I’m really scraping the bottom of the barrel for how I should title these posts. Hitachino Nest is one of my favorite breweries in Japan. I learned about them on my second trip to Tokyo in 2015 and really enjoyed drinking a distinctly Japanese beer that wasn’t one of the ever present brands you always see (Sapporo, Kirin Ichiban, and the other one that I’m forgetting right now.). I was thinking about the beer a bit and decided to see if I could find some to bring to my appointment. Lo and behold, a liquor store just 20 min out of my way had some in stock in their Build Your Own Six Pack area. I cleaned them out, all 5 bottles, and brought them to my 98th appointment. The only reason I bother to spend so much time on the beer is there wasn’t much else to this appointment. The typical pleasant chat, calming music, and easy forearm tebori made it as pleasant as always. We started this appointment a couple hours earlier than usual, but wrapped up after an hour so that Horizakura could spend some time tattooing his apprentice. In between my appointment and theirs, we drank a Hitachino nest and chatted, and that was about it! We wrapped up the appointment at peak rush hour traffic for NYC (although it was a little lighter than usual because of the holiday season), so I decided to pop over to Sena Tattoo to check out their stock of GxBxT apparel. I had my eye on a particular hoodie with a Lango Oliveira design on it. Then, since I was in the area, I also went over to Five Points to buy a t-shirt. I don’t imagine I’ll ever have the time or body space to get a tattoo from Garver or those guys, so buying a shirt is pretty much my only way to support them and see the space. Afterwards, I drove home. Thus concludes the story of my 98th appointment with Horizakura. ASAHI! That’s the other beer brand I couldn’t remember!
My 97th appointment with Horizakura was a relaxing hour and a half of tebori shading on my left forearm. Nothing much of note here, just a nice time to chat and listen to music. I’m very late with this post as I have another appointment tonight. So there will be another update tomorrow, likely with more shading.
You will also notice that these pictures are perhaps not as uniform as what I usually post up here. I totally forgot to take pictures after the last appointment, so I had to snap these at work on an unfamiliar camera with a less than ideal setup. They’re good enough for archive purposes, but you’ll notice one is out of focus. It is what it is.
Perhaps my title is a touch dramatic, but Thanksgiving travel is the only explanation for the traffic I hit on the way to my 96th appointment with Horizakura. A normal drive into the city should take around 45 minutes for me, but this commute (despite it being a Tuesday) took an hour and 45 minutes. It was absolutely brutal and so incredibly frustrating to be late on a day when work was finally not an obstacle in the way of me making it to an appointment. The bright side is that the holiday season tends to be a bit more calm in my industry so I’m optimistic about the appointments we have going forward. Getting there when I did only left Horizakura an hour to work, and I suspect that is why he opted to shade some of my arm instead of continuing with the outline. The background outline often takes some time to draw on and work out the flow and it’s my guess that he opted to maximize our time together by going with some shading which he can start right away. You might be wondering why I didn’t just ask him for his reasoning. I don’t have a very good answer to that question other than to say it doesn’t really matter to me. Sure I’m increasingly excited about being near the end of the full outline, but it all has to get done eventually. The order it gets done in will be largely inconsequential when we cross the finish line.
From an outsiders perspective there probably isn’t anything exciting about the results of this appointment. From my perspective, having full sleeves has been a goal since I started getting tattooed nearly 15 years go. Seeing this take shape is very exciting to me, no matter how small the step forward is.
After three months of cancelled appointments, Horizakura and I were finally able to meet up for our 95th appointment together. Work has just been unbelievably busy for me and I had no choice but to cancel my appointments in September and October to accommodate. In fact, I was in danger of having to cancel this appointment if not for the willingness of my colleagues to cover me on a job last Tuesday. We were booked on a show in Soho so I was able to dip out around 5:30, walk over to the studio for a quick hour of tattooing, and then had to jet back to work to help the guys load out the show. I was in and out so fast there wasn’t too much time for chit chat or beer like we usually do, which was a huge bummer… but there wasn’t any other choice. Nonetheless, Horizakura was able to spend an hour or so drawing out and tattooing some background on my forearm. Not exactly the kind of content that will get me 10,000 likes on Instagram, but background is such a vital part of any horimono design that I am always very excited to see it come together. I was a little late taking the photos below and the lines have started to heal, so you may see some irregularities that won’t be there once the healing is complete. Not much else to say here other than I am so happy to be getting tattooed again and so happy to be writing updates here.
Also, the day after my appointment I had some interesting bruising in my elbow ditch. I don’t recall ever having bruised like this before and I thought it was noteworthy.
