We Return to Outlining

My 111th appointment with Horizakura was about 1.5 hours of outlining on my inner bicep and chest. Not a whole lot to say here, the pictures speak for themselves. I think the chest is probably one of the worst areas for me… especially as he get close to the nipple. There was a moment when he was tattooing my pec where I actually started to laugh because I couldn’t believe just how much it hurt. Certainly not unbearable, but boy oh boy am I not looking forward to our next appointment.

Speaking of my next appointment, the thought is perhaps another bonji and some cherry blossoms will finish the outline of my torso. I can’t believe how close we are to being done with the outline. Maybe only a few appointments left. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to finish the outline of my right forearm until I have a very, very minor surgery to remove a cyst. I could leave it but it annoys the piss out of me and I don’t want to get tattooed there and THEN decide it has to go. I really wish I could just find somebody in a back alley somewhere that will stab the damn thing and be done with it. I tried to convince the dermatologist to do it and she wouldn’t go for it. Hopefully I can get it taken care of soon so we can actually finish off the outline of the whole suit.

The only other item of note before it’s on to the pictures is that Horizakura shaved about 45% of my chest while he was planning out what and where he would tattoo me during this appointment. After I cleaned up this morning, I took a look in the mirror and realized I looked totally ridiculous with a half-shaved chest. As any reasonable person might do, I decided to go scorched earth on my whole torso. As I finish typing that, I wonder if this is actually even an item of note. Do I actually think anybody cares about the landscape of my chest hair? Would anybody have even noticed if I hadn’t said anything? You will never get back the time you just wasted reading this paragraph. For that, I apologize.

To the photos!

I dun goofed.

I don’t know how or why this happened, but I forgot to update this blog after my second to last appointment. Things have been a little busy at work, but that’s rarely gotten in the way in the past. Even then, when I forget to post I usually have at least taken photos. After my 109th appointment, the only photo I took was a quick selfie while I was in my office. I’m not in the habit of posting photos like that here, but it’s all we have to mark that session’s progress. On the rare occasion that this has happened in the past, I’ve also gotten lucky and Horizakura worked on a different part of the tattoo so I was easily able to capture update photos of both areas after the fact. That was not the case here as both appointments were working on the left side of my torso. Fortunately, this isn’t really all that complicated and you should be able to tell from what photos we do have what was done during each appointment. It’s certainly not a big enough deal for me to have written as much as I already have about it… yet here we are.

Appointments 109 and 110 were each two hours long which, after some very complicated math, totals 4 hours of tebori on my left side. Horizakura shaded portions of the armpit, ribs, hip, and even a couple bars on my stomach that were unfinished. The Sunday appointments have been a real bummer for my football watching, but in virtually every other aspect they are a huge win. This is something like 4 – 5 appointments in a row now, while still maintaining a fairly busy work schedule (including gigs on Tuesday that definitely would have resulted in a cancellation or two). I’ve also found that moving my appointments to noon, which is generally when my energy levels peak, has made the tattooing easier to endure as well. The ribs are generally known to be one of the tougher areas to have tattooed, but I have to say that I haven’t found them to be much of a struggle during these short, midday sessions. This reinforces what many people will tell you: how you treat your body before an appointment really does make a difference when getting tattooed.

A Chapter Ends

Let’s try not to get too excited here, but I was finally able to make two appointments in a row without a cancellation. I wish that wasn’t something worth celebrating, but with the way my schedule has been lately, it is. My 108th appointment with Horizakura was an hour of shading on my right ribs. Overall an endurable appointment and I felt good for the duration. I still had issues getting into the city in a timely fashion. I spent the bulk of my blind-rage commute considering why this could be and I believe the answer is noobs. I’m so used to driving in the city during business hours when the bulk of the traffic is other people who are used to working and driving in the New York City. On a Sunday, the roads are filled-to-bursting with morons who have no idea what they’re doing or where they’re going. They don’t follow any of the unwritten rules of highly aggressive New York City traffic and the result is a slow, grinding chaos. I spent so much time driving in and out of the city under those conditions on Sunday that I feel like I could probably write a dissertation on it. This platform isn’t the place for that, but you can tell that I’m having a difficult time stopping myself.

Though my tattoo appointment may have been bookended with significant (suppressed) road rage, the appointment itself was a little bit sad. Upon entering the studio, I found that Horizakura had cleared out most of the art, photos, books, and furniture in the space as he has begun to move his studio to a new location. I’m sure many of you know how private he is which is why I haven’t really mentioned anything about it here, but at this point it’s so integral to my experience that this blog would be incomplete and inaccurate if I didn’t mention it. He has been planning to move for a few months now and I knew we were getting close, but walking into the studio and seeing it that way made it very real to me. I didn’t expect to feel the way I did about him moving, but up to now, my entire experience has been in that space. I’m not the type of person to shy away from change, in fact one of the things I love so much about getting tattooed regularly is that my body is constantly changing, but the realization that this would be my last appointment on the Lower East Side filled me with nostalgia for it all. Thinking of the restaurants that have come and gone, the route I used to take, my incredibly lucky streak of awesome parking spots right in front of the studio, and every moment of non-tattoo time spent inside that quiet, cozy room makes the excitement of change bitter sweet. Nonetheless, as this chapter comes to a close I find myself eager for my next appointment in the new studio and to begin a new chapter in my tattoo experience with Horizakura.

