All photographs are the property of Sarah
Interview With Sarah
I had asked Sarah if she read Professors Wright’s outstanding article Wright, Diana E. “Female Combatants and Japan’s Meiji Restoration: the case of Aizu” War in History 2001 v. 8 (4) pages 396-417 which was the basis for the Women’s Brigade website. Before finding this wonderful article many members of this website and mailing list had only heard of Takagi Tokio as the assistant or secretary to Aizu’s Teruhime. On page 413 of the article Tokio is mentioned as forming a bodyguard unit for Teruhime and Matsudaira Katamori’s two other wives. So we were all surprised that Sarah had chosen a more “warrior” theme for Tokio even prior to reading this article which added a new never before known dimension to Tokio.
Sarah “Anyway! Yeah, when I found out that the women of Aizu also fought I thought, “How cool would it be if Tokio had been one of those women?!” Hehe, good guess, eh?”
#1, How did you encounter the Shinsengumi?
Like many people, I’m sure, I first learned about the Shinsengumi through the anime Rurouni Kenshin. I started watching the series in 2000, I believe, and I quickly became obsessed with Saitou. After a little research I learned about the super-cool Shinsengumi. I guess a lot of new information has come up since then, and it’s amazing to me that I knew as little as I did about them when I got my first tattoo, my Shinsengumi flag. It was a spur of the moment decision, to be honest, but I’ve never regretted it.
#2, How long did it take for you to have the artist complete the tattoo? And was it painful?
The first one (the flag) took about 45 minutes, and oddly enough, I don’t remember it being that bad. I’ve had it touched up twice, and both times it hurt a lot more than I remember it hurting the first time.
Tokio took two sessions, one for the outline and the shading, and one for the color. Again, I don’t remember the first session hurting that much, but when I had her colored in it was pretty painful. The odd thing is that after a while, despite the pain, I started to get drowsy (my artist had me lie on my stomach) and I had a hard time getting up when he was done!
#3. How did you explain your intent to your artist or what did you use him/her to use as a guide?
The flag was taken directly out of the Rurouni Kenshin manga. I found Tokio when I did a google image search for “naginata.” Sometimes I have random tattoo inspiration, and the second I saw the ukiyo-e of a young woman with a naginata, I knew she was my next tattoo. I took it to an artist friend of mine to draw an outline, and my tattoo artist went from there. The color scheme was my own decision, since in the original her kimono was black and I like very colorful tattoos.
#4. How did you decide on the design—are there personal motivations and what will this tattoo mean to you?
The first one, as I said, was a spur of the moment thing. My sister was getting a tattoo, and I refused to let her go without me. So I grabbed my manga and we went.
Tokio was slightly redesigned for me by my friend, but I basically went with the original. When inspiration hits, I go with it. Being a feminist, Tokio sort of represents feminine strength. No matter what kind of girl you are, I think it’s important to be able to kick some ass when the need arises!
#5. Many people harbor negative stereotypes against people who have
tattoos. If you meet these people, how do you explain the subject of your tattoo to them?
I don’t usually. =p
I like them, so I don’t really feel the need to justify them to anyone. But if I had to, I suppose I’d say that they represent strength to me, and most importantly the importance of sticking to your beliefs and what you think is right, no matter what the consequences. It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, as long as you do what’s right.