Hurimitsu feels the sound of skin-colored needles in a tune and a tune, as if a single jerking sound is emitted.
For 30 years, they have hand-made tattoos in the Japanese city of Tokyo, Akiobukuro, for which they need nothing but ink and needlewood.
These hands, when they create images of gods and demons on the body of bankers and musicians, are like the real thing they are.
And today, after traveling thousands of miles, a green dragon will be built on the arm of a young firefighter, a symbol of protection from flames.
Kyle Sally, 23, lives quietly on his back and the artist continues his work. They begin to lick the needles in a very measured manner on the front of their arms. They will be painted from shoulder to wrist and the dragon will be shown with a flower pony, a symbol of good luck and nobility.
There are tattoo artists in their hometown of Grand Prairie, Canada, but they don’t have the talent that Kyle is looking for. They are looking for centuries-old Japanese art ‘Tabori’, meaning ‘handmade’ tattoos.
People have been influenced by this style in the West for a long time and now it has become a trend. Hippies make it into the story: “You know I went to Japan to make a tattoo by hand?”
While others are drawn to this art.
Kyle says, “I’ve heard that Tabori’s colors look better and more shiny.”
There are several machine-made designs on his chest.
This one session costs 500 Canadian dollars (£ 300, $ 374), so that’s a great price. “But I’ve been saving for a long time.”
His favorite tattoo artist, Horamatsu, has nearly 63,000 Instagram followers, including many international fans. His clients also include American singer John Meyer, who claims that he strongly questioned them before tattooing them: ‘How did you find me? How do you know the person who gave me the address? ‘
Their list of appointments is currently filled with the Rugby World Cup, which Japan has been hosting for six weeks from September 20.
Go ahead with the post on horimitsu’s Instagram
Local interest in this ancient art has, in recent years, depended on foreign interest as its survival. Young Japanese are often fond of Western-style geometric tattoos with a particular focus on fineness.
Tabori artists usually have more control over this creative phase, and some artists are supportive of making a tattoo.
Kyle doesn’t mind. When they came here today, they had no idea what color their new dragon would be. He says with a smile, ‘This is Matsu-San’s art style, and I would like the ones that look better.’
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Needle-lined wood on the ends when painted beneath the upper layer of skin does not show any signs of pain on Kyle’s face. Every 10 seconds, Horamatsu turns and inks his instrument.
It may seem like a lot of trouble, but those who like it say that Tabori is much better than a bone-shaking machine.
So how much pain is there on a scale of one to ten?
Kyle says, ‘Three or maybe four? Yes, it is indeed very good. ‘
John Maier says he used to come up with ‘beautiful, cool ideas’ in his time with Horamatsu.
When I asked if people found themselves feeling the pleasure of the endorphin hormone after the tattoo was completed, Hurimitsu shook his head in support. ‘Dopamine, adrenaline … I see many clients that they get so excited after the tattoos! They forget their wallets, forget their passports, or spend too much money. ‘
‘Sports events boost business’
Before the Rugby World Cup, players and fans were urged to hide their tattoos so that no tattoo would get any provocative message as many people here consider tattoos to be the work of the Yakuza, the Japanese mafia. But for some fans, this warning has been a daunting task, and they will now spend two hours in tattoo sessions for matches.
Most people reach Horimatsu via Mike Derby Shire, whose website Pacific Tattoos Company links English-speaking clients to Japanese artists.
He says of rugby, ‘In the meantime we have to do a tattoo on a Welsh man. Probably the dragon. Or maybe … ‘
He says sports events are always a boost to business.
“I see an affinity for this, as next year’s [ Tokyo 2020 ] Olympics is going to take place, so people have been asking us for appointments during that time last year.”
60% to 70% of Horamatsu’s clients come from outside Japan, and so is the experience of other Tabori artists.
Mike says, ‘We had people coming from Germany, we had people coming from Britain all the time, so much more from America. US military base staff also come in large numbers. ‘
“Business for Japanese tattoo artists in Japan has not been good for the last few years unless you have to deal with the issue of communication.”
Some of the problem is also the lack of customers. After the Second World War, Japanese tattoos (known as erysomees) were considered a symbol of the Yakuza criminal groups in Japan. For decades, mafia operatives used tattoos to prove their bravery, to highlight their wealth, and to identify other Yakuza.
