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.

Back to Tebori

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.

That’s all I got.

Stupid Brain

My 78th appointment with Horizakura was about an hour and a half long and consisted of connecting all the different areas of the legs and stomach to each other and to my backpiece. These pictures are a little bit of a treasure hunt in terms of figuring out where the fresh lines are, but you can definitely tell. Besides water/waves, a houju was added to my right rib area.

The only interesting tidbit from this appointment actually came from when he was tattooing over my pubic bone area. He had already finished tattooing up my right side and started working his way from right to left across the pubic area. I was braced for some serious pain, but it was fine. Then, something interesting happened. Imagine a line cuts my body in half vertically through my navel. As soon as he crossed that line from right to left, the pain intensified a lot. I had noticed at times before how crossing from one side of the body to the other hurts a lot, but I always thought it was kinda unscientific or all in my head. Well this was about as clear cut as it could be. Exact same area of the body, same time frame, right across. I guess my brain was sending all those pain hormones or coping mechanisms to the right side of my body, but it wasn’t doing anything for the left side. Eventually, it evened out too and the pain normalized, but that initial changeover was wild. Stupid brain.

Next appointment is in two weeks and it seems like we will be shading all the background that has been added this year. I had hoped we could just finish the rest of the outline since we’re so close to being done, but Horizakura still has some design stuff that he wants to think over for my torso/arms. I’m not really pushy by nature, it all has to get done eventually anyway, but the real reason I’m happy to give in to his plan is because not pushing forward with the outline is how we came up with the idea for the Hokusai stomach piece. I’d rather give him the space to think it over, that’s worked out pretty well for me so far.

Houju for Your Thoughts?

My 77th appointment with Horizakura was very similar to the 76th appointment.  For this hour, he tattooed the same area as last time but on my left leg, adding a houju to my inner thigh and another to my left hip.  I really like them as little pops of color and I think it’s going to look great when everything is shaded and colored… in like 10 years.

 

I’M NOT CRYING!  YOU’RE CRYING!!!!!

 

In terms of the experience itself, well it was also very similar to last appointment, although I have to say the compromising nature of the position wasn’t as bad having already experienced it once before.  The only thing really worthy of note is that I had truly forgotten just how violently painful the ass is.  He put a line on that thigh/ass fold that was like white lightning and instantly reminded me why I hated getting my ass tattooed so much.  Fortunately, it was just the one line.

We briefly discussed next steps as well.  Seems like the plan is to finish outlining/connecting the thigh and background around the phoenix, then he want’s to switch over to shading again before he does my arm outlines.  Part of me wants to ask him to just finish the outline of everything first so I can be done with it.  It’s arbitrary, but it does feel like having the whole suit outlined will be an “item crossed off the list” in this process.  We’ll see what happens… it’s all got to get done eventually anyway, so I guess it doesn’t matter.

Excelsior!

Are You Nervous?

There have been parts of this tattoo process that I have to admit I had never really considered when I decided on this path.  One of the most grievously overlooked aspects was the physical requirements of tattooing some of the more “hard to reach” parts of the body.  Up until appointment 76, laying down with my leg in the air so Horizakura could tattoo where my thigh meets my butt cheek was the most compromising position I had faced.  Turns out it gets worse.

This is the first time lines have been tattooed on me that I can’t fully capture without becoming horrifyingly immodest. You’ll get the jist of it in the pictures below, but the edge of this tattoo on my inner thigh is literally where my leg ends.  During this appointment, I considered such questions as “Does having my leg tattooed this close to my twig and berries make me cooler or more committed than others?” and “Where does my leg end and my taint begin?”  I may never have the answers to those questions.  For educational purposes, I will tell you that the mechanics of giving Horizakura access to that area of my body involved me pulling my fundoshi wrapped junk out of his way while he sat on the table and I had my leg stretched out wide and resting on a stand.  It was, without a doubt, the least sexy I have ever felt.

Why is this post entitled, “Are you nervous?”  Horizakura put that imposing and foreboding question to me just as he was getting the machine ready to begin.  I put that high on the list of questions you don’t want to be asked while you’re laying in the position I was in.  I couldn’t help but laugh, but the truth is I wasn’t nervous.  It was certainly awkward, but no part of my leg has ever been as painful as the center of my chest or parts of the ass have been.  Speaking of which, he also did some more feathers and such around the phoenix.  I’m starting to think the chest is worse than the ass.  Every line felt like I had intense heart burn.

Appointments like these are the ones that make me glad I started this blog.  Many of you, and the whole of social media culture, likely just want to see a picture of the few lines done over this one hour appointment and move on.  But this one hour appointment has yielded more laughs and thoughts than some of my longer appointments ever have.  I’m glad that I will have a way to go back and remember what this part of the experience was fresh after it had happened to me.

