The Macabrus Museum Of Japanese Human Skins
Fukushi Masaichi, the Man Who Created the Largest Collection of Tattooed Human Skin in the World
Fukushi Masaichi (1878–1956) was a Japanese physician, pathologist and Emeritus Professor of Nippon Medical School in Tokyo. He was the founder of the world’s only collection of tattoos taken from the dead.
Fukushi Masaichi studied at the Tokyo Imperial University Medicine. After studying in Germany, he began in 1914 at the Medical college Kanazawa University Kanazawa. He was chairman of the “Japanese Pathological Society”. The focus of his research was initially that syphilis caused aortitis and thyroid disease. He became interested in tattoos when he noticed that the tattoo ink in the skin killed the skin lesions of syphilis. Fukushi Masaichi himself was not tattooed.
His research on the subject of human skin (from 1907) brought him into contact with many people that had tattoos. He therefore became interested in 1926 in the art of Japanese tattoo (Irezumi), led autopsies on corpses, removed the skin and did research on methods to preserve the skin. In the following years he collected an archive of about 2000 “hides” and 3000 photographs which were lost in 1945, during World War II.
Masaichi put some of his unique collection of tattooed hides and groomed skin that had been outsourced in the early 1940s in an air raid shelter. Since they were protected from the effects of war they survived the bombings. These skins are all that remains of his collection. Today, the collection is kept at the Medical Pathology Museum of Tokyo University with 105 tattooed human skins, many of which are full body suits.
The Macabrus Museum
In Japan, at the Museum of Medical Pathology of the University of Tokyo, there is a room that houses a macabre collection of tattooed human skins belonging to members of the Yakuza who died by violent death and whose bodies, once subjected to autopsy, were donated to the ‘university.
This collection includes about 105 skins, many of which complete and was started by Dr. Masaichi Fukushi in the early decades of the twentieth century who was literally fascinated by the complexity and beauty of the tattoos exhibited by members of the Japanese underworld. The professor created a particular system that allowed him to preserve the tattooed epidermis in order to prevent them from decomposing and thus preserve the tattoos.
The collection was also continued by his son Katsunari who decided to follow in his father’s footsteps by becoming a pathologist, so much so that both, both father and son, are known in Japan with the nickname of “tattoo professor”. A title that clearly highlights their macabre passion.