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Australia to Japan Travel Log December 2011 (or 'Duffa Does Japan')


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So after reading Iwars' San Fran travel blog, I'd made a comment a long the lines of "maybe I'll do the same for my next Japan trip..." I'm pretty sure the response from @Iwar was "you better blog the shit out of it". So, for Iwar & the rest of the LST crew, here is a blog/travel log of my last trip to Japan, in December 2011 to complete my sleeve by Horinao at The Cat Claw Tattoo-Z in Kyoto. And to catch up with my Japanese fam ;)

(This is my first blog type thing ever so my apologies ahead of time if I waffle on or if it's boring as shit lol. You have been warned :) )

For those of you who just tuned in, I'll do a really quick (ok, not so quick) update to get y'all up to speed on where we are at :cool:

In June last year (2011) I'd gone to Japan to visit and stay with friends in Osaka, and to do a few more things I wasn't able to do on my first trip the previous year (October 2010). Probably the number 1 item on my list was to get a tattoo while I was in Japan (I really love Japanese tattoos, so why wouldn't I want to get one in Japan?). I knew what shop I wanted to go to and who I wanted to get something from, so before I'd left I'd sent off a couple of emails to Catclaw trying to figure out if I could get a booking and when. Unfortunately, I never received a reply... but that wasn't going to deter me ;) Yosuke (My japanese friend who I knew from Australia and who was helping as my translator and local ye olde inn keeper) and myself set out to find the Catclaw and see what we could make happen...

When we've walked in to the shop, Horinao was at his station painting and Hiro was working diligently on, funnily enough, another Australian. Speaking to Rina (pronounced 'Lina') the shop manager and Horinao via Yosuke (and my bad Japanese lol) we decided on a Hannya. Horinao asked what colour I wanted, and my reply was "Aka" (red) making a real emphasis with my body language to say "I wanted this baby really really red" (For those playing at home different colours represent different stages of transformation and different standings in society) Horinao got this cheeky little smile, nodded and knew exactly what I meant. And from pretty much from that point we where total BFF's... lmao. Rina said to come back in an hour and we could start, so Yosuke and I went and grabbed some food and headed back when it was time.

2 1/2 hours (maybe 3 including a break) I walked out with this:



I was pretty damn happy to say the least, and at that point knew that I wanted him to finish the sleeve... IF it could be finished due to needing a cover up that wasn't going to be that easy. Well, there was that and the fact that I'd need to somehow figure out how to get back to japan for this to happen ;)

I get back home and about 4 days later, without going into to much detail, I get some bad news from my Mum but with this news also comes some money and I can only think of one thing I really want to spend it on. I even jokingly said to Mum "You know what this is going on don't you?" and in typical Mumsie style, she responds with "Yeah, I kind of thought that. Just let me know when you book your flights" and that was that...

The next piece of luck was that Jetstar where having another sale to Japan! It's the only way I've been able to go as often as I have - I've never paid anymore than $450 return ;) thank you Jetstar. So I emailed the guys and asked if Horinao thought the tattoo I wanted covered could be... This is what I wanted covered:


Yes, it's Venom from Marvel Comics' Spiderman series. I'd gotten it when I was 19 I think if memory serves correct? It had a lot of black in it, as well as a nice assortment of colours, so I wasn't sure what could be done. Laser was an option of course, but I figured i may as well just spend that money on the tattoo.

Horinao said it'd be all good and asked what I wanted. Although I'd never wanted a Dragon or a Koi as such, I also knew they where probably my only two options. Horinao agreed, and said that a Koi would work best and so thats what we agreed upon. I booked my flights for the end of August, booked 2 days in and after that trip I was left with this:

August 2011 Day 1 (A little over 6 hours not including breaks):



August 2011 Day 2 (4 hours not including breaks - Horinao had a gig that night lol)




He drew everything directly on to my skin to make sure it all worked and flowed as well as possible. I have to admit I was in awe just watching him sketch onto my arm. I couldn't make out shit, but knew I was in safe hands ;) He also never shaved my arm (except for the first time with the Hannya) which I found on later isn't super necessary unless your quite hairy, and it helps lesson the itching during healing :) (hairs aren't growing back)

I got back, twiddled my thumbs until Jetstar had another sale and the second they did, I booked my tickets back for December...

Well, that pretty much brings everyone up to speed with where I was at before I left in December last year. I'll make this the first post, and do the next few as individual days me thinks? So if possible just hold off on any replies until I say "FIN" lol :D (don't worry, they're coming right now!)

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December 2011, Day 1.