The outlining continues! My 94th appointment with Horizakura was 1.5 hours of outline around the Fudo-Myoo on my left arm. He continued the halo of flames on my inner arm and added the “head” of the Karura Flame on top of my shoulder. Longtime readers may remember that I offer very little input on the process. With the exception of a couple major pieces I have mostly let Horizakura design the whole tattoo on his own. This appointment was no different in that respect, but it was unique in another way. As he was designing the Karura Flame on my shoulder, he started having a conversation with his apprentices (who were observing) about the design. Mind you, all of this was in Japanese, so besides one or two words, my whole understanding of the exchange was from body language. The most interesting part about this was that this didn’t really seem to be Horizakura teaching his apprentices what he was doing, but more of an open dialogue about the design. It went on for maybe 10 or 15 minutes. He drew on me, they discussed, somebody made a suggestion, they drew an example on paper, he made some changes on me, and they discussed some more. At one point an apprentice even gloved up and drew on me a little, then more changes and discussion. The whole exchange was really fun to be a part of. I’m sure it would have been even cooler if I understood Japanese. While this was going on, I reflected on this part of the master – apprentice relationship. I don’t claim to know very much about the way a tattoo apprenticeship normally goes, much less a more traditional Japanese apprenticeship, but this particular interaction was much more of a two-way street than I would have expected. I suppose it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise as I know lots of tattoo artists will trade off working on the same drawing to play off of and learn from each other. I found it interesting that this back and forth was happening regarding a client’s tattoo. I wonder if a more particular client would be adamant about the artist they selected being the one to design the piece. It didn’t bother me at all that other people in the room (be they apprentices or otherwise) were having input on the process, that sort of community feedback can be a big part of art in general. I thought it was pretty awesome to be a part of, I’m glad it happened.
It’s been really exciting to see this sleeve come together. My whole tattoo has felt very peaceful to me. This sleeve is adding an intensity that I think really compliments the rest of the work. My next appointment can’t come soon enough!
This post will cover work done during appointments 91 and 92. Horizakura spent these appointments outlining a standing Fudo Myoo on my left arm. Normally I would post immediately after an appointment, but because he was only able to complete Fudo-san’s upper half during appointment 91, he asked that I not post anything until the entire figure was outlined. If there is one thing that has really developed in me during this bodysuit process, it’s my patience. I’ve always been fairly patient with people, but being patient with myself or the things I’m excited about isn’t always so easy. In light of that, it wasn’t too much to ask that I be patient with making this post.
We have chatted a bit about what’s to come. Namely, surrounding Fudo Myoo with fire and rocks. I’m really really excited to finally be working on my sleeves. Most people start with sleeves these days, and I fully admit that this sounds childish, but if I’m being totally honest I always kinda felt “left out” for not having my forearms tattooed. Not in a literal sense of course, there’s no club or group that could actually exclude me, but it always bummed me out a little to be at conventions or around tattooed people knowing that my own sleeves were still a long ways off and thus not visible to others. I know it’s an immature way to think, and I also know that many people I’ve been around probably never gave it a thought to begin with, but there has always been a part of me that felt hidden by not having my arms tattooed. I have been ready for this part of the process for a very, very long time and I’m just so happy it’s finally here. That is as much honesty as you will be getting from me this week, and maybe ever, let’s never discuss it again. Instead, perhaps I can interest you in these photos:
Side note: I’m also super happy to not have to be hiding my junk for these photo shoots in the immediate future.
After a cancellation because of inclement weather, Horizakura and I were finally able to meet for our 86th appointment. Without any further preamble, I am delighted to say that he has finished shading the background on the deepest edge of my butt cheek/inner thigh. Regular readers will recall that this particular area is among the worst to experience, not because of the pain, but because of the undignified position required for the artist to access that area. For 30-45 minutes, I held my leg in the air while he tattooed this final bit of skin. Even though we have reached a very real comfort level with each other, there is no world where this position is comfortable, and I am delighted to be done with it. The remainder of the appointment was spent tattooing over my left hip area.
