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.  One last note, this site may be considered Not Safe for Work.  You may not want to browse in places where the naked male form is considered offensive.  I’m serious.  You’ll see my butt.

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.

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Not a Real Book Review: “The Japanese Tattoo” by Sandi Fellman

(First, it’s worth pointing out that I have almost zero credibility when it comes to reviewing books.  My qualifications start and stop with me being a literate, native English speaker who has read books in the past.)

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Lately, I have taken an interest in trying to find photos/books of older tattoos.  The impetus for this was Horizakura showing me his copy of “The World of Japanese Tattooing” by Iizawa Tadasu (published in the early 1970’s).  I only flipped through a couple of pages, but there were some very striking pieces in that book.  Tattoos that showed their age, not in the fading of ink or sagging skin, but in design and layout and execution.  I’m not at all a scholar on the topic, but what few 50+ year old tattoos I have been able to find have some very interesting differences from what we see today.  While it is really easy to follow the trends of the modern Japanese tattoo and to see how different artists approach their subject matter, it is fairly difficult to find actual pictures of the works of past masters.  So I started poking around the internet looking for older books on the topic.

“The Japanese Tattoo” by Sandi Fellman was published in 1986.  As it is still in print, it is very easy to get a copy of this book, making it a great entry point for this new interest of mine.  Sandi’s description of the project and how it came to be is interesting.  It seems her primary first hand source was Owada Mitsuaki (Horikin), but there are photos of tattoos done by a couple other masters as well.  Her essay that comprises the bulk of the book’s text is only a few pages in length and vacillates between a historic retrospective and a philosophical examination of the Japanese tattoo.  I didn’t find it to be too overwrought and even found real pleasure in the expression of her ideas:

“I left Ohwada’s studio that day fascinated by the profound paradoxes inherent in the art.  Here was beauty created through brutal means.  Power bestowed at the price of submission.  Delicate elegance attained by way of violence.  And… the glorification of the flesh as a means to spirituality.”

The same cannot be said for the Intro written by D.M. Thomas.  In all honesty, I stopped reading after about 3 paragraphs because it was incomprehensible, up-its-own-asshole nonsense.  If you ever pick up the book, take a crack at the intro and let me know if I’m wrong.

The photos in the book are different than I expected, but still a treat to examine.  Whereas I expected photos of full body suits in their entirety, what we get instead are nearly life-sized close ups of specific parts of a variety of body suits.  The results are as if you were to put your face about a foot away from a body suit and inspect the work.  It isn’t great for understanding the whole concept of the tattoo, but it’s fantastic for seeing the subtle details in shading and linework.  Additionally, each photo is accompanied by a small blurb about what you are looking at.  I found this to be especially pleasing as many other books are content to just give you dozens of pictures with no context.

All in all, definitely a quality work and I’m glad I bought it.  I do wish that I had sprung for the hardcover, though, as shipping damaged the softcover copy I bought and the binding seems a little weak.  Not that I expect much more for $20.  If I do return this damaged copy, I will probably get the hardcover instead.

https://www.amazon.com/Japanese-Tattoo-Sandi-Fellman/dp/0896597989/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1516468829&sr=8-1&keywords=the+japanese+tattoo

A note for people who may be interested in cameras/photography:

The camera Sandi used for these photos is pretty unique.  It was (is?) a 5 foot by 3.5 foot Polaroid camera that produced 20″ x 24″ prints that self exposed in 60-70 seconds.  Literally a giant, 200 lbs Polaroid camera!

A Tender Tattoo and a Fickle Feline

It finally happened.  I’ve been waiting with bated breath for the day when we would finally tattoo the back of my knee.  That day was yesterday.  It was not fun, but I still think the ass is worse.  It was painful, but bearable.  Shading will probably be worse because it’s slower.  Horizakura worked on me for about an hour doing some inner thigh, inside of my knee and the back of the knee, as you can see below.  As always, I’m very pleased with the results.

When I got home, I was laying on the couch snuggling (wrestling) my cat when he leaped off my body and scratching me in the process.  You would never know I had just had the back of my knee tattooed as I grabbed my side and wailed and gnashed my teeth.  I guess what I’m saying is, if you’ve ever survived a cat scratch, you can survive having the back of your knee tattooed?

Bonus media:

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The blood-dimmed tide is loosed…

It’s a good day when you can work Yeats into a blog post title.  My final appointment of 2017 was a quick 1 hour shading session on my lower leg.  It was all light gray waves and as you can see from the pictures, it’s still quite bleedy.  Yes, I know bleedy isn’t a word.  If you want a blog that only uses “real” words, you can go elsewhere!  Happy New Year!

