By Crystal Morey
Horibenny is one of my favorite monsters. Odder than bacon with legs, he oozes with creative zealotry and possesses an indiscriminate passion for life that is contagious. Benny is one of the first round-eyes to be given and to complete a formal tattoo apprenticeship here in Japan, and by this I mean, he cooked, fetched and lived for his sempai for over four years… A far cry from the ‘two week a year drop in to study and pay money’ apprenticeship awarded to many gaijin deshi these days.
Benny is an accomplished painter, his tattoo work is delicate yet powerful, it often embodies the Japanese tenet that less is more, and his earnest demeanor only lends to his accomplishments as an artists. Ever the student, Ben works his ass of on a daily basis to learn more and push himself further and I’ve had the pleasure of watching him make significant artistic advancements over the past few years. He is not unlike one of those wind-up toys you point and they take off pointedly in one direction… only Ben’s nose is pointed at the moon and with his passion it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he got there… (more…)
By Alison Nastasi (Article originally appears at Flavorwire.com)
Who runs around wearing a loincloth, covered in tattoos, and delivers mail on a stick while managing not to look like an absolute fool? Japanese mail runners during the 19th century, that’s who — and they put modern bike messengers to shame. During the Edo period, tattoos became a popular form of art, and these guys are sporting some fantastic ink… (more…)
By Nathalie-Kyoko and Jake Adelstein (Original story appears on the Japanese Subculture Research Center’s (JSRC) website.)
Tattoos are as Japanese as sushi, samurai and yakuza but in recent years with the crackdown on organized crime (the yakuza), tattoos have become increasingly socially unacceptable while many younger Japanese and people living abroad have embraced tattoos as a fashion item. In December last year, the government of Saitama Prefecture submitted a bill to revise local ordinances to prohibit tattoos under the age of 18. A fine of up to 500,000 yen will be levied on the violators of the law. If a space is provided to tattoo on young people under 18, there is a fine of up to 300,000 yen for the tattoo parlor owners. If the law is passed it will go into effect February 1st, 2013. Japan has waged many fruitless wars in the past and the latest war is a war on tattoos. Kicking it off was the mayor of Osaka, Toru Hashimoto, the son of a yakuza boss, who as most yakuza are, was probably heavily tattooed… (more…)
Miguel Montgomery: On a little bit of a different note about your tattooing, I’ve seen some Japanese tattoos with American roses in the background. I haven’t seen too much of that. Did something spark that made you want to do that? Or did you just take it upon yourself, like ‘this snake needs a rose next to it’?
Bryan Burk: There were a few conversations I had when I was working with Bob about how we should try doing that stuff. And there were some kids that I had tattooed on, one was my friend Jeff, who’d gotten a bunch of tattoos and wanted to fill in all the space around them. So he was one of the first people that I filled in with roses and water around everything because it kind of fit in all these little spaces he had. On his it worked, and I think if you’re gonna do blue water with roses and some American stuff, it works. As long as you kinda keep it pumped up on the American side of town; color clouds and blue water with black behind all of that, like Eddy Deutsche, like Eddy meets late Sailor Jerry-type Japanese compositions, it’ll work. But I think if you’re doing black Japanese background with grey water, for whatever reason, roses look weird… (more…)
Crash: Okay, let’s start with a basic history of yourself and then I want you to talk about the shop and it’s crew.
