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.
My 87th appointment with Horizakura was 1.5 hours of tebori from the top of my thigh and across my pubic region. I really can’t begin to explain how little I enjoy typing “pubic region” but I don’t really know what else to say. It is what it is. This was a nice appointment, nothing too far out. Just some nice music and light chat. I was glad to be back as there have been a variety of circumstances that have kept us from maintaining our usual two week schedule. I’ve already cancelled my next appointment since my wife and I are going on a (very necessary) vacation. We’re averaging about 1 appointment per month in the new year which is definitely a bummer, but hopefully we will pick up steam as we move into spring. It has gotten to the point that I don’t really feel like myself when I’m not getting tattooed or healing a fresh tattoo. It makes me feel disconnected in a way that’s a little difficult to articulate.
I’m writing this post a little bit later than I usually do, so I can include a quick note about healing. Where my leg/crotch crease in a seated position has been rough this time. I didn’t have any issues healing this area on my left side, but this has been the most troublesome spot to heal in recent memory. I have dry healed just about every inch of this tattoo, but this spot got a little bit of ointment to try to aid in the healing. We’ll see how it goes.
Looking forward, we have maybe two or three sessions of shading left before it will be time for more outline. This excites me.
After a cancellation because of inclement weather, Horizakura and I were finally able to meet for our 86th appointment. Without any further preamble, I am delighted to say that he has finished shading the background on the deepest edge of my butt cheek/inner thigh. Regular readers will recall that this particular area is among the worst to experience, not because of the pain, but because of the undignified position required for the artist to access that area. For 30-45 minutes, I held my leg in the air while he tattooed this final bit of skin. Even though we have reached a very real comfort level with each other, there is no world where this position is comfortable, and I am delighted to be done with it. The remainder of the appointment was spent tattooing over my left hip area.
Prior to starting this appointment, we picked up the discussion of putting Fudo on my left arm. I have really warmed up to the idea overall, but I really wanted him to show me how the size and shape would fit on my arm. He took a minute before the appointment to sketch it out on my arm, and even in that rough outline, I could see the power of what he was going for. When I set out on this journey, a foreign deity was not on my list of subjects for this tattoo. While I always have and always will believe that these tattoos are given freely to everyone regardless of race or religion, I have to admit I felt a certain reservation about having a tattoo of a deity I had no connection to. Over the past month, I considered Horizakura’s explanation of why Fudo would be the right choice for my left arm. He said my tattoo is very spiritual and it needs something to unify it. I am not a particularly spiritual person in the sense of ritual, but I am fairly spiritual in the way I feel people interact with each other and the world around them. I also think that you can learn a little something from everyone, regardless of where you’ve come from. Even still, I wrestled with the idea of this tattoo going in this direction until I realized a certain aspect of the process that I had been glossing over. The true reason that I have been going through this process isn’t because I need to have a collection of personal medallions tattooed on me as talismans for my hopes or fears. I have been doing all of this because of my love for Japanese tattoo as a whole. Odd as it may seem, this isn’t about trying to lay bear my innermost being so the world can see. It’s about having and being tattooed and engaging with the mystery and energy that experience lends. Living the rest of my days with a tattoo from Shinji is really all that I have ever wanted. This is my path to engage with the culture of Japanese tattoo and I am not afraid to adjust my understanding of what that path actually entails versus my expectations for it.
My 85th appointment with Horizakura was two hours of tebori shading around the jewel on the inside of my left leg. For this area, I once again had to assume my least favorite position: on my back, legs spread, with one leg held straight up. After about 15 minutes or so, he moved to an area that required my leg to be up and out to the side more. Here, he used one of the support stands he has in the shop and raised it all the way up so my leg could rest on it. That was a major game changer for me. Not having to focus on both managing the pain and keeping my leg up was helpful and relaxing. Generally, this area isn’t too terrible for me, except for where he gets really close to my crotch. That part felt very sharp. Other than that, mostly a dull pain throughout the night.
