New Short Story: “Irezumi”

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“Irezumi” started out with a simple idea: a mysterious tattoo appearing on a woman’s skin. I wanted to try something historical and if you’re going to write about tattoos then you want Japan, specifically in this case the Meiji Era when Japan decided to try to ban the practise. Even today there’s a heavy stigma around it, assuming that if you’re Japanese and have tattoos then you must be yakuza (members of the Japanese mafia). Most onsen and bathhouses, for example, ban people with tattoos though foreigners often get a little more slack, especially if their tattoos are covered over.

You can see my planning post on this story here.

So tattoos … that meant my narrator needed to be an artisan, a tattooist practising his craft underground during a period where it was illegal to just go out and get inked. Oh and there needed to be a customer, a poet’s daughter, afflicted with a tattoo that she doesn’t remember being inked with and appears to be growing larger with every passing day. As the setting for this was in Kyoto, I made the tattoos those of bamboo saplings (and later trees) found in the groves of Arashiyama.


Seriously, Arashiyama is a beautiful place.

The crux of the story is the narrator’s attempt to save the tattooed woman, it’s also about how the kami are possessing unaware humans and overwriting their consciousness, their reasons for doing so as well as Master Hori—’s attempt to find a middle line.

I have a market in mind for this story though it doesn’t open up again for submissions for another week, which gives the story time to rest as well as for me to rewrite bits. The sub-plot about the kami and their reasons for invading humans needs to be louder, stronger.

But the first draft, for once, it feel like a strong one. Watertight, though a fresh pair of eyes will probably help. It’s not a mystery but it’s definately closer to urban Japanese fantasy than it is traditional sci fi or speculative fiction. I’m quite excited about this one, actually. I hope it sells but it’s another arrow in my quiver, another story to send out into the world and see how it’s recieved.

Wish me luck!

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