So the night before I'm heading back to Japan, a few friends came over and well... lets just say I only ended up getting about an hours sleep. I thought this wouldn't be to bad because it means I should in theory be able to sleep on the plane. We leave from Brisbane at about 6am to head to the Gold Coast, tired and everyones heads hurting like shit, we make it all sweet, slow down to a reasonable speed and throw me out (not really but it sort of felt that way - I wasn't doing well... lol) After just making the check in time due to being stuck in line, i get threw to the security check area and get caught up in every check. Not that I had anything on me but it was still kind of annoying.

Finally board the plane and the thing is packed! The last few flights I'd been on, I'd been really lucky and was able to get 3 or 4 seats to myself, hells yeah! Anyway, I still scammed a two seater to myself so i couldn't really complain. After 9 hours, we touch down in Japan and it is COLD. I mean really, really fucking cold. Like 3 degrees cold (37.4 degrees fahrenheit). Ok, so I know many of you Americans and Europeans will probably be laughing your asses off right now, but please remember that winter for me is maybe 2 weeks of 6 or 7 degrees and its more like "bugger, maybe should put a thicker jumper on". It's just not that cold in Brisbane! So after putting on basically every piece of clothing I'd brought with me at the airport I set out on the train to meet up with Yosukes' brother Masato and his Grandpa - Hiroki Ogi-san (from now on we'll just call him Grandpa) with whom i will be staying for the next few days.

For some reason my batteries where already dead so I had to stop and get some at 'Life' supermarket, where Masato met me. We grabbed some snacks for later, i got some batteries and then we headed home. That night Masato made 'Sukiyaki', and it was goood lol.


Masato Cooking


Was thinking about making love to the heater... but I refrained. (The whole 'good manners' thing)


Sukiyaki!!! Thems shits was delicious :)


Masato also made this^^ I can't remember what the name of it was, but I didn't really like it. In my defense I did still try it AND I'm not sure if you can see it, but there is a skewer in there and Masato asked if I liked "beef tendon"... I said I'd never tried it, and to be fair I would consider last time I was there I did try chicken hearts (taste was ok, but the texture kind of didn't work with me) I placed a piece of beef tendon in my mouth, was in there for almost a second and I politely and subtly of course, took it back out. Masato and Grandpa laughed their asses off at me lol.

After dinner, Masato and I went upstairs to play video games, eat snacks and catch up. A chance for him to practice his English and for me to practice my Japanese.


^^ These things are the best! They're bean puff type chip/crisp things and they are dope.


More snacks


One side of my room


The other side of my room where my bed is. In the corner you can see a shrine for Grandpas' family, but mostly its a shrine dedicated to his wife. They where together for 60 + years before she passed a few years ago, and they where each others first love. Every day, both morning and afternoon Grandpa goes and prays to hear to let her now how much he still loves and misses her. The first time i stayed Yosuke warned me of this because he didn't want me to think it was weird, or to freak out if I heard strange chanting. I told him straight up it was one of the most beautiful things I'd ever heard and the last thing it was was weird. Grandpa is the man for many reasons, but this is gets a lot of respect from me.

Anyway, that was pretty much it for day one. Nothing too exciting, except for arriving in Japan haha, but pretty much went to sleep by 12am so I could get up after a good sleep and head to Kyoto to get down to business! Next episode, Day 2 coming up... right now.

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Day 2 (Part 1):

So after a kick ass sleep (the heater was delightful, I was considering a marriage proposal) I got up around 10am to start heading out to Kyoto. I first had to get to Osaka (Umeda) Station and transfer to a train for Kyoto but first I needed breakfast.


I left the house


Grandpas' whip


Start the walk...


Vending machines on the corner for convenience - I love Japan.


I stopped at 'LIFE'


Sampled some Oranges


Got some sweet type bread stuff


and some juice... and was off again.


Bikes on the way to the station





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Day 2 (Part 2):

I have to take 2 trains to get to Osaka (Umeda) station and start making my way through the masses


The masses


The Roof

I walking to the Hankyu line, I'm looking around and not paying to much attention to whats in front of me, I look up and just burst into laughter because of this


Sure it may not seem that funny, but it was the last thing I thought I'd see and with the angle it was on, i though it was gold.



another shot of the station



The train to Kyoto


lots of bridges


The guy in the hat in the background was singing his ass off and it was dope. Sure, other people seemed to be a little put off by it but I thought it was fantastic! And he seemed happy which was the main thing.



