Toshikazu Nozaka



When did you get into tattooing? I went out to L.A. when I was 17. It had always been my dream to check out the U.S. skate scene. But it was a lot different than I expected in L.A.—lots of gangs and crazy stuff like that. I decided to return to Japan and go in a different direction. I was still 17 at the time, and I started studying traditional Japanese tattooing, irezumi.

Is the apprenticeship process different in Japan than in the U.S.? I think the process is harder for traditional Japanese tattoo artists.

Is skating part of tattoo culture in Japan? I was the first Japanese pro skater to become a traditional Japanese tattoo artist. It’s not as common as it is in the U.S., with guys like Fred Smith and the Godoy Twins. There’s not as much crossover in Japan.

How have you incorporated the skate lifestyle in your art, and vice versa? I make art for everybody to enjoy. Tattoos are personal for each individual. Skateboarding helps bring me mental and physical harmony.

Congratulations on your line for Etnies. What was your inspiration? For the Shoe: Barge LS shoe, I used a rising carp-scale pattern. The inspiration behind the Jameson 2 shoe design was the rebirth that occurred after the destruction caused by the Japanese tsunami.

How is designing clothing different than designing a tattoo for someone’s body? Each design experience is unique and enjoyable for me. I hope to reach as many different people around the world as possible.

Which hurts more: wrecking on the board or getting a hand-poked tattoo? Hand-poked tattoos hurt less than most people think. Machine tattoos hurt more, I think. But of course a hard skate slam hurts the worst!

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