It’s virtually impossible that I have kept your attention this long.  Just look at the pictures and be on your way:

 

I’m back, baby! (Again.)

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While thinking of a name for this entry, I looked back at the titles of my previous posts and discovered that I had used “I’m back, baby!” in Feb 2019.  The first line of that post reads: “Seven weeks between appointments is just too much.”  What a sweet, naive little bumpkin I was…

In case you’re some sort of eldritch horror that has just arisen from an eons long sleep, you are probably aware of the global pandemic that ground most of the earth to a halt (some places longer than others, wear a mask plz).  Here in the NY metro area, tattooing stopped from mid-March to the end of July.  That’s a whopping 19 weeks between appointments.  Needless to say, I’m happy to be back at it.

This post actually covers two appointments.  Session 74 was on July 21st, Session 75 was last night.  I didn’t write this post after the first appointment because of a variety of stupid technical reasons, but also partly because our first appointment was just kinda “getting back into the swing of things.”  Horizakura spent a quick hour shading a couple of clouds around the phoenix, then we went and got food and beers.

As you can see, not earth shattering stuff, but all progress is progress.  “All progress is progress” is almost as dumb as saying, “It is what it is.”

Last nights appointment was a little more exciting.  We are full steam ahead on getting the rest of this suit outlined, and as such we began the somewhat awkward process of outlining the background elements on my upper/inner thigh.  This blog has always been about keeping a record of this process for myself, but I’ve also realized that if anybody was interested in embarking on this sort of journey themselves, this could be a useful resource.  With that in mind, you’re going to have to get comfortable with your tattoo artist seeing your naked body.  It’s going to happen.  The fundoshi I wear during these appointments is a disobedient and unruly garment.  No matter how we tied it, moved it, tugged it, held it, my guys were flopping all over the place.  This area also required a lot of body positions that, candidly, did not make me feel like a real cool tattoo boy.  Made me feel more like an ungainly, thirsty, wannabe Instagram model.  It’s all part of the process and it doesn’t take long at all to be at peace with the awkwardness of it all.  Other than that, no part of this area was particularly unbearable and it was certainly exciting to be back into outlining this suit.

I have nothing else to say to you.  Look at these photos:

More Clouds and Feathers

I’m sorry I couldn’t come up with a more interesting title than that.  I sometimes wish I had just numbered these entries instead of laying awake at night trying to think of a title.  Not that you should care, this is my cross to bear.

Anyhoo.

For appointment 73, Horizakura continued to outline the phoenix on my chest.  He also added more clouds which are not present in the original painting.  In my previous entry, I suggested that this might be to add more layers and make the thing look more like a tattoo.  I was kinda right.  I asked Horizakura about that during this appointment and he said he is adding the clouds to break up some of the color in the painting.  Traditionally, Japanese tattoo is very judicious with its use of color (This is mostly due to what was available at the time, though I think their lack of pigment ended up contributing to a more specific aesthetic.  That’s a conversation for a different post.) and since the original painting is very colorful, Horizakura believed adding black/gray clouds and wind would help balance that out.

My wife and I are going on vacation, so I’ll be missing my last appointment in March.  Horizakura also has some travel plans, though he may have to cancel due to growing concerns of Covid19.  So I may or may not have an early April appointment.  Take a good look, you may not see me again for a while!

Shake Your Tailfeathers

This post covers an appointment from two weeks ago.  The weekend prior, my camera battery died and my charger was MIA.  It was finally found (left on a job site) so I decided I would post up these pictures in advance of my next appointment tonight.  As a result, you can see some of the lines are still healing.  My only major take-away from this appointment was how fond I am of the background elements he is adding to the piece.  If you look at Hokusai’s painting, there isn’t any wind or cloud elements separating the layers of the tail feathers (for example).  In my opinion, adding these background elements goes a long way in making the phoenix an incorporated element of the whole suit vs. a copy of a painting tattooed on me.  It’s subtle, but I believe it will pay off huge once we’re into shading and color.

Horizakura only did about an hour and change because we were going to meet a mutual friend who was in town.  My next appointment is tonight, so I imagine we will continue with the tail across my lower abdomen.

 

I also thought I would include a little note here about perspective when viewing pictures of tattoos.  Especially when we are evaluating tattoos online, it’s important to remember that you are looking at flat images of three dimensional surfaces.  A good example (and the reason I wanted to add this note) can be seen below.  If you look at the right wing from today’s post, it may appear to be overly thin in comparison to the left wing.  But if you look at this side view taken four weeks ago, you can see how the perspective changes the shape of the wing.  Not earth shattering information, but I figured it was worth pointing out.