At the end of the appointment, Horizakura mentioned that he is thinking about something different than a dragon for my left arm. He thought maybe Fudo-myoo would be good. I like Fudo, but my concern is that my arm just isn’t big enough to accommodate the design. I also didn’t really want any deities in my tattoo when we first got started. As I’ve continued down this road though, I’ve definitely become more open minded to having something other than animals in the suit. I want to take some time to think it over though. Ultimately, I really want this tattoo to be something Horizakura is proud of. I want it to be his design. I just haven’t really digested the idea yet. We’ll see what happens!
I was originally going to write up a wrap up post for the end of 2020, but I didn’t. I don’t really have a good excuse. It just didn’t happen. Instead, I’ll combine it with this post which will also detail my 84th appointment with Horizakura.
2020 was better for me than it was for most people, so I am always hesitant to complain. I had my fair share of heartbreak, I certainly wouldn’t call it a good year, but I came out the other side better than some. NYC was locked down for a few months, so in total we logged about 21.5 hours of tattooing over 14 appointments. These are my lowest tattoo numbers to date, but some of the work has been really exciting which compensates nicely. Moving onto my torso was huge for me. There’s really only a small portion of my suit that isn’t outlined at this point.
Here are front and pack photos of how I look after my last appointment of 2020. You would think that by now I would have been smart enough to be regularly taking full body shots so we could see the progress in a more “macro” sense, but I’ve never claimed to be very smart, so here we are. You get two pictures.
Sorry the legs are a little dark here. I wasn’t evenly lit. Here’s a leg shot since you won’t stop complaining.
Moving on. My 84th appointment was more tebori on my left thigh. The wave that was only half finished was completed and a good chunk of background around the koi was shaded as well. We’re running out of leg here… in fact, we’re running out of background to shade. There is a small strip on my right thigh/hip, the rest of the left thigh, and the area over my pubic bone. After that it might be time for more outlining! I say that with an exclamation because new outlines are exciting, but the process is terrible. Tebori is infinitely better.
My 83rd appointment with Horizakura started off pretty similarly to my 82nd appointment. To his credit, he tried to get me into several different positions to best access the area that needed to be tattooed, but none of them were giving him the space he needed to work. He determined that my least favorite position would be the best solution. Thus I found myself once again laying on my back, holding my left leg over my head. It didn’t last too long, but any amount of time in that position is enough for you to be happy when it’s over. Afterwards, I was in a bit more of a neutral position with my left leg kicked out to one side so he could continue to shade my inner left thigh. My right foot was flat on the table with my knee bent. Quite comfortable. Until the cramping began.
I have a tendency to cramp when I sit motionless for long periods of time. This pretty much only happens when I get tattooed, but my diet/water intake doesn’t seem to ever change it. When I’m getting tattooed, I do my damnedest to not move at all unless I’m asked to. During this particular appointment, somehow, my knee cramped up. I did not know that this was possible, but sure enough, after about an hour of lying there with a bent knee, I could feel a cramp develop under my kneecap. It felt really, really weird. I try to never interrupt the appointment because I consider my time there to be precious, so I just kinda bit the bullet and willed the cramps away. Really, there is probably no need for me to endure that, but when you don’t have anything else to do during a tattoo appointment, any diversion can be a fun one.
Not much else to say here. My next appointment is in two weeks and I’m sure it will be more sweet tebori action. I am perpetually fired up!
Tattoo update will be coming shortly, but in the meantime, I wanted to post this video here. This is a really, really good short by Vice News that documents a tattoo pilgrimage in Japan. Prior to watching this video, I had never heard of the Choyukai or the Oyama Afuri Shrine. I find the whole thing really incredible and this video does a great job of conveying the atmosphere and spirit of horimono. I hope you enjoy it! This is going to make me sound like a Youtuber, but comment on this post with your thoughts, I’d love to chat with some folks about it.
