Eternal Shame (ok maybe not eternal)

For my 121st appointment with Horizakura, something happened that has never happened before in all of the seven years that we have been meeting. I forgot to go to my appointment.

I have no idea how it happened. I remembered the appointment in the morning when I woke up to get my son out of bed. After that, we all had breakfast together and my wife needed to tend to a client for a couple hours in the morning so I was parenting at 100%. She returned from her work event and I started messing around with some yard work and before you know it, my commitment was gone from my mind. I realized 30 minutes after I should have been there and saw that I had two text messages from Horizakura checking in on me. I can’t believe it happened and I’m furious with myself for letting it happen. I build so much of my life around making sure to accommodate this tattoo, it has never slipped my mind like this and I can’t believe it happened.

I briefly considered not writing about it here at all but decided that I should for two reasons: The first reason is that this space has always been, first and foremost, a journal of my experience with this process. Omitting this would be disingenuous to the “history” of my tattoo. If I want to be able to look back on this record when my tattoos are all sagging and wrinkled to remember all that happened, this event should certainly be a part of it.

The second reason is that I think that my mistake opens up a path for me to discuss an aspect of the tattooer/client relationship that I haven’t discussed here (at least, not to my recollection). I have commonly heard from the few tattooers that I am close with that client reliability can be a real problem, especially when it comes to large scale tattoo work like horimono. They tell me about clients that don’t show up for appointments, constantly cancel appointments, complain about how long the process is taking or how much it’s costing, etc. I would like to take this opportunity to explain to you why what I did today was so fucked up, even though it was completely unintentional. When we as clients commit to an appointment with a tattooer, we are committing to a timeline of events that we only have a partial role in. Your tattoo artist needs to plan the session, supplies, their other clients, their personal lives, and their financial lives around your appointment. No-showing an appointment or cancelling last minute is disrespectful of their time and time is the most valuable thing in the universe. Absolutely nothing you can do or say will give a person back the time you have taken from them. If you want to be a good client, if you want to be the kind of client tattooers actually enjoy working with, be reliable and communicate with them. If you’re going to be late, let them know. If something comes up and you have to cancel, tell them as soon as you find out. Don’t wait until the day of your appointment. If you think something might force you to cancel and you won’t know how it’s gonna shake out until a certain time, let them know about that too. At the very least it will soften the blow if you do have to cancel last minute. Do not make excuses, just take responsibility and keep your appointments. Also, for the love of Cthulu: tattoos are expensive and tebori is slow! If you are reading this and thinking about your first tattoo, do some back-of-the-napkin math before you commit. Tattooer’s Hourly Rate x Estimated Time to Complete Tattoo = Your Total Monetary Commitment (not including tip where applicable). Know what you are getting yourself into. I know that all of this seems really rant-y and probably a little holier-than-thou, but I believe tattooing deserves respect. We show that respect by preserving its history, by supporting the people that carry it on their backs, and by doing our part as clients.

In an effort make this entry into something better than a Colossal Bummer of the Written Word, some good news: I received my Horitoshi book in the mail this week! I have to say, for a collector like me, it’s a fantastic piece. The quality is really top notch stuff. While it only encompasses a small portion of the master’s body of work (PUN!), the presentation is very artistic in that some of the tattoo images are paired with other beautiful architectural or natural photographs. It feels different than the other books I have purchased that have a more biographical or catalogic approach to them. I’ve included an example below. Overall, I’m very pleased to have it in my collection.

Wherein I Use a GIF to Express My Emotions

I thought I read somewhere that using gifs to express yourself is a Millennial thing, so I guess this post is going to date me. My 120th appointment with Horizakura was two hours of tebori on my left moob. The experience is best described as such:

No part of this session was particularly fun for me. It was either scraping on the ribs, lighting on the nip, or the feeling of heart burn in my chest. Sometimes, it was a glorious concert of all three! This was one of those appointments where I’m glad Horizakura only does two hour appointments. I would have at least needed a little break if it was going to continue.

Besides that, we chatted a bit about a new Horitoshi photo book that is out. It’s quite expensive and I decided that I wasn’t going to purchase it until I had a chance to talk to Horizakura about it. I found the link on Horitoshi’s facebook page, so I was pretty sure it was legit. Even so, doesn’t hurt to do a little due diligence when importing expensive books, especially when the webstore appears to also sell custom motorcycle parts. There are only 500 copies of the book available, but at the high price point, I’m not sure how quickly they will sell. This is the link is for people ordering from outside Japan.

