Irezumi: The Art Of The Japanese Tattoo With Hori Benny


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  • Tokyo Podcast is pleased to welcome back Unrested on the show to share an exciting announcement regarding his future in Japan. Anthony and Scott discuss the opportunities that exist in Japan and what steps can one take to grab the chance available in the country. Scott also mentions his current Indiegogo campaign run by his publisher.
  • In the second half of the show, Anthony takes a look at the mysterious and beautiful world of Japanese tattoos. The history of tattooing in Japan can be traced back to 10,000 BC during the Jomon period. Even though tattooing has been in Japan for many years and is filled with historical symbolism, it still hasn’t gained public acceptance unlike in many western countries.
  • To walk the audience through the journey of tattooing in Japan, on the show is renowned tattoo artist Hori Benny who has been tattooing in Japan. He first started as an apprentice 8 years ago before turning into a professional tattoo artist in 2007. Benny can be found at the Chopstick Tattoo studio in Osaka.

Striking it Big 

Anthony welcomed back Unrested from Episode 9. In his YouTube Channel’s Episode 198, Scott made the special announcement of finally quitting his teaching job to become a freelance artist. Through a group of tabletop gamers he played with and drew the game for, Scott sent his artworks to companies who published the books the gamers used. Soon, some of his applications got a response and many projects were offered to him. The hefty commissions from these works enabled him to convince his wife that he could quit his teaching job and work as a graphic designer.

For those who are hoping to live in Japan and make it on their chosen field, Scott said that one may need to do something else first. Opportunities don’t come overnight and job seekers may need to find doorways to get into what they would like to do. Look for networks. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Probably more than learning the language, learning the culture quickly may be more important. While mastering the language may open many doors, many foreigners are hired for their capacity to do work in English.

Apart from bringing back retro artworks in role-playing games, Scott is also involved in the Indiegogo campaign. Here, people can give a minimum of a dollar to get a part of a developing product or innovation. The more one donates, the more access will be granted to the buyer. For those who are interested in seeing some of Unrested’s artworks, head over to Indiegogo and check out their campaign trailer.

Tattooed in Japan

Hori Benny has always been interested in Japan – because of this, he studied its culture and language when he was young. While he was also interested in tattoo, he did not seriously consider it until he met a Japanese tattoo artist in a tattoo studio. Since the guest could only speak Japanese, he was asked to translate and thus struck a friendship with him. A graphic designer back in the States, he decided to fulfill his promise to live in Japan with the help of his new friend. Wanting to try out living in the country for at least half a year, he has now been in Japan for 11 years!

While tattoos boomed in other countries and big events have showcased styles from Mauri and Japanese artists, many Japanese are not aware of their tattoos and how dynamic it can be. A lot of intricate details and symbolism are incorporated into a Japanese tattoo. But despite its interesting motifs and styles that have made it famous worldwide, tattoos are not quite accepted in Japan due to its association with the Yakuza. While there had been changes when foreigners came in, there is a return to conservatism.

Ironically, serious tattoo collectors do not show their intricate artwork. This is probably due to the belief that having a tattoo is personal. It can be hard to figure out if a person has a tattoo because it is hidden. Furthermore, some government officials have proposed to ban those with tattoos from working in public service. This caused people to have their tattoos removed or be kept a secret.

Hori’s clients range for both males and females in their 40s-60s. Most clients opt for traditional motifs from nature. On the other hand, women often select smaller pieces. 1998 saw a boom in the industry as the Japanese sought to get the western tattoo style.

But the trends in Japan are unlike those found in the west. There are no parties or festivals where tattooing can be done. A more quiet appreciation for this kind of art is in place. Getting a tattoo or learning how to do it is done like a process. A long apprenticeship with a competent and respected expert must be sought before one can debut on his own. Hori himself studied for about 3 and a half years and worked another 5 years as a return for his apprenticeship.

For those who are interested in getting a tattoo, using the traditional bamboo woods is still an option although stainless steel needles and other new techniques have been developed. To book an appointment at Hori’s Chopstick Tattoo studio, a visit to the shop is the fastest way to get a consultation with him.

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