A Declaration of Intent

My purpose here is to keep track of my experiences with Japanese tattoo.  My perspective isn’t completely unique (many non-Japanese people have or appreciate the art), but it will be unique insofar as it is happening to me and to no one else.  It is my hope that I will be able to provide not only a journal of my experience and updates on the evolution of my tattoo, but also interesting cultural anecdotes, information, or articles about this art.  I will not discuss the cost and I cannot help you get a tattoo appointment.  Before proceeding, please note:

1) This site may be considered Not Safe for Work.  You can expect pictures of my butt and (mostly covered) crotch region.

2) The only photo adjustments I make are for white balance and exposure.  Contrast, black/white, and saturation levels are never adjusted in an effort make as accurate a representation of the work as possible.

This blog is inspired by and dedicated to Mike, a man I have never met.  Mike’s blog Munewari Minutes served as a constant source of inspiration early in my tattoo journey.  His blog was a touchstone for my goals and an assurance that what I wanted was worth patient pursuit.

Wherein I Borrow from Lewis Carroll

After my last appointment with Horizakura, I had expected that we would be continuing to outline the last areas of my chest. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I have found the chest to be deeply unpleasant. I was not at all looking forward to it. I spent most of Saturday and Sunday morning giving myself tough-guy pep talks. Upon arriving at the studio, I noticed Horizakura had his tray set up for tebori. O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! No outlines for me! I know procrastination is bad, but I don’t care what you say, I was happy for the chest outline to be Future Jordan’s problem.

My 112th appointment was 2 hours of tebori on my left elbow/inner bicep. Easy, breezy, beautiful. We spent some time discussing travel plans and general life stuff. All in all, it was a great appointment. I can’t say enough how happy I am that we switched to Sunday appointments. I definitely miss seeing Monji and Haru at my Tuesday appointments, but the whole process feels much more relaxed not having to plan around my work schedule. The lower stress and infrequent cancellations have really enhanced the tattoo process for me; I’m finding that I enjoy it even more than I used to. If you had asked me a year ago, I wouldn’t have thought that could be possible.

Can anybody tell me if I used that semicolon correctly? I was feeling very cocky when I used it but now I’m having some doubts.

We Return to Outlining

My 111th appointment with Horizakura was about 1.5 hours of outlining on my inner bicep and chest. Not a whole lot to say here, the pictures speak for themselves. I think the chest is probably one of the worst areas for me… especially as he get close to the nipple. There was a moment when he was tattooing my pec where I actually started to laugh because I couldn’t believe just how much it hurt. Certainly not unbearable, but boy oh boy am I not looking forward to our next appointment.

Speaking of my next appointment, the thought is perhaps another bonji and some cherry blossoms will finish the outline of my torso. I can’t believe how close we are to being done with the outline. Maybe only a few appointments left. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to finish the outline of my right forearm until I have a very, very minor surgery to remove a cyst. I could leave it but it annoys the piss out of me and I don’t want to get tattooed there and THEN decide it has to go. I really wish I could just find somebody in a back alley somewhere that will stab the damn thing and be done with it. I tried to convince the dermatologist to do it and she wouldn’t go for it. Hopefully I can get it taken care of soon so we can actually finish off the outline of the whole suit.

The only other item of note before it’s on to the pictures is that Horizakura shaved about 45% of my chest while he was planning out what and where he would tattoo me during this appointment. After I cleaned up this morning, I took a look in the mirror and realized I looked totally ridiculous with a half-shaved chest. As any reasonable person might do, I decided to go scorched earth on my whole torso. As I finish typing that, I wonder if this is actually even an item of note. Do I actually think anybody cares about the landscape of my chest hair? Would anybody have even noticed if I hadn’t said anything? You will never get back the time you just wasted reading this paragraph. For that, I apologize.

To the photos!

I dun goofed.