Horitaka Kitamura: Sure man, basic story… Well I was born in Japan and my parents moved to America when I was a few years old. My parents were bilingual so they taught me Japanese as well, which opened a lot of doors for me later on… So I grew up here and probably had a very similar interest in tattooing like many of my generation, I was a skater, turned punk rocker and liked tattoos from my junior high school days. I do recall liking the tattoos in an old Japanese TV show, “the tattooed magistrate” where the hero shows his cherry blossom tattoos before he kicks ass at the end of every episode. So I guess I’ve long had an affinity for tattoos. I know in high school I had already decided I wanted a body suit, didn’t know what the hell that meant or what was good but I just knew that I wanted tons of tattoos! (more…)
As many of you know, we started this little TAM Blog less than two years ago after I “convinced” Crash and Kent to hire me full-time to spearhead the digital media nerd moment that is sweeping the world-over… So, I am happy to announce that this week the TAM Blog has surpassed the 1 million page view mark already! This amazing accomplishment is greatly due to all of our contributors, writers, followers and sponsors that have helped us grow and build a digital space for tattooers and enthusiasts to share stories, ideas and events, not just with the tattoo community, but the entire globe… (more…)
By Crystal Morey
One of the three most famous Henge (shape-shifters) the tanuki is a round jolly little fellow with an enormous scrotum who usually has a sake bottle in hand. He is a Dionysian spirit, devoted to self gratification possessing a head full of tricks to get his hands on rice wine, rich foods and warm ladies. Not malicious in spirit, he’s portrayed as a fun loving character whose exploits backfire as often as they succeed… Undaunted he moves on to the next. For tanuki life is an adventure. Tanuki’s supernatural powers are strong and he’s believed to be more adept at shapeshifting than even the kitsune… (more…)
By Adam Hays
This might be of interest to a few of you who like to paint in watercolor. It’s my preferred medium as I suck with most others. I did a painting of the giant Earth spider Tsuchigumo recently for the Gomineko book project of Japanese creatures. It’s from it’s moment of death when the belly of the beast was sliced open spilling a lifetime of skulls along with hundreds of baby spiders. Cool story… (more…)
By Owen Williams
Anyone who has been to a tattoo convention of late, from Milan to Sydney may not have actually seen, but definitely would have heard the whirlwind that is Crystal Morey. Usually holding court at the Gomineko Books stall (an invaluable source of Japanese tattoo culture reference and hard-to-find, out-of-print rarities) while simultaneously translating and taking bookings for her Japanese tattoo cohorts. Aside from kicking butt, taking names and rolling dice at convention time, what is it that goes on in the life of the pint-sized Texas Tornado and number one Tiger Mama? (more…)
By Dave Allen
Last year’s devastating tsunami and earthquake in Japan deeply affected everyone in our industry. It would be hard not to be. More than 20,000 dead and 100,000’s left rebuilding. As a community we banded together and raised money for relief efforts. After a full year it is still apparent that people in Japan could use our help… (more…)
Courtesy of PBS Off Book: It seems that no matter how far we advance into the digital age, our bodies remain a place where we want to express ourselves. In this episode, we talk to three tattoo artists of differing styles. Vinny Romanelli embraces pop culture, tattooing detailed portraits of entertainment idols, Kiku works with the traditional Japanese form, and Stephanie Tamez embodies an eclectic mix of influences, with the occasional use of nice typography… (more…)
Courtesy of NZ On Screen: We have just added to our website Signatures of the Soul, the 1984 documentary fronted by Peter Fonda (directed by New Zealander Geoff Steven) that tracks the art of tattooing from New Zealand, through Samoa and the East L.A. and San Francisco scenes (including interviews with Ed Hardy and Bob Roberts) and on to Japan.
Click this link to watch full video: http://www.nzonscreen.com/title/signatures-of-the-soul-tattooing-today-1984 (more…)
Courtesy of Salior Jerry: Chris Trevino is an expert in traditional Japanese tattooing who earned the nickname “Horimana” after studying for five years under the legendary master Horiyoshi III. His elaborate, full-body representations of Asian symbology remind us of the later works by Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins aka Horismoku. Trevino now runs Perfection Tattoo in Austin, TX which was founded by Bob Moreau in the late 70s… (more…)
By Crystal Morey
I’m gonna just start this whole interview with a disclaimer… I love Owen dearly and really want to do this interview, but he’s one of my best friends and partner in crime so this is bound to get real messy, real fast. That being said I do think, for the record, that he’s über talented. Each new piece he does leaves the last in the dust… Sucking its thumb and crying for its mother. While he is without a doubt one of the loudest people in the industry, he is also incredibly modest and hard-working. His artwork is insane, be it portrait work, Japanese inspired pieces or pin-ups – the end result is always jaw-dropping. I think he’s a bit of an idiot savant… (more…)
By Crystal Morey
This is one of the most famous Japanese ghost stories and a popular motif here in Japan for tattoos. There are many variations since it was first penned in the early 1800s but the essence of the story is the same. It is the story of Tamiya Lemon, a samurai turned ronin, and his wife Oiwa. Lemon, a masterless samurai forced to take up employ in a redundant job making oil paper umbrellas becomes resentful and bitter about the downward turn his life has taken and he in turn focuses his frustration on his wife Oiwa… (more…)
Horiyoshi III art exhibition to open in London on March 21st, 2012 at the Somerset House. Meaning ‘heart, mind and spirit’ in Japanese, the concept of Kokoro underpins the Japanese culture and defines its people’s approach to all aspects of life.