Click here if you’re in Japan.

I had to cancel two appointments because of a work project and Mother’s Day so we were able to get this appointment on the calendar on an off-Sunday in order to keep the train rolling. I’m very glad for that! Next appointment isn’t until the end of the month at which point we will hopefully resume our usual schedule. Until then!

The Bravest Thing I’ve Ever Done

(Update: I took a moment to update my spreadsheet that keeps track of all my appointments (don’t make fun of me) and realized that this appointment took me over 200 hours of tattooing with Horizakura. If I had realized that sooner, I would have mentioned it in my initial post. 🎉🎊🥳 The original post is below.)

After a one month-ish hiatus Horizakura and I were able to meet up for our 119th appointment. It was certainly nice to be back and to see him and Haru again. After a little chit chat about their recent travels, we got into about 2 hours of tebori on the recently outlined areas of my chest. Nothing terrible to report in terms of the appointment itself. In fact, I’ve had quite a lot going on in my personal and professional life lately so it was really nice to just spend the two hours not thinking about that stuff.

I’m of course always happy to have a tebori session as I prefer that atmosphere to the machine, but anybody that read my last post might find it especially funny that I went out of my way to discuss our plans to outline my forearm during this appointment. Doubly so considering I also mentioned how I’ve stopped predicting what we would do on a given appointment because it often changes! I’m starting to wonder if Horizakura reads my blog and he’s just messing with me! What I said previously still stands, of course. It all has to get done eventually, I’m just happy to be making progress!

Not much else of note happened during the appointment, but there was a small event that lead me to the wonderfully click-baity title of this entry. When I got back to my car after our appointment, my car wouldn’t start. I’m fairly handy with cars but I called a mechanic friend to talk through some unusual symptoms first. Long story short, I got the car started after a couple of minutes (loose negative battery terminal) but I didn’t have the right tool in my toolbox to actually fix the problem. What kind of moron doesn’t have metric tools in his Japanese car? Me. I’m the kind. Anyway, as I was driving home, I just so happened to be passing an Advanced Auto Parts on Queens Blvd. There was parking right in front of the building, so I just pulled over quick figuring I could buy the tool I needed to tighten the terminal. However, I was a little nervous that if I turned off the car and I couldn’t fix it, it wouldn’t start again. So I left a running car unattended on Queens Blvd while I bought some metric wrenches. It was the bravest thing I have ever done.

That might also be the most hyperbolic sentence I have ever written.

Click bait!

Torso Outline ✔

Long time readers may recall how, over the years of working on this tattoo, our plans for the next appointment would frequently change. I had a habit of writing here what I expected would happen during the coming appointments and, more often than not, I was wrong. Tattooing exists at the crossroads of craftsmanship and art. As such I try to always remember that the tattooer might need to change the plan based on how they are feeling on a given day. This is especially true when you’re pursuing a large scale project as there is usually no shortage of areas to attack. Do you continue the outline? Add shading? Maybe decide to go back and add some color or tighten up and tune work from previous sessions? I have always taken the view that it all needs to get done eventually, so no matter what Horizakura decides to work on, it’s progress towards our goal.

You may have noticed that, despite a return to outlining on the last appointment, I made no predictions for appointment 118. Horizakura usually prefers to outline and shade in increments instead of outlining a lot and then going back. Even though we only had a very small amount of space left to outline on my torso at the end of the last appointment, I wasn’t certain that he would continue that outline on this appointment. Lo and behold, he did. My torso is now totally outlined and I’m beyond thrilled! Horizakura spent a little less than an hour outlining the remaining neckline and the area under the hikae by Horishun. Some of the area around the nipple and the area along my collarbone were predictably heinous, but other than that I didn’t experience anywhere near the amount of discomfort I felt during our last appointment. The spot where he added the two cherry blossoms was particularly easy… I could have sat there all day if he had more to do! It’s so peculiar to me how sometimes it only takes a 1/4″ to transition from falling asleep to a white-knuckled hellscape. Bodies are weird.

Horizakura will be doing some travelling in the coming weeks so we will be skipping our next couple appointments. We did discuss what is coming up next time we meet. The plan is to finish the outline completely, meaning we will be outlining my right forearm and connecting to my halfsleeve. I’m not entirely sure what the content will be. We had discusses a ryu-gyo at one point but I think it’s also possible we just keep it simple with rocks and water. No matter what he decides, I’m extremely excited for our next appointment!