I was trying to get photos of all the hillsides and the Autumn leaves on the train ride but it was hard to get decent pics from an express train ;)

I got to Kyoto and grabbed some quick lunch from Mos Burger (I love that place) and stumbled across these guys


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Day 2 (Part 3):

After lunch I head straight for the studio


This seems like a good sign... (see what I did there? :rolleyes:)


Hiro-san finishing of a sketch for new years cards (In japan christmas is kind of like Valentines day, where its more about boyfriends/girlfriends and for kids and New Years is the important family time)


Horinao-san getting ready to bring the pain on me lol.

Before we started, I asked what colour the Koi was going to be, as up until this point we hadn't discussed it lol. Horinao and Hiro grab my arm and start debating in Japanese what was going to work. And to be honest it was pretty damn funny. I couldn't understand everything, but Hiro would make a suggestion and Horinao would either kind of nod and agree or at one point he just turned and gave him a look as if to say "are you stupid?" Horinao looked at me, shook his head and we laughed. They then agreed on something and Hiro asked if I liked blue. (Hiros' english is better than Horinaos' but he's the boss so he knows what he needs to know lol) Well blue it was :)

After about 5 1/2 hours the Koi was finished and it was time to head back to Osaka. Thankfully, it was the fleshier part of my upper arm so it wasn't to bad. The worst part was probably when I was laying there, then all of a sudden I felt this dab of vaseline on the background right near the crease where the arm and torso meet and all I could think of was "wait a minute that was done... THAT WAS DONE!!!" but it was quick so no complaints. I thank the crew and head out back into the cold... and it was cold lol. It was 0 degrees at this point.


Night life baby



How awesome is this building! (apologies for the photo, every now and then my camera just does whatever it wants and I have no say in it)

After about an hour on the train I get back to Osaka and start heading back to Dempo. While waiting for my next train I came across my new hero


How awesome is he!!!!! (possibly she) but either way, I stood and laughed at it for a good minute. Random things in Japan just crack me up. I'm sure people are making comments about the crazy Gaijin, but I'm ok with that.

Pretty much got back home, had a shower played some video games and passed out again so once again nothing real exciting (it was to damn cold lol)

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Day 3 (Part 1)

Got another good sleep, so was well rested for the final day! All we had to do was the background on my forearm and I was keen as mustard to get it done. Got up and thought I;d take a photo of the stairs in Grandpas' house because the back story was pretty interesting.


Not sure if you can see the angle the stairs are on, but its pretty steep. Old traditional Japanese houses where like this incase bandits/enemies came into the house and this way it would be more difficult for them to quickly get up the stairs and anyone on the top of them would have a better chance of defending their position. Anyway...

I start the walk to the station:


smart like dump truck


Grab breakfast


Universal Studios Train


Osaka station madness round #3


This was a Hello Kitty display made up of little individual photos of people. I wasn't the only one who thought it was cool, this little girl got away from her Mum and bolted straight for it with 'grabby hands' out stretched and she was gunning for it! Her Mum came in out of left field, scooped her up and the little girl was not a happy camper... lol.


On the way to kyoto


The Shinkansen (Bullet Train) track ...next second...


The Shinkansen


Still heading to Kyoto...

Get to kyoto and on the way to the shop I stop off at a Ukiyo-e store just near Catclaw


I haven't had the money to buy anything from there... yet. But if you ever go to Kyoto stop in there


nearly there


^^Like a...


^^Rina-san 'working' lol (I gave her shit about it to, Horinao and I had a good laugh... then he told her to plant more crops lmfao.

Before we started, Horinao, Hiro and I where discussing what I might get for my back piece. I kind of wanted to go reasonably traditional so I mentioned maybe something from Kuniyoshi's Suikoden series and while we where sitting around Hiro gave me a book of designs to look at. Horinao walked passed, shook his head, smiled at me and got down this epic book from The International Tattoo Institute of Japan that had all of the 108 prints stripped down to just the line drawings, as well as images of the originals in the back and the accompanying stories. I came across my favourite Ukiyo-e print 'Tanmeijiro Genshogo' ad that basically sealed the deal. Horinao was stoked on my choice, and Hiro agreed it was a good strong image and not to common which I was happy with


Rina-san and Horinao-san trying to translate the story for me (Much respect!) we got there and I learnt a little bit more.

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Day 3 (Part 2):

So once again, Horinao just drew the background directly onto my skin. And once again I was in awe as to how the fuck he turned these straight, seemingly random lines into these beautiful, perfect finger waves. Shits was crazy! He drew it all, we went and had a quick cigarette before we started and about 4 hours later my sleeve was complete. And it looked pretty damn good if I do say so myself ;)

Horinao wiped down my arm and realised he'd missed a small spot of background so we did it, second wipe down and we took some photos. At this point he realises he missed another spot so we go back to get that. Third wipe down and another missed spot is noticed. At this point both Horinao and I are laughing our asses off, Rina and Hiro look over thinking "wtf?" Not sure what Hiro said exactly, but I could tell he was giving Horinao a little bit of shit. Horinao turns around, says something and Hiro just went silent. Horinao looked at me with this super cheeky grin from behind his face mask and laughed, so I did too. Not sure what was said, but I do know funny when I see it in any language.