Horamatsu learned his craft from a Japanese tattoo maker ‘family’ where many young novices serve as a teacher for many years, and this is often the case in the most difficult landscaping environment.
He says that the world of Erizomi is’ sometimes violent. fearsome. Previously our customers were just Yakuza. Until ten years ago. ‘
Now Japan has put a lot of strain on the gangs, and a police crackdown has reduced the membership of the Yakuza from one lakh 84 thousand to 30 thousand 500 in the 1960s. Those who have survived do not want to be on the radar, so do not make any identification signs.
Horamatsu says, ‘Some young people still join the Yakuza, but they are a new generation, smarter than ever. They don’t make tattoos. They do their job more politely. ‘
He says that in the past, it used to be that his clients started making some big tattoos on his back but were sent to jail. When he was released ten years later, he would come out and finish it. ‘
When asked what you would say to meet them, they say with a naughty smile, ‘Hey, you look big enough.’
‘No swimming pool, no gym, no hot springs’
But sadly for tattoos fans, social behavior in Japan has not yet accepted tattoos, despite the fact that most yakuza no longer make tattoos.
There is still an ambiguity in the law when the Japanese Ministry of Health declared tattoos a medical practice in 2001. This meant that any tattoo artist who was not a doctor found his work illegal overnight.
Tattoo makers are generally not allowed to go to public gyms, swimming pools and onsen (Japan’s hot springs). In addition, visible body art can reduce your chances of getting a job in finance or teaching areas.
Blonde cheerful Canadian Kyle, who in no way looks like a Japanese gangster, fell under the ban.
‘Even in my hotel. I was going to the swimming pool but there was a board with ‘tattoos are forbidden’. I do not speak Japanese, but when I ride a T-shirt on a subway train I notice that people are staring at my arm. ‘
Some Taborian artists with a reputation as a rock star in their home country, but also take their talents abroad.
Kenshu II, who got his professional name from his teacher, now lives in Amsterdam.
They say their clients understand the value of handmade tattoos and are ready for the patience phase: Tattoos can take up to 70 hours or more, and depend on the skin. Depending on the type, size and design.
He says most people want to be a dragon. ‘I like to make it too, it’s never awkward. Japanese dragons have many interesting stories and demands. Every story is different. ‘
They may have left Japan, but Kenshue II still adheres to the Tabori tradition.
He says, ‘I make all my Tabori tools myself. I believe in the ancient Japanese religion [ Shinto’s ] teaching, that all things made by man contain a soul. Tabori’s tools are like a part of the body and soul to me. So I never sell my tools. ‘
Just as Horamatsu praises his teacher Huritoshi ‘at the age of 74 but is still working’, Kinshaw II also mentions his teacher with devotion.
‘When I started training water, I was always watching their techniques, researching the story and meaning of every design from an ancient book, making many sketches. I only slept two or three hours a day for three years because I had a lot to learn. ‘
‘Our rules were,’ Don’t ask, don’t say it and don’t give your opinion. Obey the teacher’s orders. Be humble, read more, respect other cultures. ‘ The teacher never gives the details, you have to guess with their facial expressions and the sound fluctuations. Otherwise, you [ would have ] been beaten harder by your older student and then you would have understood. ‘
Hurimitsu says he was only invited to learn Tabori at the age of 20 when he visited his teacher several times, got a tattoo from him, and carried a symbolic gift for him.
‘I took two bottles of Seq (Japanese traditional wine made from rice) for them. One is not of any use. Two tied to a rope. That means I want to connect with you. ‘
Their training took over a decade.
The day I met Horamatsu, the needle wood (Naomi) he was using on that day belongs to his teacher. He says the training continues until the last breath.
‘Change is coming’
Some observers have predicted that Japan’s conservative attitude toward tattoos will change with the arrival of thousands of tattooed foreigners at the Rugby World Cup and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Mike Derby Shire, who studied Japan as a foreigner, believes that the possibilities for immediate change are slim.
They say, ‘If that were to happen, it would have been 100 times by now. If this is the case, it will be because of the young people who are influenced by Western pop culture that Western-style tattoos are becoming more and more popular, and over time they will become part of society. ‘
‘You go to Harajuku (the youth subculture center in Tokyo) and see fashion ads there. You will find Westerners wearing tattoos in them. They are visible everywhere. ‘
‘I think it’s starting to change right now. Change is starting. The question is: will the government try to suppress it aggressively? ‘