Photography lesson

Lesson of the day: “Changing the norms on tattoos in Japan”

This lesson is part of our Accessible activities feature, which aims to accommodate a wider variety of learners on our site and The Times in general. Learn more and tell us what you think here.

Featured Article: “Changing standards on tattoos in Japanby Hikari Hida

In recent years, beliefs about tattoos have changed in Japan, especially among young people who spend time on social media.

In this lesson, you will discover these changes in attitudes. Next, you will design an art exhibit using photographs and quotes from the article.

In your journal, answer the questions below:

  • Do you like tattoos? Would you like to have one someday? What design would you get?

  • What do people around you, like your parents and friends, think about tattoos? Do they mostly have positive feelings? Why or why not?

These prompts are taken from a 2021 student opinion question: What do you think of tattoos? If you want, you can read what other students had to say.

The article you are about to read includes eight key vocabulary words. Check out the list below and see how many words you recognize and can define.

1. standard
2. taboo
3. prohibit
4. expose
5. hurdle
6. barista
7. effect
8. outlook

To learn all the words, check out this list on

Here are two expressions that also appear in the article: “go for it” and “slowly but surely”. Do you know what either means? Can you use them in a sentence?

Read the article below, or as PDFthen answer the following questions:

1. What negative associations do people have with tattoos in Japan? How does this affect people with tattoos?

2. How do some of the negative associations change?

3. What role has social media played in these changing norms?

4. What is your reaction to the look at the tattoos of Rion Sanada, the high school student quoted at the end of the article?

What is your reaction to the article? Has this changed any of your beliefs about tattoos? What was surprising or interesting?

Now check out a more comprehensive version of this article, titled “Young People in Japan Quietly Tackle a Taboo on Tattoos.” What story do the photographs tell? Based on what you have just read, what do you think are the three most essential photographs to tell this story? Why?

Finally, tell your own story through images. First, find three photos on your camera roll that are somehow related. Maybe they all feature your dog, a sport you play, a place you like to hang out, or a friend or family member. Put them in an order that, like the photos of the interactive you clicked on, explains something or tells a little story. Finally, write short captions for each that tell this story. Don’t forget to share your creation with others to see what they think!

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