Sorry there is only one picture. I realized the full-torso shot I took was totally out of focus so this is all you get for now.

No Jodan, No Life

On Sunday, during my 117th appointment with Horizakura, I saw a bright light and heard the beckon call of my ancestors calling me into the afterlife. At least, that’s how it seemed while he was outlining my chest for a little over an hour. The last time I had outline done on my chest was in 2007 when I started my half sleeve in Japan. It turns out the chest is particularly unpleasant for me and I think I died a little. Unpleasantness notwithstanding, I am incredibly happy with the results of this appointment. Not only in terms of coverage, but also in terms of Horizakura’s choice to keep things simple with a cherry blossom branch and wind. The understated chest will let the phoenix on my belly take center stage on my torso. There is now only a very small area on my chest that is left to be outlined! After that is done, all that remains of a fully outlined body suit is my right forearm! We are so very, very close!

I noticed a long time ago that when Japanese and Korean people say my first name (Jordan), they have a tendency to drop the “r” and say Jo-dan. I never thought much of it until an appointment about a year ago. Horizakura was drawing on my stomach and kinda mumbled “Jodanjanai” two or three times to himself. Haru started laughing and explained that jodan is the Japanese word for “joke.” Jodanjanai means “not a joke.” While I was certainly appreciative that Horizakura was invoking the contrary, it feels awfully fitting that my name would be synonymous with a joke. It fits nicely with my sometimes rye sense of humor. Anyway, with that context in place, during this appointment Horizakura hit me with the gem “No Jodan, No Life.” I live my life with an ego that is always on the precipice of being too large to tolerate. Now that I have been blessed with the kind of life affirming phrase usually reserved for bumper stickers and Live Strong bracelets, my wife may soon find me absolutely impossible to live with.

If ever you should find your life at a crossroads, just remember: No Jordan, No Life.

Marching Onward

Titling these blog posts is really difficult for the appointments that are “average.” I can either get really esoteric with the titles or be very scientific and just give them a number. The truth is that none of these appointments are ever average. Even if it’s a quiet two hours where we just focus on the tattooing and don’t chat too much, I have to remind myself how fortunate I am to be in these appointments at all. Not even just that I was able find my way to Horizakura, but that I am able to afford the time and money to get tattooed at all is something to be thankful for. There are lots and lots of people that want to do what I am doing but the financial burden or commitment is just too much at this point in their lives. I think it’s important to remember to be thankful for the opportunity, especially on these “run of the mill” days.

If that lead in didn’t make it clear, appointment 116 with Horizakura was a quiet two hours of tebori on my left shoulder/triceps/armpit area. If you examine the pictures, you’ll see that there are only a few small bits of cloud that are remaining to be shaded on my shoulder. You can also see a line with no shading that completes the area that surrounds my armpit. I’m not sure if Horizakura plans to leave this line as is or if he will add some shading there to bulk out that shape. Otherwise, we’re just about buttoned up with all the shading on my back and left arm. There is a small area yet to be shaded on my chest and another empty wind bar on my stomach, but after that we will need to go back to outlining. I absolutely prefer tebori shading to machine outlining, but even still I’m very excited to be so close to finishing the outline.

Until next time!

First Appointment of 2023

At the time of writing, we are two weeks into 2023 already, so it is technically against my principles to wish you a Happy New year. However, since I didn’t have anything to post closer to the New Year, I’m going to make a small exception and wish you a Happy New Year! My first appointment with Horizakura in 2023 (my 115th appointment) was two hours of tebori on my inner arm and tricep. Record Scratch

When I finished that sentence, WordPress’ spell check told me that tricep is not a word. I immediately flew to google to learn more: “…the triceps brachii is commonly called the triceps. Historically, the plural form of triceps was tricipites, a form not in general use today; instead, triceps is both singular and plural.” Interestingly enough, the spell checker is also flagging the word “tricipites” so I have not only learned a new word, I have also learned that I need to be skeptical of WordPress’ Spell check. This concludes my lexical diversion.

Overall this area was pretty easy. The hardest part is that my left shoulder is a little tight and not as flexible as my right shoulder. There was a little bit of awkward positioning to reach some spots, but not too bad.

I brought Horizakura a copy of “The Tattoo Writer” by Pascal Bagot as a late Christmas present. The only reason I even feel the need to mention this is because I never mentioned the book here previously. I am hoping to do more “Not a Book Review” reviews in the future. In the meantime, I wanted to give the book a little shine as Pascal put a ton of work into it and the context of the project is really fascinating and important to the history of Japanese tattooing. The first edition is totally sold out, but if you visit this site you can send an email to express your interest in a second printing.