While I was getting tattooed, the guys got a delivery of these massive spring onions, and Rina-san asked if I knew what they where. When I responded in japanese she thought it was awesome and we all had a good laugh. When we'd finished up Rina presented me with a bag of said spring onions. I have to admit I was slightly confused, and Hiro could tell. He explained to me that it was a present for Grandpa for letting me stay with him and Masato and for helping make everything happen. It was I guess a 'small' gesture, but it really meant a lot and solidified the fact that these guys are part of my Japanese family


Much love and respect. (Lol I just made the timer)

Finished product:


I'd asked the night before if I could take Masato and Grandpa out to dinner to say thank you for letting me stay. I wanted to go to 'OhSho' which is a chain of chinese restaurants and it is the shit. Masato wasn't sure if Grandpa would be down (he's a bit fussy) but he said he'd ask. To Masatos' surprise Grandpa said yes and it was on!


Heading to the spot in the whip


Blurry photo but you get the idea




Hells yeah!!! this all up was about $20 Australian... in Australia you'd be looking at $60+ easy... fuck my country is expensive.


Done and done.


Stopped at life and stocked up on candy etc to take back home. The next day will be my last day here so Masato and I plan to go back to Kyoto and this time do a bit of sight seeing and not just seeing the inside of Catclaw (not that I really minded ;) )

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Day 4 (Final day Part 1):

Masato and I wake up early so we can head to Kyoto and do a bit of sight seeing, but mostly to go to my most favouritest place on earth Ryoanji Temple (pronounced sort of like Lou-anji). I can't explain why, but i just feel so calm and at ease there. And since the last two times I'd been back I hadn't been, it was on.


On the way to the station


as always we stopped at LIFE to grab food and Masato got stuck behind this sweet little old woman. she was so cute.


I love Japanese packaging


This guy was close second as my new hero. look at him, he's reading! hahahahahahahaha ;)

We got to Kyoto and I still hadn't gotten the Catclaw guys a present (wasn't sure what the tattoo was going to cost, I never ask so wanted to wait to see how much I had left) so I got them alcohol. Nothing says thanks like a good stiff drink lol


After chilling at the shop with the crew for a while, I made my goodbyes and Masato and I set of to get eats.


Pedo-bear game machine

We went to Sukuya? (pronounced sort of like Skuya) I think that was the name of it, either way you order here


and then when a seat is available and your order is ready you get this


GYUDON! not sure if thats how its spelt but its either guedon or gyudon? either way its beef and rice and its awesome. with Miso and unlimited tea for about $2.50 australian. once again, fuck my country and its food prices.

We start making our way to Ryoanji and pass these little fellas


Once again I'm amused for quite a while and Masato is shaking his head at me at this stage


Tram #1 to our final destination


All aboard


I tried to take a sneaky photo of a woman in traditional dress... but I think she was on to me lol



Random wrap letterz in the middle of no where

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Day 4 (Final Day Part 2)


Ryoanji Tram Station




These old guys where going hard cutting up the bamboo they where working, and when I say old, they was old.






This is the beginning of the temple grounds



some cool grass


More maple leaves (for me they where really cool hence the photos)


The Zen Garden at Ryoanji Temple. I wish this photo did the place justice, I just can't explain it but its one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to.




The bells, the bells...


A miniature showing all of the rocks within the garden - (from Wikipedia)"The garden consists of raked gravel and fifteen moss-covered boulders, which are placed so that, when looking at the garden from any angle (other than from above) only fourteen of the boulders are visible at one time. It is traditionally said that only through attaining enlightenment would one be able to view the fifteenth boulder."

I hadn't seen this description before I went the first time, and had the idea of standing on the roof and looking down you'd be able to see all fifteen stones by myself. Just not sure if it's the answer the monks where looking for... lol



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Day 4 (Final Day Part 3)

So after it took most of the day to to get to the temple, Masato and I headed back to Osaka and pretty much head straight to the airport


Final time walking through Osaka station (on this trip anyways)


Heading to the airport



Random night shots


My 'entourage' lol

I felt bad enough Grandpa and Masato driving me to the airport because of parking and the fact that motorways in Japan are pretty expensive to use (and Grandpa won't take my money) I was trying to say thanks heaps but that the guys didn't have to stick around so they didnt have to pay to much in parking. Well, Grandpa wasn't having a bar of it and Masato explained we had to have a meal before I left. When in Rome...