New haircut not pictured.

Sunday Traffic

I’m still getting used to having tattoo appointments on Sundays. This was only my second time having a Sunday appointment. Unfortunately, I had to cancel my previous appointment because my wife, son, and I all got Covid. Everybody is in good health now though, and I’m am thrilled to be back at it. Getting used to commuting into the city on a Sunday is a little tricky though. The commute from my office was always pretty fast so getting to the studio from home needs a little more flexibility for traffic. I ended up being a few minutes late for my 107th appointment with Horizakura. Fortunately, tebori was on the docket for this appointment so we didn’t lose out on any drawing time like we would if this was an outline session. For a little less than two hours, Horizakura shaded swirling wind on my left side. Overall, this session was pretty easy for me and (being well fed and well rested) I sat way better than I did for my last appointment. It was a really nice session, especially the couple times the record Shinji was playing ended and there was just some light street noise and the shakki of tebori. It was very peaceful.

I’m not sure that I have anything else to say here… We discussed Horizakura’s plan to move his studio and some of the details that are involved with that process. He also gifted me two really nice prints from a couple of tattoo artists, though I will not be posting them here as I prefer to keep them private. At least for now.

I still need a haircut.

Included this picture of me stretching my arm up just because I thought it was interesting how the tattoo moves and changes shape as I stretch.

Sunday Bloody Sunday

It has been two months since I’ve had a tattoo appointment, which is just way too long. Mostly work has been getting in the way a lot, but Horizakura also had a personal matter to attend to that resulted in a cancellation. Scheduling my normal Tuesday tattoo appointments around work has always been a bit of a challenge because I don’t always work a standard 9-5 day. I have always thought that I might be able to be more consistent with my appointments if I got tattooed on a weekend day since I have to work weekends less frequently. Imagine my joy when I learned from a fellow Horizakura client that he would be wrapping up his bodysuit and his typical appointment on Sunday afternoons might be opening up! I had casually broached the subject with Horizakura shortly after the art exhibition opened and he seemed receptive to the idea. A couple months later and it finally got scheduled. This was my first Sunday tattoo appointment. Tattoo Tuesdays are no more. <Moment of silence>

Not having to rush into the city after work was really nice, even though I hit way more traffic on a Sunday than I expected. I had worked a 15ish hour day on Saturday and didn’t get much sleep, so I was a little beat up going into this appointment. I sat like shit. The pain of this appointment (two hours of tebori) was not bad, I just couldn’t seem to get comfortable and relax into it like I normally would. Hopefully that won’t be a recurring issue going forward though. As far as the actual subject of the day, Horizakura shaded some swirling wind bars on my left shoulder and neckline. I think I’ve said this before, but I really do enjoy seeing how the background shading (especially at an end point like the neck or ankle) frames out the tattoo. It feels like it allows me to see the structure of the whole suit and it gets me excited for where we are going.

I am really hopeful that the Sunday appointments will work out better for everyone. I am especially sad that I will not be seeing Monji as frequently (he isn’t in on Sundays), but it’s a sacrifice I have to make in the name of progress!

I need a haircut.

Cloudy With a Chance of Armpit

That’s a very stupid title for a blog post but it was the first thing that came to my mind so I’m just going to roll with it. I’m sure I’ll come up with something better when I’m in the shower and have regerts.

My 105th appointment with Horizakura was two hours of shading on my right shoulder/armpit/ribs. As always, it was super nice to zone out with some music and tebori. This was generally an easy appointment, just a little spicy on the ribs or in that spot closest to my armpit. Feeling really great about how Horizakura has connected my backpiece to my halfsleeve by Horishun. I was especially curious about the transition at the bottom of my hikae. There is a rock there that makes up the border and I was interested to see what Horizakura’s plan was for it. As you can see in the below pictures, he has started to add some rocks just under my armpit, so I think it’s safe to say he will carry those around my side and connect to the hikae that way. Should be pretty cool!

Nothing more of note from this appointment besides catching up on some of the fun that we had at the exhibit opening celebration. Great to be back at it, next appointment can’t come soon enough!

