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Lochlan

Latest tattoo lowdown.....

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Yesterday I drove up to Denton MD and got a gunslinger from Krooked Ken- a true gentleman tattooer. Had a great time talking about hog farming too haha. I then drove to Morgantown vw, slept on top of a mountain, and on to Point Pleasant for lunch at the Mothman Festival then home- 1032 miles in 37 hours. Fun trip!

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Thought I might throw up a few more thoughts on my trip to Japan (tattoo-related ones, primarily).

We got back last night and the jet lag doesn't appear to be as bad travelling from East to West... I'm back at work, which totally sucks, quite frankly. On the upside, we will be back in Japan in just over a year in order for my GF to begin her backpiece with Shige.

Meeting Shige and getting a little tour of Yellow Blaze and the stencils of work he is doing at the moment was amazing. If anyone is interested in getting work done by him the only thing I would say is that actually going there in the flesh seems to be the number one option (arranging it in advance, obviously). I think this is his way of sorting time-wasters from potential real clients. He takes his consultations very seriously and it was one of the most rigorous I've seen... Lots of questions, discussion, teasing out of a plan spanning a number of years.

Aside from the consultation at Yellow Blaze that we had to make, Horiyoshi III's tattoo museum is open almost all the time (seems to be closed only the 20th and 30th of the month) and is only 1000 yen to enter. It's a cornucopia of tattoo-related history, which so much stuff crammed into such a small space that every time you turn around you're looking at something which is one of a kind. Right at the door is a painting that Shige gave to Horiyoshi and if you go further in there are a tremendous amount of vintage books and prints as well as quirky statuettes etc.

Interestingly while there we met Horiyoshi's future successor manning the till. He was discussing his father with a visiting American at the time and although there was a bit of a language barrier it seemed to be the case that Horiyoshi still meets people certain days of the week, although whether or not he actually takes clients wasn't clear.

The tattoo museum stocks a fair range of Horiyoshi's books, prints and some others from State of Grace, but I would point out that they are quite expensive to buy there. 'Kokoro', for example, was 12000 yen more expensive there than at Tower Records in Shibuya (their top floor book section seemed very extensive, huge range of Horiyoshi books, State of Grace, books from Grime and collaborators etc at reasonable prices... For Japan, I guess).

While in Kyoto a week later I called into Harizanmai and spoke to Gakkin about being tattooed next year. Harizanmai is a very slick tattoo studio and I picked up a quirky t-shirt designed by Gakkin which I think is a kind of play / perversion of the idea of a Japanese crest. He drew a kind of grub gestating in the centre of it. Harizanmai probably had the most western-friendly access of any of the studios we were in, but perhaps only because Gakkin and Gotch travel to the west so much.

On the topic of how large tattoos are received in Japan, on westerners at least, I would say that overall it was not a major issue for our purposes, but if I was living or working there I think it would have merited a bit more consideration. Due to the 32 degrees temperature on some days I was wearing shorts and t-shirts most of the time. Despite this I would say most Japanese seemed to be polite or disciplined enough not to stare, point or otherwise react to the sight of a fair bit of coverage on show. I saw some smaller tattoos on Japanese kids while I was there so perhaps the times really are changing ... Maybe there is a greater degree or acceptance. Or maybe I just got the benefit of the doubt as a foreigner (possibly always more likely).

Once or twice someone who we'd been talking with for a little while would politely ask to see something a little closer, and they were particularly interested in the dragon leg piece. Strangely it seemed to be either kids or older people (like 60 plus) who had a positive reaction. Middle aged people either didn't react openly or seemed to have a more ambivalent reaction.

The only place I felt slightly uncomfortable, partially because I was conscious that in hindsight I probably should have preferred to cover up more (but didn't because of the sheer heat and humidity), was when visiting some sights like larger temples in Kyoto. On one particular occasion there was a tour group of middle-aged people who seemed, as a group, to react more than normal to the sight of my leg tattoo. Whether that's because they were a really provincial tour group, or were from a conservative or religious group of some sort, or because they were offended on some other basis, I don't know.

