Work by Horiyoshi
Horiyoshi III
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Horiyoshi III

“I ask people to be respectful and serious when considering tattoos”

Here at the Grooming Guide tattoos had passed us by, until we discovered Horiyoshi III that is! More akin to works of art and costing tens of thousands of dollars, his tattoos can require weekly hour-long visits over the course of several years to complete. He is only the second tattooist to have been granted the title Horiyoshi, which passes from master to apprentice. Previously it had belonged to legendary tattoo artist Yoshitsugu Muramatsu and then in turn to his son Horiyoshi II.
The prefix Hori means to ‘engrave’ and it refers to a particular style of working on the skin; here Horiyoshi tells us about his inspiration and encourages us to respect our bodies a little moreā€¦.

How did your interest and passion for tattooing start?
I was always fascinated by the Japanese tattoo since a very young age. I once saw a man get out of a public bath with a full body suit and that image stuck with me. I was in awe at the beauty. It had such a violent beauty.

I have heard may things about the uniqueness of your method of working can you explain?
I think people see my method as being unique as I mix the traditional method with the new. I use the machine to outline and detail my tattoos and use the tebori hand poke technique to shade. All of my tattoos are drawn free hand onto the body.

Culturally tattoos in Japan have been associated with gangs and the underworld, even being banned in the late 19th century, are attitudes changing?
I think they are changing due to the popularity of tattoos by mainstream pop culture. I never imagined I would be tattooing so many non-yakuza 20 years ago however like everything, things change. Japan is still very discriminating about people who wear traditional tattoos.

How would you like people to approach tattooing?
I ask people to be respectful and serious when approaching tattoos. They leave a permanent mark on your body and your life. I see too many young people who receive tattoos on their skin without much thought. This causes their bodies to become rough sketch books. This is child’s play and tattoos should be respected.

Lastly how would you like to be remembered?
As an artist.

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