I don’t know how or why this happened, but I forgot to update this blog after my second to last appointment. Things have been a little busy at work, but that’s rarely gotten in the way in the past. Even then, when I forget to post I usually have at least taken photos. After my 109th appointment, the only photo I took was a quick selfie while I was in my office. I’m not in the habit of posting photos like that here, but it’s all we have to mark that session’s progress. On the rare occasion that this has happened in the past, I’ve also gotten lucky and Horizakura worked on a different part of the tattoo so I was easily able to capture update photos of both areas after the fact. That was not the case here as both appointments were working on the left side of my torso. Fortunately, this isn’t really all that complicated and you should be able to tell from what photos we do have what was done during each appointment. It’s certainly not a big enough deal for me to have written as much as I already have about it… yet here we are.

Appointments 109 and 110 were each two hours long which, after some very complicated math, totals 4 hours of tebori on my left side. Horizakura shaded portions of the armpit, ribs, hip, and even a couple bars on my stomach that were unfinished. The Sunday appointments have been a real bummer for my football watching, but in virtually every other aspect they are a huge win. This is something like 4 – 5 appointments in a row now, while still maintaining a fairly busy work schedule (including gigs on Tuesday that definitely would have resulted in a cancellation or two). I’ve also found that moving my appointments to noon, which is generally when my energy levels peak, has made the tattooing easier to endure as well. The ribs are generally known to be one of the tougher areas to have tattooed, but I have to say that I haven’t found them to be much of a struggle during these short, midday sessions. This reinforces what many people will tell you: how you treat your body before an appointment really does make a difference when getting tattooed.

A Chapter Ends

Let’s try not to get too excited here, but I was finally able to make two appointments in a row without a cancellation. I wish that wasn’t something worth celebrating, but with the way my schedule has been lately, it is. My 108th appointment with Horizakura was an hour of shading on my right ribs. Overall an endurable appointment and I felt good for the duration. I still had issues getting into the city in a timely fashion. I spent the bulk of my blind-rage commute considering why this could be and I believe the answer is noobs. I’m so used to driving in the city during business hours when the bulk of the traffic is other people who are used to working and driving in the New York City. On a Sunday, the roads are filled-to-bursting with morons who have no idea what they’re doing or where they’re going. They don’t follow any of the unwritten rules of highly aggressive New York City traffic and the result is a slow, grinding chaos. I spent so much time driving in and out of the city under those conditions on Sunday that I feel like I could probably write a dissertation on it. This platform isn’t the place for that, but you can tell that I’m having a difficult time stopping myself.

Though my tattoo appointment may have been bookended with significant (suppressed) road rage, the appointment itself was a little bit sad. Upon entering the studio, I found that Horizakura had cleared out most of the art, photos, books, and furniture in the space as he has begun to move his studio to a new location. I’m sure many of you know how private he is which is why I haven’t really mentioned anything about it here, but at this point it’s so integral to my experience that this blog would be incomplete and inaccurate if I didn’t mention it. He has been planning to move for a few months now and I knew we were getting close, but walking into the studio and seeing it that way made it very real to me. I didn’t expect to feel the way I did about him moving, but up to now, my entire experience has been in that space. I’m not the type of person to shy away from change, in fact one of the things I love so much about getting tattooed regularly is that my body is constantly changing, but the realization that this would be my last appointment on the Lower East Side filled me with nostalgia for it all. Thinking of the restaurants that have come and gone, the route I used to take, my incredibly lucky streak of awesome parking spots right in front of the studio, and every moment of non-tattoo time spent inside that quiet, cozy room makes the excitement of change bitter sweet. Nonetheless, as this chapter comes to a close I find myself eager for my next appointment in the new studio and to begin a new chapter in my tattoo experience with Horizakura.

New haircut not pictured.