I wore trousers and a polo shirt out to dinner a couple of times and in the two weeks we were in Japan there were a couple of minor occasions where I thought possibly my half sleeves were an issue. On one occasion we were politely told a pizzeria was by reservation only, even though it was more or less empty. We beat a polite retreat. The other time was at the Park Hyatt in Tokyo, where we stayed for a couple of nights as a treat. There was a 'no tattoo' dress code for the swimming pool and their bars and lobby coffee area. I suspect this is 50% because it's Japan and 50% because it's a 5 star hotel which might well employ the same rules in Paris, London (I'm not really sure, to be hoenst). Either way when we had dinner and drinks at the Peak Bar (made famous by 'Lost in Translation') I wore a shirt and trousers anyway, making it a non-issue. The swimming pool apparently hands out rash-guards, interestingly.... For those wishing to swim anyway. I'm not sure what they'd do about leg tattoos... A burkini?

I visited a few sento (baths) in Kyoto and Tokyo without any problems or diplomatic incidents, but I picked locations which I believed were tattoo-friendly (or at least tolerant of them).

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Just one other thing. We brought over a few small bottles of Irish whiskey (from the last few independent Irish-owned distilleries) to give out as presents along the way. So at the last ryokan we were staying in, Tokyo Ryokan, we gave the owner and his wife some. They were a young couple and the ryokan itself is kind of unusual - it's a sort of eco-house with some unusual architectural features... Little details like hand-finished wood and stone elements where you don't expect them. It was small, but immaculately clean and very friendly.

TOKYO RYOKAN OFFICIAL WEB SITE

Some info about the design features here: TOKYO RYOKAN OFFICIAL WEB SITE - Design

In conversation we'd talked to the husband about tattooing, and it turned out that he seemed to know a little about the scene in Japan. We didn't want to ask him directly (it was one of those situations where it seemed like he was talking around things, and we'd only just met him). So the next day we came back to the ryokan and he had left us a tube containing several Shige prints as a gift... Signed by Shige. He said he thought we might get more enjoyment out of them, and that he had been holding on to them for a while. Guess it's a small world.

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Just one other thing. We brought over a few small bottles of Irish whiskey (from the last few independent Irish-owned distilleries) to give out as presents along the way. So at the last ryokan we were staying in, Tokyo Ryokan, we gave the owner and his wife some. They were a young couple and the ryokan itself is kind of unusual - it's a sort of eco-house with some unusual architectural features... Little details like hand-finished wood and stone elements where you don't expect them. It was small, but immaculately clean and very friendly.

TOKYO RYOKAN OFFICIAL WEB SITE

Some info about the design features here: TOKYO RYOKAN OFFICIAL WEB SITE - Design

In conversation we'd talked to the husband about tattooing, and it turned out that he seemed to know a little about the scene in Japan. We didn't want to ask him directly (it was one of those situations where it seemed like he was talking around things, and we'd only just met him). So the next day we came back to the ryokan and he had left us a tube containing several Shige prints as a gift... Signed by Shige. He said he thought we might get more enjoyment out of them, and that he had been holding on to them for a while. Guess it's a small world.

Rory, that's incredible! Your whole trip sounds pretty amazing. If you posted some photos, I would look at them..

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We tried to take a fair few photos, although some of the things that probably would have been interesting to people here (like the interior of Yellow Blaze, Horiyoshi's museum etc we didn't take any because it didn't seem appropriate). I'll put up any good ones I do find in this thread down the line.

Yeah, it was a good trip ... Although expensive, it must be said. I'm going to be spending the conceivable future working whatever overtime I can find.

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Were those foot tattoos both one day each? I think you mentioned the first one was 4 hours in total - the second was similar, presumably? Very cool, at any rate.

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Were those foot tattoos both one day each? I think you mentioned the first one was 4 hours in total - the second was similar, presumably? Very cool, at any rate.

