Guest Blog: Horiyoshi III on Tattoo Addiction
08:16 AM
John Mack is back with another guest blog post on his experience getting tattooed by Horiyoshi III over the course of nine years Check out his previous posts:  Part IPart II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII and Part VIII.

johnmack09_munewarisuji.jpgIn 2005, Horiyoshi III finished my backpiece, yet I was in the grip of tattoo addiction and still had more time reserved with the master. The very next day we continued with munewari, the front of my torso.

I had only a backpiece for just one day. [See an image of that backpiece here.]

I commented to Horiyoshi III that tattoos are addictive, and he corrected me:

"Tattoos are not an addiction; they are a collection.  A tattoo collector is just like a conventional art collector who buys a painting, hangs it on the wall, and then moves on to acquire the next, unique piece.

Tattoo collecting is a spiritual pursuit, while addiction is a physiological need.  Addicts repeatedly take the same drug over and over without limit.  A tattoo collection has variety, and it has an end.  Once you collect the whole set, you're done.

As you complete your tattoo collection, you yourself become art."


Horiyoshi's practice is now limited to finishing existing clients' tattoos.  As I have repeatedly witnessed, all new clients are politely referred elsewhere.


I love this quote. This seriously is going to be my go to answer.

"As you complete your tattoo collection, you yourself become art". Wow. This brought tears to my eyes. I've really enjoyed these posts on Horiyoshi III. Thank you for sharing your experience.

Ack! No close up link to the outline stage of the munewari? Glad to hear you've kept going, otherwise that'd have been one slow paced backpiece.

The concept that we are the same as any other art collectors and not a bunch of wackos is delightful to me, too.

Indeed this is one of the finest sound bites I have had the pleasure of translating from Japanese.

You can see a higher resolution photo of my munewari on Flickr. Follow the [backpiece here] link above, and have a look at the adjacent photo.

And to all of you, thanks for reading.

Thanks John,
I see it now, and a face shot too!
I like how Horiyoshi acknowledges the tattoo collector's desire to collect different and unique pieces. For someone who's done so many bodysuits, that's really putting his finger on the pulse. Now off to my next acquisiton...

i read the last part as
"...As you complete your tattoo collection, you yourself become art yourself"

either way - shirts off!


sorry, that was supposed to be

"... you yourself become yourself"


Hey John,

Were you a blank canvas before you started with H3? Looks like there might have already been something on your right thigh. If so, way to go big! If not, very odd place for a first tattoo. ;)

Any plans to do your arms? Come know want to.

The location of my first tatto is indeed unusual, but it was the right way to proceed.

Your first tattoo will never be your best tattoo, so my paramount tattoo rule is DON'T START WITH YOUR ARMS. Start somewhere discreet. This is contrary to what lots of people do, and I believe a major source of tattoo regret.

I think it's pretty clear that my prospects for totally bitchin' sleeves are now significantly better than when I got my first tattoo. But what kind of nut job would get full sleeves? Stay tuned.

Horiyoshi tells me that he wants to inspire people, and that's the reason he publishes books of his sketches and encourages people like me to write. Your extension of his idea is exactly the kind of thing that he encourages. Nice job, TJ.

John, another superb instalment. I wondered if you might email me via editor at tattoomaster dot co dot uk so that I may ask you a couple of things? Don't worry, Marisa - I'm not poaching him!

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