Guest Blog: Horiyoshi III on Doing Anything for Irezumi
09:45 AM
horiyoshi III tattooing.jpgJohn Mack continues his weekly 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, Part VIII, Part IX, Part X & Part XI.

Horiyoshi III answered the phone and listened intently. "Sure, come by any time!" he told the caller. He hung up and explained to those of us in the studio, "A Dutch company is doing a television program on koi (carp) and they want some material on koi tattoos." Horiyoshi returned to tattooing me, declaring with a bemused smile, "I'll do anything for irezumi."

And he does. Horiyoshi opens his studios and techniques to anyone who can promote and enhance the art of tattooing. I already told you about the frequent visits by journalists.

Once I arrived at the studio to find Horiyoshi examining a pile of aluminum stock. I inquired what he was up to. "People do not know how to make tebori equipment that can be properly autoclaved," he explained. "So I'm going to make some and sell it so people can copy them." Indeed these tebori kits are now on sale on Horiyoshi's web site, where he writes humbly:

Nothing makes me happier than seeing the tattoo world advance. Be it tools or whatever, if I find something good, I do not want to keep it to myself. It is with this feeling that I publicize and sell this kit...

This is what I am currently using and what I think works best. Of course I do not think that my own method is the only way. People all have different ideas, and I think it would be fabulous if someone could use this as a step toward an even better design.

Another time, a guy with a computer was industriously scanning a pile of the tracing paper sketches that Horiyoshi uses as the basis for his tattoos. [I assume the images found their way into one the books of his sketches.] I asked Horiyoshi why he publishes his core intellectual property. He answered, "I want them to serve as inspiration for other artists." 

Anything for Irezumi.

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

Photo credit: Martin Hladik, Tattoo Master Magazine


I'm not sure why these entries don't garner more comments, but please know that I always look forward to them.

What a delightful comment. Thank you.

I would like to think that people just read and enjoy my posts.

Thanks for posting these - great read and it must have been one hell of an experience

I look forward to every post as well. You provide some real insight into what it is like being tattoo by one of the greats. I was wondering who did Horiyoshi's tattoos?

If I may answer that one: Horiyoshi III received his bodysuit from Horiyoshi I, his master. Horiyoshi II* was the son of Horiyoshi I (and may have done parts of III's suit).

*There was another Horiyoshi II, Tamotsu Kuronuma, who was not at all affiliated with the Yokohama Horiyoshi III or anyone in his tattoo family. Kuronuma was taught by his father, who agreed to teach him on the condition that he never get tattooed himself (due to the discrimination he would face).

Thank you for filling me in. I love the gray shading of the waves on Horiyoshi III's arms, it presents a beautiful contrast. A wonderful piece of art. Thanks again John, looking forward to more posts.

One of my favourite features of Japanese tattoos is that they age so well, even improving with age in many respects..

Horiyoshi III's sleeves were applied something like 35 years ago, and I have always admired how good they look today.


thats all a have to say about him.

hi john! been reading your post about your experenice with horiyoshi and all i can say is AMAZING
thank you for sharing all your stories with us!

btw do you have any morepicture of your bodysuit in progress? like a website??
thank you again!

I'm not satisfied with the quality of most of the snapshots I have. Whenever I get better, more professional pictures, I'll post them on Facebook; I'm jmakku.

There is one professional image on Facebook that does not appear here.

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