For some reason Pizza was chosen (I have no idea why?) but while we where waiting Masato decided to wear Grandpas coat. Without a second thought, Grandpa realised two could play this game...



I lost my shit, Grandpa is awesome.


Masato doing his best Yakuza impression... it wasn't very scary lol.


These two wild and crazy guys...


Kansai airport


Me and Grandpa

After saying goodbye to the other half of my Japanese family, I made my way through customs no hassles, and headed home back to Brisbane... with 4 seats all to myself, all riiiiiiiiiight. (Thank you to my average Japanese skills haha) During the flight I was trying to sleep and it just wasn't happening. Next thing over the speakers I hear "Attention passengers this is Old Mate, Aaaaaah if there is a Doctor on board or any trained medical staff and would like to help a fellow passenger please make yourself know to cabin crew" I seriously thought i was tripping balls, which was weird because I hadn't had anything? but no, I wasn't tripping. A poor elderly japanese woman was having some troubles and next thing one of the Japanese passengers was a doctor came straight to her aid, hooked her up with some oxygen and sat with her for the rest of the flight.

A couple of hours later (9 hour flight all up) I was back in Australia and just wanted sleep. Unfortunately I had a 2 1/2 hour bus/train/bus ride ahead of me but it was all worth it :D

So, that is my most recent trip to Japan in a nutshell. I really hope I haven't bored the shit out of to many people? But I guess peeps can just look at the pictures if they want. In the next few days I'll upload some pics from other trips, not with as much written detail, but just some cool photos to share if anyone is interested.

Thanks to anyone who checked this thread out and stuck through it all! (hey I warned you all at the start haha) a big, huge, massive thanks to all of my Japanese family - Horinao-san for the amazing tattoo and his patience with making sure the cover up was as perfect as it could be, Masato & Hiroki Ogi-san for letting me stay and always taking care of me, Hiro-san for the conversations, laughs and redbulls & (last but never least!!) Rina-san for making sure everything happened and for just being awesome! (Domo arigato gozaimasu soshite Akemashite Omadeto-u Gozaimasu!!) For letting me into your homes and lives and making me feel welcome and a part of your families. (Taihen osewa ni narimashita!!)

Ok, I'm now going to sleep! @Iwar this ones for you buddy ;)

FIN (lmao)

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Wow, thanks heaps everyone! Glad you guys enjoyed it :) I missed a bunch of stuff but I'll just add it later as well as previous trip photos. I am up for the most ridiculous reason (check the dumb hipster tattoo thread...) so I'm going back to crash for a few hours.

@Iwar - I wasn't going to let you down homie ;) (I owed you after the 'Desperate Housewives incident' haha)

Sincerely, my thanks to everyone who's checked it out (hope you enjoyed it) and I look forward to be able to share my next travel blog ;) (and to read te next installment from Iwar... you bastard... yes, I'm jealous.)

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Great trip blog, solid tattoos and some good pictures. But to fill in some missing blanks for you, the gyudon (beef bowl) is from a chain called Matsuya. And that astronaut dog is part of a running commercial for softbank (you can youtube them) but the odd thing is, is that he is the father of the household. Good to see some pictures of kansai region, cause I've never been there.

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@CaptCanada haha cheers mate! I had a feeling you'd come in and clear anything up ;)

Matsuya! Thats the one - I think Masato mentioned a placed called Sukuya or something?

I didn't realise the astronaut dog was the same dog as the father in the softbank ads? I love those ads! As the Capt. mentioned, in this series of ads the dad is played by the dog and I also believe they have an african american brother or something? either way, the dog lays down the law and is head of the household. and is amazing at remembering his lines ;) lol

Thanks again everyone for the responses and for checking out my little blog :)

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Dude this looks like it was an awesome time! You tattoo is great, I'm sure you're so fucking stoked right now.

I can't fucking believe you can get to Japan and back for $450, that's crazy! Over here (Canada) it costs about $1300, and that's when there's a sale too!

Cheers Ursula! haha, yeah I'm super stoked ;) Yeah, I have to admit the prices sometimes are really ridiculous. It is sometimes cheaper to fly return to Japan, than it is to fly from one side of australia to the other one way (Brisbane - Perth) (your probably going to hate me for this, as will a few others, but the last two trips I've been able to fly return for $380... *starts ducking thrown objects*)

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