Prior to starting this appointment, we picked up the discussion of putting Fudo on my left arm. I have really warmed up to the idea overall, but I really wanted him to show me how the size and shape would fit on my arm. He took a minute before the appointment to sketch it out on my arm, and even in that rough outline, I could see the power of what he was going for. When I set out on this journey, a foreign deity was not on my list of subjects for this tattoo. While I always have and always will believe that these tattoos are given freely to everyone regardless of race or religion, I have to admit I felt a certain reservation about having a tattoo of a deity I had no connection to. Over the past month, I considered Horizakura’s explanation of why Fudo would be the right choice for my left arm. He said my tattoo is very spiritual and it needs something to unify it. I am not a particularly spiritual person in the sense of ritual, but I am fairly spiritual in the way I feel people interact with each other and the world around them. I also think that you can learn a little something from everyone, regardless of where you’ve come from. Even still, I wrestled with the idea of this tattoo going in this direction until I realized a certain aspect of the process that I had been glossing over. The true reason that I have been going through this process isn’t because I need to have a collection of personal medallions tattooed on me as talismans for my hopes or fears. I have been doing all of this because of my love for Japanese tattoo as a whole. Odd as it may seem, this isn’t about trying to lay bear my innermost being so the world can see. It’s about having and being tattooed and engaging with the mystery and energy that experience lends. Living the rest of my days with a tattoo from Shinji is really all that I have ever wanted. This is my path to engage with the culture of Japanese tattoo and I am not afraid to adjust my understanding of what that path actually entails versus my expectations for it.
I was originally going to write up a wrap up post for the end of 2020, but I didn’t. I don’t really have a good excuse. It just didn’t happen. Instead, I’ll combine it with this post which will also detail my 84th appointment with Horizakura.
2020 was better for me than it was for most people, so I am always hesitant to complain. I had my fair share of heartbreak, I certainly wouldn’t call it a good year, but I came out the other side better than some. NYC was locked down for a few months, so in total we logged about 21.5 hours of tattooing over 14 appointments. These are my lowest tattoo numbers to date, but some of the work has been really exciting which compensates nicely. Moving onto my torso was huge for me. There’s really only a small portion of my suit that isn’t outlined at this point.
Here are front and pack photos of how I look after my last appointment of 2020. You would think that by now I would have been smart enough to be regularly taking full body shots so we could see the progress in a more “macro” sense, but I’ve never claimed to be very smart, so here we are. You get two pictures.
Sorry the legs are a little dark here. I wasn’t evenly lit. Here’s a leg shot since you won’t stop complaining.
Moving on. My 84th appointment was more tebori on my left thigh. The wave that was only half finished was completed and a good chunk of background around the koi was shaded as well. We’re running out of leg here… in fact, we’re running out of background to shade. There is a small strip on my right thigh/hip, the rest of the left thigh, and the area over my pubic bone. After that it might be time for more outlining! I say that with an exclamation because new outlines are exciting, but the process is terrible. Tebori is infinitely better.
My 83rd appointment with Horizakura started off pretty similarly to my 82nd appointment. To his credit, he tried to get me into several different positions to best access the area that needed to be tattooed, but none of them were giving him the space he needed to work. He determined that my least favorite position would be the best solution. Thus I found myself once again laying on my back, holding my left leg over my head. It didn’t last too long, but any amount of time in that position is enough for you to be happy when it’s over. Afterwards, I was in a bit more of a neutral position with my left leg kicked out to one side so he could continue to shade my inner left thigh. My right foot was flat on the table with my knee bent. Quite comfortable. Until the cramping began.
I have a tendency to cramp when I sit motionless for long periods of time. This pretty much only happens when I get tattooed, but my diet/water intake doesn’t seem to ever change it. When I’m getting tattooed, I do my damnedest to not move at all unless I’m asked to. During this particular appointment, somehow, my knee cramped up. I did not know that this was possible, but sure enough, after about an hour of lying there with a bent knee, I could feel a cramp develop under my kneecap. It felt really, really weird. I try to never interrupt the appointment because I consider my time there to be precious, so I just kinda bit the bullet and willed the cramps away. Really, there is probably no need for me to endure that, but when you don’t have anything else to do during a tattoo appointment, any diversion can be a fun one.
Not much else to say here. My next appointment is in two weeks and I’m sure it will be more sweet tebori action. I am perpetually fired up!
My eighty-first appointment took place on the tenth day of the eleventh month of Year of Our Cthulhu 2020. It has taken me many days to make this post because… well frankly I’ve just been kinda busy. Also, the content wasn’t particularly exciting. Unless deep crotch tattoos are your jam. If so, have I got some exciting news for you! Horizakura continued to shade the inner thigh of my right leg. Accessing this area once again required the sort of undignified positions that are seldom considered when beginning a large tattoo like this. That said, I really feel like somewhere in the past year or so, my relationship with Horizakura has moved to a different comfort level. I can’t really explain why it took this long or even if perhaps it was like this all along and I’m only just becoming aware of it. But I have to say that I find myself looking forward to our tradition of getting beers after the appointment as much as the appointment itself.
Anyway. We’re nearly done with the background of this leg. I imagine all that’s left is about an hour or so. I’m not sure if he will want to continue up to the right hip or start on the left leg. Time will tell.
Peer deep into the crevasse. Pray it does not peer back.