My second skin, made in Thailand, in Nikkei Asia


My latest story in Nikkei Asia was really fun to write and to live… a month or so ago, the Thailand Tattoo Expo took place for the 5th time, a great opportunity to reflect on my own relationship with tattoos….

I first got inked in a dingy tattoo parlor near the Cowley car works in Oxford, England, in 1986. I had a skull-and-crossbones motif tattooed on my left shoulder — less a gesture of rebellion than a gambit to woo a girl from the clutches of a competitor. My rival opted for a Tasmanian Devil cartoon on his behind; an unwise move as it turned out.

The backstreet establishment was a shabby, wood-paneled shop and the tattooist smoked and did not wear gloves. A sign on the wall admonished clients not to show up inebriated, a credo to which the shop’s proprietor clearly did not subscribe. The application of my modest piece of “skin art” cost 5 pounds (now $6.55).

Fast forward almost 40 years. My pirate insignia has faded (though a female tattoo artist in India carved another one onto my left knee) and these days, tattoo studios look like shiny dental surgeries. Top artists charge $200 an hour, and in many countries there is barely a town that does not have a tattoo outlet.

Photo by Yumi Kajirara.

Read the full story here…

And check out my bestselling book (co-authored with Aroon Thaewchatturat) on Thailand’s spirit tattoos, Sak Yant, Sacred Skin.