Today I met my friend, Shoji Fujii at the Café Rouge in Paris. We talked about a lot of things, for instance, did you know that in Japan on Valentine’s day it is the little girls that give the chocolates to the boys that they are interested in and not the other way around? How many chocolates you get is a sign of your popularity. If the mom’s are worried that their son won’t get any chocolates, she goes out and buys some for him, this is the ultimate insult and to avoid this kind of embarrassment often the boys buy their own chocolates so they don’t have to come home empty handed.
In 1995 Shoji met the publisher of Street Magazine while he was working at Vivienne Westwood and that was the start of his photography career. He likes tattoos and he sees them as a personal stamp that sets you apart from the others. He feels that without a tattoo the focus tends to be on the body, the face or the voice but when you have a tattoo people look at what is drawn on you. He got his first tattoo when he was 22 and for that he chose the strong symbol of a dragon. His Chinese sign is a Rat. His second tattoo was two dragons on either side of the first dragon. The Bird of Paradise on his arm came from a t-shirt that he really liked and is probably the most common tattoo in China symbolizing that even when they die, like the phoenix it regenerates and comes back to life.
When Shoji was a child growing up in Kyoto he identified people with tattoos as yakuza. At that time in the 80’s or early 90’s people with tattoos could not go to the swimming pool or public baths because the other people would be afraid of them. Older generations of people would stare at him when he got his tattoos thinking he was part of the Japanese mafia. His own mother did not react to his tattoos for years but then one day she told him that it was really bad that he had them.
In the 80’s girls used to like to get the logo of Vivienne Westwood tattooed on their shoulders. Japanese like designers logos as tattoos. Well, some of them anyway. His favorite designer is Bernhard Willhelm. I asked him if Bernhard had any tattoos. He remembers several years ago talking with Bernhard who at the time was considering getting a fetish image of a leather bunny but as far as he knows, he never did it.