouth figure is called “Agyō,” who is uttering the sound “ah.". His close-mouth partner is called “Ungyō,” who sounds “un” or “om." These sounds represent the first and the last, similar to the Western alpha and omega. This formula is the same as utilized to form the Sanskrit sacred words "AHAM" or "OM". Check out this site or Wikipedia more info on the Nio.
You'll notice in temples that Ungyō is on the left and the Agyō on the right. You may also see temples with komainu or "lion dogs" in front - at times these may be in a mouth-open/mouth-closed pair, alluding to the same symbolism.
Shinji has already outlined on dragon on my left arm, and will outline the other dragon on my right arm this evening. Next post should be in a few days and will be pictures of the new work. I just thought it would be helpful to explain the symbolism first. Of course, you could ignore all this and say "Oh a dragon, that's some pretty standard Asian-type tattoo to get." I'm quite certain that's what most people will do. Besides, I'll be pretty tired of explaining this whole thing soon anyway. Take care!