Described as a “living legend” by The New York Times, Horiyoshi III is best known as the undisputed master of Japan’s ancient art of tattooing of his generation, but he is also a prolific artist who has a passion for painting on paper and silk as well as skin… (more…)
Up and at ‘em! We hit our local ramen spot and jumped on the train. Today we were going to see the Great Buddha! As we exited the train and made our way through the tiny village, Crystal brought our attention to a vending machine that dispenses fortune poos. Yes, little piles of colored plastic poo complete with faces depicting their moods, each with an accompanying fortune! We had to have them… (more…)
By Crystal Morey
Sooooo… I was hoping to interview Bunshin Saikian Horimasa while racing through the Nagano mountains in his Porsche 996. He and 69 other Hemi enthusiasts have formed a “touring” club that meets once a month and just drives fast. The 69 Brothers. I was hoping for footage of me screaming obscenities and wishing I had a helmet but on the day we went it was raining. And there were police. With cameras. It was the weirdest thing… We would pull into a truck stop and the police would follow us, one would eventually come over and say how much he liked the cars and asked where were we going, while another car came around the back of us and took photos.
I’m from Texas, when cops are taking your picture on the sly it is NOT good. Back in the car I asked Horimasa if he was concerned and he laughed and said we were fine, that we weren’t ‘bōsōzoku’ (teenage gangs identified by their obscenely festooned motorcycles and cars that they race through the city causing as much noise and mayhem as possible) and we weren’t doing anything illegal. Except doubling the speed limit. He maintained that he and his crew were adults and responsible drivers therefore it was not a problem. We did slow down whenever a cop caught up, and the guys in the back quickly texted the guys in the front to let them know, but no one was pulled over or issued even a warning and, as there are no speed cameras in the tunnels, we did get a fair bit of racing in. We drove for eight hours and is seemed like three, with stops off here and there to see the Shunen no Ishi – the rock of regret*, and eat soba on the peak… (more…)
By Crystal Morey
Going to start the New Year off with a benevolent creature and a personal favorite, the Baku. Unlike the more devious Kappa, Baku come to the aid of those who suffer from nightmares or bad dreams, and supposedly they devour the evil spirit or creatures responsible for the disruptive visages…
By Josh Egnew
A while back some friends from around the globe and I decided that we should all converge in Tokyo to take one of Gomineko’s tours. Crystal Morey is a good friend and fellow tiger, so I knew that we would be in good hands. She’s extremely knowledgeable about Japanese art and culture and speaks fluent Japanese. How could we go wrong? We can’t sir.
Read on my friends…
By Crystal Morey
I want to continue blogging on some of the more obscure Japanese yokai and as chance would have it, Matty No Times from Three Kings Tattoo was just out here on tour and wanted to have Horiyoshi III tattoo something on him that is some way mirrored his visage… and I immediately thought of a HiHi. We pitched the idea to Horiyoshi III who thought it was hilarious and, sourcing Yoshitoshi, he did an amazing piece in about 45 minutes…
By Molly Skobba
I had a hard time writing this blog. It took me longer than usual, with more restarts and edits before send off. I realized that it’s because BloodWork: Bodies is such a gigantic project with so many facets and possible approaches in writing about this book. It is epic not only in content but also in physical stature with 2 volumes, 900 pages and weighing over 25-pounds filled with massive pages of outsized and extravagant photos that bond the human form and visual art seamlessly…
By Crystal Morey
This was a really difficult write-up for me because there is so much information and such a wealth of folklore surrounding these creatures, it is quite overwhelming. In Japanese Kitsune means fox. Foxes play a huge role in Japanese mythology -they are both loved and feared by the Japanese people. Foxes, by their very nature, are perceived as sneaky and cunning. Though not always malicious they are generally not to be trusted, and they appear in folklore worldwide as the antagonist… (more…)