Sunday Traffic

I’m still getting used to having tattoo appointments on Sundays. This was only my second time having a Sunday appointment. Unfortunately, I had to cancel my previous appointment because my wife, son, and I all got Covid. Everybody is in good health now though, and I’m am thrilled to be back at it. Getting used to commuting into the city on a Sunday is a little tricky though. The commute from my office was always pretty fast so getting to the studio from home needs a little more flexibility for traffic. I ended up being a few minutes late for my 107th appointment with Horizakura. Fortunately, tebori was on the docket for this appointment so we didn’t lose out on any drawing time like we would if this was an outline session. For a little less than two hours, Horizakura shaded swirling wind on my left side. Overall, this session was pretty easy for me and (being well fed and well rested) I sat way better than I did for my last appointment. It was a really nice session, especially the couple times the record Shinji was playing ended and there was just some light street noise and the shakki of tebori. It was very peaceful.

I’m not sure that I have anything else to say here… We discussed Horizakura’s plan to move his studio and some of the details that are involved with that process. He also gifted me two really nice prints from a couple of tattoo artists, though I will not be posting them here as I prefer to keep them private. At least for now.

I still need a haircut.

Included this picture of me stretching my arm up just because I thought it was interesting how the tattoo moves and changes shape as I stretch.

Sunday Bloody Sunday

It has been two months since I’ve had a tattoo appointment, which is just way too long. Mostly work has been getting in the way a lot, but Horizakura also had a personal matter to attend to that resulted in a cancellation. Scheduling my normal Tuesday tattoo appointments around work has always been a bit of a challenge because I don’t always work a standard 9-5 day. I have always thought that I might be able to be more consistent with my appointments if I got tattooed on a weekend day since I have to work weekends less frequently. Imagine my joy when I learned from a fellow Horizakura client that he would be wrapping up his bodysuit and his typical appointment on Sunday afternoons might be opening up! I had casually broached the subject with Horizakura shortly after the art exhibition opened and he seemed receptive to the idea. A couple months later and it finally got scheduled. This was my first Sunday tattoo appointment. Tattoo Tuesdays are no more. <Moment of silence>

Not having to rush into the city after work was really nice, even though I hit way more traffic on a Sunday than I expected. I had worked a 15ish hour day on Saturday and didn’t get much sleep, so I was a little beat up going into this appointment. I sat like shit. The pain of this appointment (two hours of tebori) was not bad, I just couldn’t seem to get comfortable and relax into it like I normally would. Hopefully that won’t be a recurring issue going forward though. As far as the actual subject of the day, Horizakura shaded some swirling wind bars on my left shoulder and neckline. I think I’ve said this before, but I really do enjoy seeing how the background shading (especially at an end point like the neck or ankle) frames out the tattoo. It feels like it allows me to see the structure of the whole suit and it gets me excited for where we are going.

I am really hopeful that the Sunday appointments will work out better for everyone. I am especially sad that I will not be seeing Monji as frequently (he isn’t in on Sundays), but it’s a sacrifice I have to make in the name of progress!

I need a haircut.

Cloudy With a Chance of Armpit

That’s a very stupid title for a blog post but it was the first thing that came to my mind so I’m just going to roll with it. I’m sure I’ll come up with something better when I’m in the shower and have regerts.

My 105th appointment with Horizakura was two hours of shading on my right shoulder/armpit/ribs. As always, it was super nice to zone out with some music and tebori. This was generally an easy appointment, just a little spicy on the ribs or in that spot closest to my armpit. Feeling really great about how Horizakura has connected my backpiece to my halfsleeve by Horishun. I was especially curious about the transition at the bottom of my hikae. There is a rock there that makes up the border and I was interested to see what Horizakura’s plan was for it. As you can see in the below pictures, he has started to add some rocks just under my armpit, so I think it’s safe to say he will carry those around my side and connect to the hikae that way. Should be pretty cool!

Nothing more of note from this appointment besides catching up on some of the fun that we had at the exhibit opening celebration. Great to be back at it, next appointment can’t come soon enough!