Double the Pleasure, Double the Fun

Things have been a little hectic between a busy work schedule and having a baby at home, so I kinda forgot to post an update after my 103rd appointment. Fortunately for us all, appointment 104 was on a different area of my body, so I was able to get a clean shot of the work done during 103. Overall I’m not sure there is much to say for either of these appointments. Of course, it’s always a pleasure to just be engaged in the process. Tebori is also always so much more pleasant to experience than machine tattooing. We’ve been bouncing back and forth between outline and shading a little bit more than usual over the last few months which has also been nice. I am eager to see the outline finished, but even as I consider that, the pictures of the shading remind me of how much this tattoo will change as the shading and color are complete. It’s all very exciting! Horizakura asked to cancel my next appointment because of a project he’s working on, so I will likely not have another update here for a few weeks. I have been thinking more and more about diving into some of these books I have. I think it would be useful to have some information about them here for the public to see. Perhaps I can squeeze one of those in before my next appointment.

Appointment 103 – 1 hour tebori on the clouds and bar just below the clouds

104 – 2 hours of tebori – You’ll notice that two of these photos are very similar. I wanted to illustrate how the tattoo (specifically the dragon’s head) and lighting changes by simply hunching my back a little. I think it’s important to keep body position in mind when you’re looking at photos of tattoos. Shapes and reflections can change pretty dramatically with even slight body movement and you shouldn’t necessarily be so quick to judge an artist’s rendering from a photo. Certainly things like the smoothness of shading or clean linework won’t be affected, but proportions and shape and light might be.


My 102nd appointment with Horizakura was an hour of outline over my shoulders/upperback. It’s funny to think about it, but we have finally finished the outline of my backpiece after starting it over six years ago. Long time readers may recall that after we finished shading in what had been outlined of the backpiece, Horizakura wanted to begin with my sleeves in order to properly join everything together at the shoulder. A conversation about full sleeves vs 7/10 sleeves eventually lead to the decision to start on my legs instead. The backpiece was put on hold and he started from the bottom and began to work his way up, which is what we have been doing ever since. Starting from the bottom like that has always made me feel a little bit like a glass or cup that is being “filled” as we go. Not a very big cup. I’m short. Less of a pint glass and more of a tumbler. Now my glass is almost full and it is very exciting.

You can see in the pictures below, he connected the backpiece to my halfsleeve by Horishun and worked across the back to my left arm. Horizakura’s apprentice also chipped in on some of the linework on that left shoulder which is always cool. I like being a part of their learning experience. It feels like I’m helping! By the end of it all, he had reached my neckline and my backpiece’s outline was officially finished. Based on some of the sketching he did prior to the appointment, I think the next appointment will be on my chest. Hopefully that will be in two weeks, but we’ll see how it goes.

The Wonderful 101

My 101st appointment with Horizakura was an hour-ish of outline on my right ribs. For those that don’t know, the style of my bodysuit would be called donburi soushinbori. The “donburi” (unprofessional translation: rice bowl) portion relates to the full front piece on my stomach and stands in contrast to the also very popular “munewari” or split-chest design. The soushinbori portion denotes the tattoo extending to my wrists and ankles. I think this information is important context for how these last two appointments have made me feel. I was very, very excited to finally start my stomach early in 2020, but because of the way it sits, it very much felt like a stand-alone piece. Now that Horizakura has begun to fill in my ribs, it feels like my rice bowl is filling up. I have a tangible sense that everything is getting tied together in a most exciting way. These last bits of outline are giving me the sensation that this whole tattoo is really coming together. Which is not to suggest that I had any doubt that it would, but when you move through a process so slowly, these portions of the tattoo feel like big sweeping changes. It feels like we’re moving at lightspeed lately!

You’ll see from the pictures that Horizakura added some wind/clouds and sakura to my ribs. A keen observer will notice a floating flower petal that looks a bit different than the rest. Almost like it was tattooed by somebody else. Because indeed it was tattooed by somebody else. During this appointment, Horizakura asked me if it would be alright if his apprentice Haru tattooed a single flower petal on me. If it wasn’t already obvious to you, my approach to this tattoo is not about having a “perfect” tattoo. This has always been about having MY tattoo. It is a tattoo that has always existed in spirit and is only being brought to the surface by those that tattoo me. Even the imperfections (though they are few and far between) exist as a reflection of who I am as an imperfect person. More than that, I went on at length in my previous post about how tattoo means so much to me but how my paths to engage it are limited (since I have no intention of ever being a tattooer). Horizakura’s question presented me with another path by which I might engage and support this craft, and that was by offering myself as practice to a young, aspiring horishi. How could I possible say no?! I am delighted to say that Haru tattooed a single flower petal on my ribs and I get to be counted among their earliest “clients.” It feels really great that even after 6 years and 101 appointments, there are still parts of this process that can come as a surprise to me. Two more weeks until the next adventure!

