Guest Blog: The Yakuza Boss
Here's the third installment of a series of guest blogs by John Mack, an American who has been getting tattooed by Horiyoshi III for nine years. You can read Part I here and Part II here.
By John Mack
In about 2004, Horiyoshi III was working on my back at the Isecho studio when in comes this Yakuza boss and his, um, assistant. It was apparent from his attitude, speech, and armed escort that he was a really big cheese.
I have mixed feelings about the relationship between the Yakuza and tattoos. I endure discrimination in Japan because of the association.
On the other hand, I owe a debt to the Yakuza for keeping traditional Japanese tattooing alive during that dark century before the current tattoo renaissance.
Anyway, the boss came to discuss a tattoo design with Horiyoshi. After he finished with that business, he turned his attention to me.
"That's a weird looking dragon," he commented. I suppose he was referring to the acid trip proportions of my dragon.
The boss and his assistant leaned over me to further scrutinize my back. This was alarming, as I would rather not confront underworld figures while lying naked and prone on the floor. Chuck Norris would never approve.
The boss quizzed Horiyoshi about other tattoos I might have on the front of me. Always eager to meet unusual people, I engaged them in a bit of chit-chat, but the boss was more interested in talking than listening.
After a while, they left. I had survived my encounter with the Yakuza. The only pain endured was that of the tattoo.
Horiyoshi's practice is now limited to finishing existing clients' tattoos. As I have repeatedly witnessed, all new clients are politely referred elsewhere
For more on tattoos and Japan's underworld, see this National Geographic video: