Jun201225
Japanese Master Horihide in the LA Times
09:02 AM
Yesterday, the LA Times published  "Horihide still practices the dying art of hand tattoo" -- Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore's article on the Japanese tebori master Oguri Kazuo aka Horihide. It's a fantastic read and one that I wish was ten times longer to get a greater sense of the rich tradition this master carries forth as he continues to tattoo at age 79.

The article follows a Japanese-born American software manager, Motoyama Tetsuro, as he goes to Gifu, Japan to finish a tattoo that began decades ago. Here's a taste:

With old masters passing away and young apprentices lacking the patience to learn the painstaking craft of tebori (hand tattooing), many followers believe its days are numbered.

"If you know the master, why would you want to work with someone else?" asks Motoyama, 62, who first received the outline of a dragon by Horihide on his right shoulder in the 1970s. Motoyama lost touch with the master -- who works only by word-of-mouth introductions in backdoor locations -- before the work was complete. Last November, after a 30-plus year search, he finally located Horihide and traveled back to Japan from his home in Cupertino, Calif., to finish the piece.

Software managers have not made up the bulk of Horihide's clientele. Yakuza and geisha wear much of the master's art. And while the popularity of tattooing expands beyond the underground in Japan today, it still holds deep social stigma -- as evidenced by Osaka's crazy right-wing mayor ordering government employees to reveal whether they are tattooed, then basing employment decisions on this. As the article notes, this stigma still keeps artists like Horihide "under a cloak of secrecy" -- or at least out of the spotlight for the large part, making profiles like this in a mainstream publication a rare treat. 

Horihide also talks about his start in tattooing as an apprentice at the age of 19, where he suffered beatings to learn the craft. There are some great quotes, which left me wanting more. So I did a search and came up with this 1996 essay for Tattoos.com in which Horihide muses on his life as a teenage gang leader to becoming a tattoo artist and later meeting Sailor Jerry. Also a must read.

Great stories and a bit of history.



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