The last time I spoke to a Japanese tattooist working outside Tokyo he said inking was still connected – not for the customers but for some of the neighbouring shops – with the yakuza. For otaku (geeks) to ink their geekhood on the skin is Yo, but YO.
But for a culture where Hokusai was drawing manga (man-ga or to randomly wander around, drawing-wise) at the same time as The Great Wave Off Kanagawa, it’s worth bearing in mind that the best-known japanese saying in the West:
Deru kui wa utareru.
“The nail that sticks up will be hammered down,” may mean more to us than to the average Japanese nowadays. After all, the best-known western saying in Japan is probably:
Mind the gap.
The cultural relevance of that one runs out pretty quick.