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.
I have an appointment on the books for tomorrow June 19, but due to a chaotic couple of weeks, I did not have time to update from my last appointment. This appointment was pretty chill, only 1.5 hours. It’s a little hard to tell what’s new vs. newish vs. oldish, but it’s there.
You may notice that left kneecap looking pretty roasted. That is due to driving my Jeep with no doors…. I didn’t even realize it until a few days ago when I looked at my knees side-by-side in a mirror. Whoops. Now I apply sunblock before driving, although I really do need to get on a better SPF skin care regimen.
I had an extremely busy few weeks, but we’re finally back at it. Nothing much of note here, Horizakura spent 2 hours working from my ankle to just under my knee. It’s funny that even after 45 appointments I’m still surprised how much the background changes the way the outline looks. All those lines just look like chaos until it starts getting filled in and really becomes something. The change is almost as drastic as the change from bare skin to outline is!
Also, the tripod plate for my camera was left at work, so human tripod credit goes to my loving wife Christine. My sincerest thanks for interrupting your morning routine to help out! (She demanded credit.)
I returned from a couple weeks of work travel to a very lovely surprise! My copy of “The World of Japanese Tattooing” by Iizawa Tadasu was waiting at the office! It took me a few months to get a copy of this book. I suspect it would have been much easier if I was able to search for it in Japanese, but the only online option I could find was Donlon Books in London. It cost more than I would have liked after the conversion to dollars and shipping/insurance, but I have it now and that makes me quite happy! The book is a treasure trove of classic Japanese style.
Published by Haga Shoten in 1973, the book is composed of a large number of Japanese tattoos by such masters as Horiyoshi II, Horigoro III, Horikin and more. It also includes an array of ukiyo-e prints and Japanese text that is (sadly) totally lost on me. There is a brief introduction in English that gives some very interesting insight into how Japanese tattoo and its history was viewed during the time of publication. It approaches the comparison between Japanese and Western tattoos with a pretty heavy bias, but it is a bias that no doubt existed in the late 1800s/early 1900s when cross cultural exchange of tattoo was beginning to ramp up. Having gotten the book so recently, I haven’t had time to look through all of it with very much attention to detail, but I am very excited to do so.
All in all, that special mix of consumerism and the desire to collect has made it worth the price of admission. I am quite proud to have added this book to my collection. Below are a couple pictures I took:
I haven’t had any appointments lately since Horizakura has been traveling. However, I did have the opportunity to go to Rome for work last week. During that trip, I happened upon a very non-Italian art exhibit. While I doubtlessly should have been trying to get into museums to see the works of Bernini, I saw a subway advertisement that informed me of a Hiroshige exhibit nearby. Despite the fact that the collection is typically housed in Boston (a mere 4 hours from my home), I wasn’t sure when I would next have the opportunity to see it. It’s a great exhibit with an extensive collection of his works. They allow photographs, so I thought I would share a few of Hiroshige’s prints that most directly relate to Japanese tattoo in their subject matter. It’s well known that Japanese tattoo has its roots in Ukiyo-e prints, but seeing some of that influence first hand was a treat. I have also included a humorous print that depicts a battle between Sake and Rice as well as a poem that specifically relates to the content of my tattoo. Check it out!
During my 44th appointment, the door buzzer went off. As Monji went to answer the door, Horizakura casually mentioned that he had a friend and Horitoshi family member from Belgium visiting. The door opens and in walks none other than Shad “Horitsukikage”! I have known about Shad for a long, long time through my research on the Horitoshi family and figuring out the who/what/where/when of my tattoo. It was pretty awesome to meet and chat with him and Horizakura during my appointment. In my early twenties I would spend hours admiring the work of tattoo artists from all over the world. At that time in my life, I didn’t dare dream I would be where I am now. As a result, it never occurred to me that I might have the opportunity to meet some of these artists I respect so much. I’m going to cut myself off here for fear of embarrassing myself more than I have. Suffice it to say it was a damn good appointment with some damn good conversation and damn good tattooing. Damn good.
I almost forgot, this will be my last update for about a month as work/travel gets in the way of tattoo appointments. In light of that, the pictures below show my whole leg sleeve (pant?) as it currently is. They also show a very boring, mostly untattooed leg.
Well hot damn! Appointment 43 is in the bag and Horizakura connected the leg shading to my already shaded thigh. Feels great to have it beginning to form one piece! The back of the knee was not as bad as I thought it was going to be. I think the line work hurt worse. It is worth mentioning, Horizakura was quite merciful in his approach and would shade an area behind my knee, then move on to a different part of my leg to give me a break before returning to the back of the knee. I suppose maybe some people would rather just get it over with, but I found that procedure very tolerable. The man knows his craft.
The only other worthwhile note here is that he used those waterproof bandages again at my request. I was a little ahead of the curve this time though. I buzzed all the hair off my tattooed leg so it wouldn’t hurt like a bastard when I pulled the bandages off. Worked like a charm!
I lied. One more note. I didn’t move. I’m traveling for work, so these photos come to you from the bathroom of a Holiday Inn in beautiful San Antonio, Texas.
Below are pictures from my 42nd appointment with Horizakura. As mentioned in my last post, he began shading my left leg. It’s so nice to have the peace and quiet of tebori back in my life. I know lots of people who have a fondness for the noise of a tattoo machine, but after experiencing both, for my money I love the gentle plucking of tebori. These pictures were taken a week after my appointment, as opposed to my customary following-day photos, because we are trying a different aftercare approach. As a result, you will see a bit of dryness in the new work and it may be a little difficult to tell what is new and what was previously shaded during appointment 37. This appointment also marks the first true “edge” of my tattoo. Since nothing on my back is connected and my other leg and current arm will be extended, the end that was shaded here represents the final line of this body suit. It’s an odd milestone to consider, but it’s a milestone nonetheless. I love a good milestone.
It’s a little hard to know how much of an improvement the new aftercare is. Generally, areas of tighter skin seem to scab less than looser areas (my jiggly thighs and fat ass, for instance), but all in all this seems to be healing more smoothly. Instead of wrapping the tattoo for the night and then unwrapping and washing the next day, Horizakura used these large waterproof bandages. I’m not really sure how to describe them, but I’ve included a picture below of what my leg looked like with them on. Anyway, I was advised to keep them on for 3 nights, then remove and clean up as usual. It feels like an improvement, but things can vary so much in the healing process, maybe it’s all in my head. That being said, you should absolutely follow the aftercare advice of your artist. Unless they are recommending rubbing dirt on it, they know best.