“My Collaboration with Hokusai”

Back Story

I’ve been excited to write this post for a long time.  If you’ve been reading this blog for the last year or two, you may remember that Horizakura had a few different ideas for what would go on my stomach.  I was receptive to most of them, but nothing really seemed like the perfect fit.  He said it needed to be something big that would stand out.  It wasn’t until after an appointment in July of last year that we discovered the perfect idea.  As I alluded in that appointment’s blog post, I was telling Horizakura a story about my visit to Obuse and the Hokusai Museum there.  It’s a great little museum and one of the paintings on display there is a smaller version of a painting Hokusai did on the ceiling of a temple.  It is called “Ho-O Staring in Eight Directions” and depicts a phoenix and some leaves.  The painting is designed in such a way that no matter where you stand, it appears to be looking at you.  After looking over the painting, I moved on and didn’t really think much more of it for the rest of my time in the museum.

Ho-O Staring in Eight Directions painted on the ceiling of Ganshoin Temple by Hokusai

After I left the museum, I still had a whole day to kill by myself, so I did what I always do in Japan.  Looked for the nearest temple and took a walk over there.  When I entered, I walked over to the main prayer area where there were benches set up.  I took a seat and noticed another painting of the phoenix from the museum, propped up on a easel in the corner of the room.  Next to it was a sign that asked guests to not lay down on the benches or the ground.  I was a little hungover and, for a split second, I was mystified by this.  In all my temple visits throughout my three trips to Japan, there had never been a sign like this.  “Look up you idiot.”  I turned my eyes up and you guessed it.  I was sitting underneath “Ho-O Staring in Eight Directions.”  I had, by complete accident, wandered into Ganshoin Temple, where Hokusai painted the work in the 1840’s.  I was blown away, not only by the coincidence, but by the imposing nature of seeing the work in person.  It was a really amazing experience.  The cherry on top was that as I looked over the rest of the carvings and art in that room, I noticed the archway leading to the main altar was adorned in part with the same dragon turtle that is tattooed on my right leg.

I left Ganshoin amused that I had unknowingly created a great memory for myself.  After telling Horizakura about this experience, he suggested that we use that phoenix as the main subject of my stomach.  He said, “It will be my collaboration with Hokusai.”  I instantly knew we had made the right choice, and I have been waiting months to see it come to life.

Session 71

For this appointment, Horizakura tattooed the first part of the phoenix across my upper stomach.  Pain is different for everyone, and for me, this was just absolutely terrible.  Specifically, where the feathers begin to go over my sternum and follow the rib under my pec was just brutal.  It certainly didn’t help that I was pretty sick for two days prior to the tattoo, but if you took the time to read the back story above, you may have figured out there was no way I was going to cancel this appointment.  In terms of design, you may notice that he has made some changes to the original.  I assume this is to make it a little more tattoo friendly, but I’m not sure.  I’ll have to ask him.  That’s enough words for one post (indeed too many words, but I’m sure you skipped all of them to look at the pictures).

Leaving My Legs Behind Me

That title is stupid, but I don’t care.  With last nights appointment (number 70 for those keeping track at home), Horizakura has wrapped up shading on my legs for the foreseeable future.  In light of this completely arbitrary milestone, I thought I would take some extra photos to give us all a sense of where we are at now.

Looking ahead, the plan is to start my torso outline in two weeks.  My excitement outweighs my concern for the amount of pain staring at me from the horizon.  If starting my torso wasn’t enough, we also discussed the possibility of just outlining the rest of the body suit over the coming appointments.  In the past I think we have rotated between shading and outline so we (I say we, but it’s mostly him.  I just sit there and nod vigorously.) can figure out what content should be added to other parts of the suit.  Besides a couple details, I think we are mostly set for the rest of the content though.  It’s possible that 2020 will be all outline… but we’ll see.  Plans change all the time and getting a bodysuit is no exception.  This has been a very exciting way to begin the New Year, but for now I am back to my usual activity: Eagerly awaiting my next appointment.

My leg is different now!

Session70Watermark-4

And here is a more all-encompassing look at both of my legs:

Session70WatermarkSession70Watermark-2Session70Watermark-3Session70Watermark-4Session70Watermark-5Session70Watermark-6Session70Watermark-7Session70Watermark-8Session70Watermark-9Session70Watermark-11

Nice.

For my sixty-ninth appointment, Horizakura continued shading the background on my right leg.  I’m not sure how common this is with heavily tattooed people (this might sound crazy, but I don’t really consider myself heavily tattooed), but I’ve noticed that any tattooed area that I can’t see daily often becomes a bit of a mystery to me.  When he began working on the side of my leg just above my knee… well I could have sworn that area was already shaded.  It wasn’t.  Then he moved on to the back of my knee which I knew had some unshaded spots, but I really couldn’t remember how much.  It wasn’t until after the wrap came off and I was able to compare these pictures with pictures from previous weeks that I realized what he worked on.  Our next appointment isn’t until mid January and should be the last appointment on my leg before we move to my stomach.  Time will tell!

Since this is my last appointment of 2019, I thought I would also include some photos that show where the year started.

Boom.