I’ve got nothing left to say.

Below are some photos from “The Tattoo Writer” website. Be sure to check it out!

2022 Wrap Up

Since my last appointment of 2022 would have fallen on Christmas Day (and because I would like to stay married) I cancelled that appointment. As such, I thought now would be a good time to do a little photo dump of the whole bodysuit as it stands at the end of December 2022. This year we had 16 appointments that netted about 26 hours of tattooing. This is the most productive year we have had since 2018 (26 hours of tattooing over 15 appointments). I am absolutely thrilled to be getting more than 15 appointments in per year. I would love to be able to hit 20 appointments in a year next year!

Before we get to the photos, I would like to take one last moment to thank Horizakura, Monji, and Haru for the hard work and contributions they have made to my tattoo. It’s easy to forget how lucky I am to be able to actively pursue this bodysuit. I would like to thank you all (there are dozens of us! dozens!) for the time you spend reading my blog or interacting with me on Reddit or Instagram. I’m grateful for all of your kindness and for having people along for the ride with me. This blog and talking to all of you has been a great way to fill in the time when I haven’t been able to get tattooed or if I’m simply in between appointments. Lastly, I want to thank my wife for her continued patience with me while I chase this dream. I was really scared about how the addition of a baby would impact the already perilous juggling act of my work, house, and marriage. It seems as if my fears were largely unfounded as, while babies certainly are expensive, we have been finding a way to make it work. That is in no small part because of my wife’s efforts.

Enough of that. Have a look.

I Would Be a Terrible Journalist

For the second time in only a couple months, I forgot to take pictures after an appointment. Clearly the fast and furious pace of getting tattooed every two weeks is just too much for me to handle. A two week deadline to take some pictures and vomit some nonsense onto the internet and I can’t manage it. I would never make it as a journalist.

I forgot to take pictures and update this blog after Session 113. Just like the last time this happened, the work done during appointment 114 built off of the work from 113, so it would be a bit unclear to just update with current photos. Fortunately, I did happen to take a quick selfie with my phone after session 113, so we are not totally screwed. You can see in the photo below that Horizakura spent about two hours thickening lines and shading the rocks and clouds on my inner left bicep. Overall a pretty easy appointment so there isn’t much to say about it.

Session 114 was two more hours of tebori on the same arm. He was able to finish half of the armpit cut out as well as some of the clouds in the transition onto my chest. The chest has connected to the ribs too. The area above the armpit is one of the only places I don’t dry heal. Using Aquaphor to help keep the skin a little hydrated and flexible goes a long way in not allowing the area to get irritated. It’s especially problematic if you are active in your day to day life. Some background and clouds above Fudo’s head were also shaded. I realized after the fact that I didn’t get a very good picture of that area, but I’m sure you’ll be able to see it in a future update. The last area he worked on was a solitary little wave in my elbow ditch. If you look carefully at the pictures, you can see which parts are still healing. That’s about all there is to say for these appointments. We will be skipping our next appointment as it lands on Christmas Day, so 114 is also my final appointment of 2022.

Wherein I Borrow from Lewis Carroll

After my last appointment with Horizakura, I had expected that we would be continuing to outline the last areas of my chest. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I have found the chest to be deeply unpleasant. I was not at all looking forward to it. I spent most of Saturday and Sunday morning giving myself tough-guy pep talks. Upon arriving at the studio, I noticed Horizakura had his tray set up for tebori. O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! No outlines for me! I know procrastination is bad, but I don’t care what you say, I was happy for the chest outline to be Future Jordan’s problem.

My 112th appointment was 2 hours of tebori on my left elbow/inner bicep. Easy, breezy, beautiful. We spent some time discussing travel plans and general life stuff. All in all, it was a great appointment. I can’t say enough how happy I am that we switched to Sunday appointments. I definitely miss seeing Monji and Haru at my Tuesday appointments, but the whole process feels much more relaxed not having to plan around my work schedule. The lower stress and infrequent cancellations have really enhanced the tattoo process for me; I’m finding that I enjoy it even more than I used to. If you had asked me a year ago, I wouldn’t have thought that could be possible.

Can anybody tell me if I used that semicolon correctly? I was feeling very cocky when I used it but now I’m having some doubts.