Wellesley College Senior Amber Cabrera, of Topeka, Kan.,
Explores Japanese Tattooing Arts

Oct. 28, 2009

CONTACT: Molly Tarantino,

WELLESLEY, Mass.— Tattoos have long been a part of popularculture in Japan, but they also have been closely identified with membership in the Japanese Mafia, a link that has led to tattooing being stigmatized. During a year abroad in Kyoto, Japan, Wellesley College senior Amber Cabrera sought to explore Japanese tattoo culture and see if this stigma still exists as Japan evolves into a global culture.

Through surveying Japanese college students and tattoo artists, Cabrera found that negative perceptions of tattoos still exist — especially in the public bathhouses.

“While living in Japan, I was surprised to see how much traditional customs were still practiced,” she said. “Everything from the houses to the bathing rituals had traces of Japan's long history and the tattoo world in Japan also displays this continuation of the past.”

Cabrera will discuss her experience during her presentation “Tattoos: The Yakuza and the Japanese Bathhouse” at Wellesley College’s annual Tanner Conference, a day-long event held Tuesday, Nov. 3.

Cabrera, the daughter of Gregoria and Jorge Cabrera of Topeka, Kan., is a Japanese language and literature major. She is a member of Mezcla, Wellesley’s Latina organization, and is a sexual health educator. Following graduation, she plans to continue her travel — with hopes of biking across America, traveling to South Korea and Mexico to teach English, and using her Spanish-speaking and teaching skills to help the Latino community in the United States.

The Tanner Conference brings together students, faculty, staff and alumnae as they share their off-campus journeys. With projects ranging from “Hip-Hop and Toy Guns in Palestine” to “Stuck in the Mucky-Muck: Adventures in Cape Cod Salt Marsh Research,” Wellesley travelers return to discuss their experiences with the community.

This year’s conference represents the work of nearly 300 students, faculty, alumnae and staff. The annual event was established in 2001 through the generosity of Wellesley trustee Estelle “Nicki” Newman Tanner ’57.To read more about the Tanner Conference and get a full schedule of presentations, visit www.wellesley.edu/CWS/Tanner/.

Since 1875, Wellesley College has been a leader in providing an excellent liberal arts education for women who will make a difference in the world. Its 500-acre campus near Boston is home to 2,300 undergraduate students from all 50 states and 68 countries.