From this display at a trendy shop near Nakano Broadway, you’d think there was an epidemic of tennis elbow going around the yanqi-ish young men prone to wearing leopard fur accessories and clothing emblazoned with Our Lady of Rude Kustoms. In fact, this particular demographic tends to have something to hide, especially in summertime.
During the rest of the year, when they go home to visit the folks or want to have a nice soak at a hot spring bath* they can cover up their ink with long sleeves. In summertime, though, they need something that looks like a normal piece of clothing without being as hot as a normal piece of clothing. Hence, these little stretchy tubes that can be passed off as fashion accessories.
* Tattoos are routinely banned at water parks and hot spring baths. Originally it was because only gangsters had tattoos, and nobody wanted troublemakers. Now that tattoos are becoming an edgy fashion statement, though, you’d think things would loosen up, but no. Anybody who doesn’t want to get kicked out puts bandaids over the offending skin, just to be safe.
I got interested in tattoo culture while I was researching Fallen Angel, the second book in my mystery series, because I wanted to understand just what having a tattoo in Japan meant. I talked to several hosts about their tattoos, and discovered that even though they were adults, they covered up their ink when they went back to their hometowns.