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 an 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.
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).