The Bee’s Knee

It was only a matter of time until I had to learn what it’s like to have my knees tattooed.  That is precisely what happened last night and it was just absolutely no fun at all.  Everybody deals with pain in different ways and everybody experiences it differently, so I don’t consider my take on this to be a fact.  That said, I find when we get to an area that hurts more than usual, I find the best method for dealing with it is to accept the presence of the pain while forcing my mind to focus elsewhere.  It seems to help for me, if for no other reason than it keeps my mind occupied.  The tricky thing with the knee, however, was that every time my mind would start to wander, I would feel my reflex kick in or my leg would want to flinch.  It’s hard to flinch a butt cheek, so I hadn’t had this problem before.  My mental gymnastics were rendered useless and I had no choice but to focus on what was happening and try like hell to not let my leg wiggle.  It was a blast.

What’s better than that? Knowing I still have one more knee to go. And they both have to get shaded.  I have made good choices.

Ok, enough whining.  It hurt like hell at the time, but feels pretty good now and that’s what matters.  Horizakura added some cheery blossoms and water/waves on my knee.  I love how kinetic it looks, especially when I bend my leg.  As always, I’m really happy with the results!  He worked really hard to get the waves on the inside of my knee positioned so that it would look good with my knee bent and straight.  Gotta love that attention to detail!  Two notes before photos: 1) I’m so swollen it looks like I have no knee cap. It’s under there somewhere.  Is there a such thing as cankles for knees?  Thiees? 2) I took a side photo but the door was in focus, not my leg.  I am too ashamed to post it, but not so ashamed that I wouldn’t tell you about it.  It mostly just showed where this appointment stopped and the empty space on the back of my leg.

I’m sorry this post was so long.  Photos!

Real Cool Tunes

Last night, Horizakura opted do a little shading on my leg.  Since the last four appointments were all outline, it was nice to get back into shading.  It’s so much more peaceful without the noise of the machine.  This was complimented by Horizakura’s music selection for that evening.  Normally we listen to different kinds of jazz (I don’t know much about jazz, so I’m not going to try to be specific), but last night he was playing this experimental improvisation by a guy named Marc Ribot.  I found a link to the exact video on YouTube.  I don’t really know how else to describe it, but it was really, really cool to get tattooed and listen to this:

Below are pictures from this morning. For some reason, my leg looks like it has already begun to heal.  Normally it doesn’t look like this until later in the evening or the next day.  The only logical conclusion is that I have developed advanced healing powers a la Wolverine.  Behold!

White Hairy Man-Thigh

I have joked for a while that the whole reason I’m doing this is to cover up my white hairy man-thighs.  Maybe I’m only half joking.  Horizakura took the first step towards making that tanline-less dream a reality by tattooing a koi on in the inside of my left thigh.  Definitely not the most pleasant area to be tattooed, but overall it wasn’t too bad.  Pictures are below.  I finally went ahead and just shaved my whole leg too.  Since Horizakura only shaves the area he plans to work on during a given appointment, I had about 5 different lengths of hair on my legs from bald to full grown.  This morning when I looked at my leg and it looked like my knee was wearing a yarmulke.  Not that I have anything against yarmulkes, but I’m not Jewish and they don’t belong on knee caps.

Looking ahead, the plan seems to be to outline my entire left leg and torso and then begin shading from the ankle up.  After that, we will move on to my right leg.  If that’s the plan, I should be starting my sleeves sometimes around 2027.    -_-

Patience is a virtue.

Reflexes

Photos from my last appointment are below.  This was only about 45-60 min of tattooing, but Horizakura spent quite a lot of time drawing on me and planning out the motion of the water.  By the time he had finished, there was marker all over my stomach and right leg and left thigh.  With this appointment, he finished the outline on my left calf, adding another lil fishy in a leaping motion. It’s cute! And manly and tough, of course.

Little anecdote from this appointment:  I have been living in mortal dread of what the back of my knee was going to feel like.  You can see the waves in the back are getting dangerously close, and each time he’s been in that area, it feels like he’s right on the back of my knee.  I find myself thinking, “Hey, that wasn’t so bad!” and then I see he’s still below it and realize the worst is yet to come.  A fun little ride that I DIDN’T expect was the sensation of being tattooed over where my reflex point is below my knee cap.  There has been some pretty unpleasant areas during this process, but the feeling of having a reflex stimulated but not being able to flail around was nearly torturous.  It was like being tickled but not being able to move.  Once again, you will notice that he isn’t even truly over my reflex point yet, so I have more of that to look forward to.  Tattoos are a helluva drug…

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