The first known body marking was from 3300 BC, found on Iceman, a mummified human body. The word tattoo came from the Tahitian word “Tatu” or “Tatau” meaning mark or strike.
In Japan, tattooing was originally used for decorative and spiritual purposes, dating back to about 10,000 BC, during the Jomon period. Starting in the Kofun period between 300 and 600 AD, tattoos began to have negative connotations as they were placed on criminals as punishment, reminiscent of ancient Rome where slaves were tattooed with mottoes.
The Japanese tattoos and irezumi meaning “the insertion of ink under the skin to leave a permanent, decorative mark” continued to have connotations of criminality although foreigners were fascinated by the beautiful designs and colors used in Japanese tattoo and the business continued underground. In modern day Japan, tattooing is again gaining popularity and young Japanese people who want to get tattoos are choosing one point designs which are small designs that can be done in one sitting while some foreign enthusiasts seek traditional irezumi that are done by professional tattooists. The process is very painful, takes a long time to finish and very expensive. A full “body suit” can take a maximum of five years of weekly visits. It can cost over $30,000 to get a “body suit” in Japan.
Why go to that extent when you can have temporary tattoos using homemade tattoo ink that can be as beautiful and feature more contemporary designs. Here is a recipe for henna based temporary tattoo ink.
1 ¼ cups sifted henna powder, black or dark brown
2 packets instant coffee sachets
2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
5 drops eucalyptus oil
5 drops clove oil
Sugar or honey
- Add 2 packets of instant coffee to 1 ½ cups of water. Turn the heat on high and bring the water to a rolling boil. Continue boiling until the liquid is reduced to ¾ cup of very dark and strong coffee.
- Put the sifted henna powder into a glass mixing bowl and add the coffee a little at a time until you have a thick henna paste. Make sure that the coffee and henna have blended well and the resultant paste in smooth. The coffee will add more depth of color to the henna.
- Add the lemon juice to the mix and stir continuously to completely blend the ingredients.
- Add the drops of essentials oil and continue to mix well.
- The addition of the lemon juice and the oils will make the paste thinner but should not be runny. If it is very thin, add more sifted henna powder. If it is very thick, add some of the coffee or water. Add some sugar or honey to the mix for better skin adherence.
- Cover the mixing bowl with plastic and allot the mixture to settle. Leave it to cool for at least two hours.
- Transfer the cooled mixture into a plastic squeeze bottle with pointed tip.
- Prepare your henna ink sealant by boiling some lemon juice and sugar. Make sure all the sugar has dissolved, remove from the flame and let cool.
- Use the plastic bottle as a pen and sketch your design. When you are finished, lightly brush the lemon-sugar sealant over the design and dry with a blow dryer.
- Cover your new tattoo with tissue paper and wrap it in plastic wrap and let it settle overnight. Wash the paste off in the morning. The henna ink will stay for up to three weeks.
Be reminded that even if you are using natural ingredients it will be best to test your skin’s reaction to the mixture before final application.