Photos of 19th-Century Tattooed Japanese Mail Runners

mail1By Alison Nastasi (Article originally appears at
Who runs around wearing a loincloth, covered in tattoos, and delivers mail on a stick while managing not to look like an absolute fool? Japanese mail runners during the 19th century, that’s who — and they put modern bike messengers to shame. During the Edo period, tattoos became a popular form of art, and these guys are sporting some fantastic ink…

Some historians debate that skin art was mainly a phenomenon amongst the lower class, but Okinawa Soba — the culture purveyor who published these wonderful hand colored photos that we found on Retronaut — points out, “the tattoo showed up everywhere in Japan — from the Ainu in the North, to the Okinawans in the South.” Check out more mail runners in our gallery (below), and feel sad that you’ll never look this badass in your life.

All photos by Okinawa Soba






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