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The ancient Japanese art of tattooing attracts the West

Creation date: Mar 13, 2023 2:49am     Last modified date: Mar 13, 2023 2:49am   Last visit date: Jun 9, 2024 3:28pm
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Mar 13, 2023  ( 1 post, 1 reply Mar 30, 2023 )  
Tatkuink Clothing (tatkuink)

For tattooist Horimitsu, the sound of needles moving on the skin sounds so smooth and rhythmic, like the sound of crickets. 


Horimitsu has been doing tattooing by hand for the past 30 years in Ikebukuro, Tokyo, using nothing but a stick with a pin on it. Under his hands, gods and monsters come to life on the backs of bankers or band members, Koi fish curling gracefully on human calves. 


In Horimitsu's shop

firefighter Kyle Seeley, 23, lays quietly while the meticulous artist slowly tattooed a green dragon onto his arm. When completed, Seeley's tattoo will stretch from shoulder to wrist with the image of a dragon hiding among peonies, flowers that symbolize luck and nobility. 


Seeley traveled thousands of skull baseball jersey kilometers to meet Horimitsu. In his hometown, Grande Prairie, Canada, there are many tattooists, but they don't have what he is looking for: The traditional Japanese art of hand tattooing tebori. 


In the West, this longstanding fascination with this style of tattooing has now become a trend. "I've been told that tebori colors last longer and look more vibrant," says Seeley. There are also machine tattoos on his chest and ribs. "It would cost me a few thousand dollars to complete the tattoo. But I saved up for it."

Horimitsu has nearly 63,000 followers on his Instagram account, including  international stars, such as American singer John Mayer. Foreign interest is now the lifeblood of tebori, as Japanese people are no longer interested in this ancient art form. Young Japanese people often enjoy Western-style geometric block tattoos, focusing on sharp details. 


Tebori artists usually control much of the creative process, and some people only get tattoos of their choice. Seeley is perfectly fine with that. He went to see the artist Horimitsu without knowing what color his new dragon would be. "This is Mr. Mitsu's art style and whatever he thinks is best, I agree," Seeley said with a laugh.

Seeley showed no pain as the cane with a row of needles pushed the color under his skin. Every 10 seconds, Horimitsu turned to the side, dipping the tool in the ink. It looks painful but tattoo enthusiasts say that tebori is gentler than mechanical tattooing.

Horimitsu is known to many tattoo enthusiasts around the world through Mike Derbyshire, who runs the website Pacific Tattoo Co, which connects English-speaking clients with Japanese artists. In fact, 60-70% of Horimitsu's guests come from outside Japan and so do other tebori artisans. 


"We have customers from Germany, from the UK, from the US... Many people are military personnel in US bases," said Mike, but added that "the business of Japanese tattoo artists has been in the past time. not good, partly because they can't solve the communication problem". 


More importantly

the problem is that they are losing their customer base. After World War II, Japanese tattoo art was closely tied to viking bomber jacket yakuza gangsters. For decades, criminals have tattooed themselves to demonstrate their bravery, flaunt their wealth and distinguish themselves from other yakuza. 


Horimitsu learned the technique of tattooing from a Japanese "family" of tattoos, where young apprentices had to work as assistants to masters for many years in a strictly disciplined environment before becoming a professional.

Rock Leen (archibaldmarston): edited 3/30/2023 9:45pm

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