By Molly Skobba
Shigenori Iwasaki is a remarkable being. Sorry, just had to get that out there. Taki and I spent two-and-a-half days with Shige, his adorable family (beautiful Chisato, plus cute-as-a-button Ayaka) and a family friend nicknamed ‘Mister’. We started out the mini but extremely action-packed adventure at the famed Yellow Blaze Studio…
I will tell you one thing about Yellow Blaze: It is a world in and of itself, a niche carved out of the universe by Shige and Chisato, who are the perfect complement to one another! Yellow Blaze is compact and packed with objects from their travels; knickknacks of interest like Buddhist relics and antiques, real human and animal skulls, colorful paintings. They all mingle with the smell of incense, mixing with the sounds of a tribal-ish trance-like soundtrack. It is an exotic studio and one can see the many memories, travels and philosophies of importance in this world of the Iwasaki’s.
I was lucky enough to photograph Shige at work, outlining a Buddhist goddess on a client’s leg. Everyone that has seen or been tattooed by Shige knows how fast he works. The music seems to calm him, put him in almost a trance, gliding the machine effortlessly leaving yet another one of his marks on the world. After taking some photos of the client I mentioned earlier, I also took a photo of the first ever back piece tattooed by Shige.
I finished the photo session with a newer back piece that is on his friend, ‘Mister’. Thank you again to the clients for letting me take photographs of them!! After the photo session and getting to view Shige’s private art studio, we went downstairs to a yaki niku restaurant for a late dinner. Yaki niku is Korean BBQ, one of those grill-at-the-table joints. It was an amazing diner; everything was very delicious, the salt and green onion rice was the best!
The next two days went by like a whirlwind of adventure. Shige, Chisato, Ayaka and Mister were the perfect hosts. The four of them took us out to a beautiful temple, where Taki and I witnessed an Esoteric Buddhist ceremony. The taiko drumming was powerful and brought tears to my eyes for some reason. The ceremony was very moving, I think in part because Taki and I had submitted requests to be sent to the Gods. After the temple, they took us to the ramen museum where we ate different types of ramen in a wartime Japan themed ‘town’ that had different ramen from all over Japan. It looked like a movie set, complete with air raid sirens and all. It was really fun.
We tried a couple delicious styles of ramen and we will definitely be back to try the rest… super freaking yum! After that we went ice-skating at an outdoor park, Taki was the funniest while Ayaka was the cutest. As Ayaka put it, it was a great day.
We ended our Yokohama extravaganza with a trip to a beautiful park the next day, but it was closed for the holidays so we went to Chinatown and ate a birthday for Taki/farewell to us lunch with the crew, then said our goodbyes at the train station and we took off headed back to Kyoto.
It was the best few days I’ve ever had in Yokohama, especially being the first person ever to be able to photograph Shige’s private art studio where he houses his most serious antiques, very impressive and the kind of artifacts you would see at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco. I feel honored and I appreciate every kindness and all the generosity Shige and his beautiful family showed Taki and I. Thank you Shige, Chisato, Ayaka and Mister for the extraordinary days in Yokohama!
(Shige can be found at Yellow Blaze Tattoo Studio in Yokohama, Japan.)