100 Appointments

On January 18th I had my 100th appointment with Horizakura. I am definitely susceptible to ascribing imaginary meaning to arbitrary milestones and I suppose this milestone could fall into that category for some folks. In tattoo terms, it’s not has monumental as something like finishing the outline of the bodysuit (which is growing close), but it also stands out to me as a monument to the patient perseverance that has been required of me during this process. I have to say that I am quite proud of myself. Certainly on the one hand I don’t have to “do” much more than lay there. On the other hand, pursuing a tebori bodysuit requires a good deal from the client, things that perhaps the more casual tattoo enthusiast may not really consider. I don’t mean to suggest that one method is superior to the other, tattoos are all about what you like. I just mean that perhaps a person that more casually collects tattoos wouldn’t consider what this process means in tattoo terms.

If you have no stomach for my exposition (who could blame you?), skip to the end for lots of photos. If you’re feeling a little brave, or just have nothing better to do, I would like to expand on my thoughts. Even now, I’m not sure which aspect of this process I would consider to be the most challenging. I suppose just like all things, it largely depends on the individual. Certainly a huge part of the difficulty of this process is financial. I will never discuss the costs associated with this process here, but in undefined terms I can say that the only way for this to be financially possible for me is to treat it like a bill I pay every month (a bill which I am delighted to pay). I feel very fortunate that I am in a position to be able to afford it, but make no mistake I work very hard to be in that position. I work hard not only at the job that pays me, but on the budget that I live by. Every dollar dedicated to this tattoo is a dollar taken away from some other part of my life and my family. Many, many times I have to look at the financial demands of homeownership, marriage, and life and weigh it against the luxury of getting tattooed. By any metric, tattoo is not a “wise” use of my money and I have been forced to put other aspirations on hold in order to accommodate it. I can’t say enough about the patience of my wife as we navigate those financial realities together.

Conveniently, that leads me to the next aspect that I find challenging, and that is having the patience to pursue this style of tattoo. Consider this: Aside from my half sleeve done by Horishun, no part of the tattoo that we have been working on for the last six years is actually finished. I am nearly totally covered in a partial tattoo. The outline isn’t done, the shading isn’t done, and there’s no color yet. It can be mentally exhausting to see other people get their sleeves done in a month when it took us about five and half years to even reach my wrist. Of course, it doesn’t actually matter what gets done when, but tattoo is a visual medium and the members of its community identify each other visually. It may be juvenile, but it can be frustrating to have 100 hours of tattoos that nobody can see. I see people with only their arms tattooed and in my heart I want to verbally express, “I’m just like you! I love this stuff too! We are from the same community of people!” because they (for the longest time) couldn’t see it on me outwardly. I am of course aware that the traditional Japanese mentality surrounding tattoos is that they are a private thing to be shared only with those close to you. This blog is called Gaijink for that reason. I love this artform, but I am not Japanese. I have longed for years to stand out as a member of the tattoo community that I for so long went about in in secret. Many of those feelings have begun to reach fulfillment when we began work on my left sleeve, but in a way starting the sleeve and feeling almost like I “came out” as tattooed amplified the way I previously felt even more so. It feels like people can finally see who I really am.

Related to the patience of being a part of the community is simply the patience of slow progress. This was much less difficult for me, but is still a challenge from time to time. Getting tattoos is exciting and even before the last appointment is healed, I’m eager to see what is next for us. The benefit of that excitement is that it helps to alleviate the two previous challenges I mentioned. This sting of finances and being anonymous is certainly numbed by the joy of the next appointment being just around the corner.

If you have made it this far, thank you. Thanks for reading my rambling thoughts or for offering the occasional kind word on this blog, Reddit, or Instagram. I’m sure it’s obvious by now, but I fucking love tattoos and the ability to share my experience with others has given me another avenue by which I can engage tattooing outside of getting tattooed. I never aspired to be a tattooer myself, so this process and this community is the sole means by which I can engage this thing I love so much.

Finally, I have to thank Horizakura. The confluence of circumstances that brought us together shine bright as some of the greatest moments of my life. Though there are many, many fantastic horishi all over the world that could have given me a beautiful bodysuit, I’m not sure that any of them would have been as good a fit as Horizakura is for me. It is tempting to dive deeper into this thought, but I think that I have said enough here for one post and will leave my thoughts on our relationship for another post entirely.

Now at last we come to the reason you all showed up to begin with. My 100th appointment with Horizakura was spent outlining my left ribs for about 1.5 hours. People love to talk about how brutal it is to have your ribs tattooed, and while it certainly was not pleasant for me, it was not the worst I’ve experienced. Especially of note is that Horizakura’s apprentice Haru drew the cherry blossoms that he tattooed on me during this appointment. In light of the milestone of this appointment, I have included some extra photos to show my bodysuit as it is today. Thanks again for joining me on this path.