Thanks...I did the Samurai Mask three weeks ago and it took 4 hours. The Skull took just under three.

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It was good to hear a little about your trip Rory. You got it summed up pretty good. Middle aged Japanese are the most conservitive about anything over here. Every summer it seems like you see more and more tattoos out in the open. When I came here 5 years ago it was rare to see a Japanese walking around outside with any visable tattoos, now it's maybe about 1 in 20. I know there are a lot more out there, but just hiding. Tattoos are a good conversation starter with them, cause now they can finally talk about them with out sounding like a criminal.

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Great update @RoryQ! Sounds like you had a blast ;)

I had very similar experiences in regards to my tattoos - kids/young people & older peeps where cool and middle age where mostly indifferent. I should say most elderly people, as going to and from Nara i had a couple of occasions when I had older gentlemen just starring and they didn't seem happy about it. At all. Probably the only time I have ever felt slightly uncomfortable in Japan.

The ladies at the Ukiyo-e Museum in Osaka LOVED my tattoos and we had a really good talk about tattoos and ukiyo-e. (Thankfully I had a Japanese friend to help translate)

Also in Osaka there is a suburb called Ameri-murra (america town) where all the kids get dressed up on Sunday, hang out and hang with the cool kids. I saw the highest concentration of visible tattoos on Japanese peeps here. Nothing to big, but a lot of one spots and more fashionable type tattoos. I did see a guy walking around Kyoto pretty covered, but to be honest I wasn't sure if he was Japanese, he looked Thai...

I know what you mean about taking photos inside studios and not feeling right in posting them. I took a bunch the first time I went to Cat Claw of nothing in particular just the shop and thought nothing of it. My friend mentioned to me outside after i got my Hannya that he didn't take many photos while I was getting tattooed because there was a sign there saying "please don't take photos". Lol, thanks for telling me now!

Either way, Rory, it sounds like you had a kick ass time (as you should!) and glad you made it home safe. I can't wait to get back there and I bet you can't either!! :D

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I can't seem to edit my post above re the photos, but what's missing is that I was trying to say I didn't take photos in either Yellow Blaze or Horiyoshi's museum. There were signs at the museum forbidding it, and at Yellow Blaze I think it probably would have been a faux pas too...

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I have been tattooed by him a few times when i lived in oregon he's not at atlas anymore last I heard he wasnt tattooing anymore cus of his painting schedulle but its worth a shot. earlier in the thread people were talking about scott H

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Nice stuff, @jade1955. Where's Koeplinger tattooing from these days or is he just traveling?

@Wedge i could be totally wrong but i think hes tattooing out of Tattoo Paradise in DC. but yes he does travel alot i've noticed!

@jade1955 I LOVE that Amund Dietzel tattoo! so awesome man!! the DOTD lady on your wife is amazing, but it seems like nothing less can be expected from Stewart. cant wait to see what you get Bert to do on you!

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@Wedge i could be totally wrong but i think hes tattooing out of Tattoo Paradise in DC. but yes he does travel alot i've noticed!

Thanks, yeah I saw on his blog he was back in DC, I don't think he lasted all that long in NH.

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@jade1955 - dude, that Dietzel piece from Chad is gorgeous. How long did it take him? (guessing 20mins/half an hour? haha) and your lady got some beautiful work also, very jealous! How did your appointment go today?

@Tim Burke - that wolf is tough, nicely done

I finally got photos of the rest of what I had done in Kyoto, not the best lighting but better than nothing for now :) two more sessions should finish it up me thinks

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^^Sorry for the crappy photo but I really like these finger waves and wind bar

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You must be over and back to Kyoto regular, Duffa!

That wolf by Chad Koeplinger is one of the nicest of it's kind I've seen in yonks (the other one that I saw recently I liked a lot was also done in Frith Street, funnily enough, by Valerie Vargas).

He's definitley on my 'must get tattooed by' list. Missed him at a guest spot in Ireland last year- hopefully he will come back.

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