Here I have some photos from my 82nd appointment with Horizakura. I’m actually writing/posting this a week after the appointment, Thanksgiving and a very busy work schedule got in the way. This appointment was more shading on the inside of my legs. When we were first getting ready to begin, Horizakura looked over the outlines and noticed that the only remaining unshaded background on my right leg was a small spot very high into my crotch, where my butt cheek meets my thigh. I don’t remember his exact wording, but he basically said something like, “There’s a small spot there…” As if he was asking me if I wanted to work on that spot today. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but I later realized the implication was that since it would only take a short while to finish off that spot, he would be tattooing both my legs during the same appointment. My response at the time was, “Do whatever you think is best.” He did. The net result was me hobbling around like I had shit my pants for about two days while both my legs were healing. Whoops.
Anyway! Not much more of note from this appointment. In order to access the small spot, I once again had to lay on my back and hold my leg up in the air. Super cool tattoo guy pose! It’s pretty exhausting holding your leg over your head for like 45 minutes. The only good to come from that was once he finished with that area and moved over to my left leg, it was so relaxing that I dozed off for a bit. Of course, that’s after the initial shock of crossing over to the other side of my body went away. I’ve mentioned this elsewhere on this blog, but whatever natural pain management systems your body has, it doesn’t work moving across the center line of the body. It’s basically like starting the appointment from the beginning again. Inner thigh is a pretty easy area to get tebori though (for me), so no real drama there. Afterwards we grabbed a couple beers like usual. It’s getting cold in NY though, so I’m not sure how much longer we’ll be able to keep that up!
I have another appointment coming up next week, but before that, I’m hoping to get up a post or two about some of the books I’ve received in the past few weeks.
My eighty-first appointment took place on the tenth day of the eleventh month of Year of Our Cthulhu 2020. It has taken me many days to make this post because… well frankly I’ve just been kinda busy. Also, the content wasn’t particularly exciting. Unless deep crotch tattoos are your jam. If so, have I got some exciting news for you! Horizakura continued to shade the inner thigh of my right leg. Accessing this area once again required the sort of undignified positions that are seldom considered when beginning a large tattoo like this. That said, I really feel like somewhere in the past year or so, my relationship with Horizakura has moved to a different comfort level. I can’t really explain why it took this long or even if perhaps it was like this all along and I’m only just becoming aware of it. But I have to say that I find myself looking forward to our tradition of getting beers after the appointment as much as the appointment itself.
Anyway. We’re nearly done with the background of this leg. I imagine all that’s left is about an hour or so. I’m not sure if he will want to continue up to the right hip or start on the left leg. Time will tell.
Peer deep into the crevasse. Pray it does not peer back.
Session 80 with Horizakura brought more shading of the water and waves of my right leg. Not a bad appointment at all. We chatted a bit about seasonal tattoos like sakura fubuki, momiji chirashi, and kikusui. Mostly, I’m putting that here so I have a place to reference it if I forget later. I got nothin’ else! These pics will have to do:
My 79th appointment with Horizakura marked a return to shading all the outline that has been added since we were able to start up again in July. My dream of finishing the outline of the tattoo was left to die on the vine as Horizakura still wants to consider the elements of my left arm and ribs/chest. My instinct is to charge forward and his is to slow down and hold back. That’s pretty much how it has always gone with us, and it’s worked out pretty well so far. Who am I to get in the way of the process?!
ANYWAY. All that preamble was just to say that for the next 8-10 appointments (I’m totally guessing here), this will be the All Tebori, All the Time Blog. No particular notes here. He spent an hour and a half shading the background of my right inner thigh. Not a bad area to be tattooed in my opinion. It’s nice to be back to the quiet sounds of tebori. I know for a lot of people the sound of a tattoo machine fills them with excitement, but having experienced a fair amount of both, I have to say the peace and quiet of tebori is far superior.