Horizakura Art Exhibit – Nepenthes NYC

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve had a non-tattoo update. I know last post I made some sort of vague promise about reading books. Let’s be real, me having the time and energy to read a book may very well be a pipe dream. Instead, you will get these photos from the event and you will be happy with it. For context, Horizakura had arranged to hang several pieces of art for sale in the store. The display also includes a short biography as well as a line of photos of more recent clients (including yours truly). The event was well attended by friends, clients, and other tattooers. In all the time that I have been getting tattooed by Horizakura, this was the first time I was afforded the opportunity to really engage the with the tattoo community that surrounds him. It is, perhaps, the only drawback to getting tattooed in a private studio setting. I love everything about it, but the interaction with other clients as they come and go just isn’t there. It was a true pleasure to be able to meet and talk with other clients or tattoo enthusiasts in person. I also really appreciated those of you I met that had kind words for me about Gaijink. Selfishly, I really do this for myself so that I can remember the journey. I would do it even if nobody read it, but knowing that people do is really encouraging to me.

In reflecting on the night, it feels like a missing piece to my tattoo experience has begun to fall into place. I look forward to future opportunities to meet up and hang out with these like-minded people. I hope you enjoy these quick snaps I took of the event. If you are in the area, the exhibit will be up for at least a few weeks (I unfortunately don’t remember the exact date). Swing by and take a look!

Double the Pleasure, Double the Fun

Things have been a little hectic between a busy work schedule and having a baby at home, so I kinda forgot to post an update after my 103rd appointment. Fortunately for us all, appointment 104 was on a different area of my body, so I was able to get a clean shot of the work done during 103. Overall I’m not sure there is much to say for either of these appointments. Of course, it’s always a pleasure to just be engaged in the process. Tebori is also always so much more pleasant to experience than machine tattooing. We’ve been bouncing back and forth between outline and shading a little bit more than usual over the last few months which has also been nice. I am eager to see the outline finished, but even as I consider that, the pictures of the shading remind me of how much this tattoo will change as the shading and color are complete. It’s all very exciting! Horizakura asked to cancel my next appointment because of a project he’s working on, so I will likely not have another update here for a few weeks. I have been thinking more and more about diving into some of these books I have. I think it would be useful to have some information about them here for the public to see. Perhaps I can squeeze one of those in before my next appointment.

Appointment 103 – 1 hour tebori on the clouds and bar just below the clouds

104 – 2 hours of tebori – You’ll notice that two of these photos are very similar. I wanted to illustrate how the tattoo (specifically the dragon’s head) and lighting changes by simply hunching my back a little. I think it’s important to keep body position in mind when you’re looking at photos of tattoos. Shapes and reflections can change pretty dramatically with even slight body movement and you shouldn’t necessarily be so quick to judge an artist’s rendering from a photo. Certainly things like the smoothness of shading or clean linework won’t be affected, but proportions and shape and light might be.

Neckline

My 102nd appointment with Horizakura was an hour of outline over my shoulders/upperback. It’s funny to think about it, but we have finally finished the outline of my backpiece after starting it over six years ago. Long time readers may recall that after we finished shading in what had been outlined of the backpiece, Horizakura wanted to begin with my sleeves in order to properly join everything together at the shoulder. A conversation about full sleeves vs 7/10 sleeves eventually lead to the decision to start on my legs instead. The backpiece was put on hold and he started from the bottom and began to work his way up, which is what we have been doing ever since. Starting from the bottom like that has always made me feel a little bit like a glass or cup that is being “filled” as we go. Not a very big cup. I’m short. Less of a pint glass and more of a tumbler. Now my glass is almost full and it is very exciting.

You can see in the pictures below, he connected the backpiece to my halfsleeve by Horishun and worked across the back to my left arm. Horizakura’s apprentice also chipped in on some of the linework on that left shoulder which is always cool. I like being a part of their learning experience. It feels like I’m helping! By the end of it all, he had reached my neckline and my backpiece’s outline was officially finished. Based on some of the sketching he did prior to the appointment, I think the next appointment will be on my chest. Hopefully that will be in two weeks, but we’ll see how it goes.