utamaro´s five women panpinak-dolls/argazkiak- photography: beruta /// ipuina-tale: odlok
Utamaro was the main character in Kenji Mizoguchi’s 1946 film titled Utamaro o meguru gonin no onna (Utamaro and his five women). But ‘Utamaro’ was also the name of a famous Japanese tattoo artist born at the end of the 19th century. He was well-known because he only tattooed women. He would always say that there was no canvas to equal a woman’s skin.

masako: the emperor’s wife

The Emperor’s wife has Utamaro brought to the palace. When she married the Emperor, she became a rich and powerful woman, but at a price. She had to swear that she would never set foot outside the palace for the rest of her life. Every year, another storey is added to the tower at the palace to enable her to see as far and much as possible. But she knows there is one thing that she will never to able to see. And that is what she asks Utamaro to tattoo on her: the sea.

midori: prostitute and utamaros lover

Midori is Utamaro’s lover. Every night Utamaro caresses the canvas that is her skin but he can’t tattoo her. Clients don’t want prostitutes with tattoos. Utamaro prepares a special ink the colour of Midori’s skin and gives her an invisible tattoo that will bind them together forever. With his invisible ink, he tattoos a key inside a heart. This way he knows something that nobody else will ever know: he has the key to Midori’s heart.

kazumi: a ghost from the future

Kazumi appears to Utamaro in a dream. In the dream she warns Utamaro that death is coming for him. Utamaro, to repay her for her warning, tattoos an anchor. The weight of the anchor holding her down allows Kazumi to live amongst non-ghost folk.

tomomi: kamikaze woman

It’s the middle of WWII and Tomomi dresses up as a man to volunteer as a kamikaze pilot. She goes to Utamaro and asks him to tattoo a swallow because the swallow is a swift, shifting skilful flier that will enable her aircraft to evade enemy fire until it reaches its target. Utamaro draws the tattoo that will be covered by her pilot’s jacket. As he draws he remains silent. He knows that the swallow always returns home and that this is not an appropriate image for a kamikaze pilot.

kokorokuro: death

Without knocking on his door, Kokoro kuro walks into Utamaro’s studio. She asks him to tattoo anything he chooses himself. She asks him to use all his skill for this tattoo because it will be his last. As soon as he is finished, she will take him with her. Utamaro draws a heart with a lock inside but leaves a space for where the key should be. He tells Death that he cannot finish the tattoo because he has tattooed the key on another woman’s body. When Death realizes that without the key the tattoo cannot be finished, she becomes furious and tells Utamaro “I will find that other woman, skin her and make the key mine. And when that happens, I will take you and the woman both with me.” Utamaro laughs. In the end it wasn’t such a bad idea to give his lover a tattoo that only he could see.