Japanese Artist Keeps Hand Tattoo Tradition Alive

While many young artists fail to master the art of what is know as “tebori” (hand tattooing) in Japan, one man is still going strong, despite the practice dying off with his peers.

Oguri Kazuo, known professionally as Horihide, has tattooed everyone from gangsters to geishas. The 79-year-old started out as an apprentice 60 years ago and spent five years learning the ancient art of hand tattooing as a young man.

His days of inking “yakuza” mafia members and glamorous geishas are over, and now Horihide tattoos mostly construction workers and firefighters. Though he must do his work in secret, as tattoos are held under major scrutiny in Japan. 

Osaka mayor Toru Hashimoto demanded that all government employees admit to any tattoos they might have, whether concealed or visible. They must then face the decision of getting them removed or getting a new job.

Horihide, who practiced tattooing on himself while learning the trade, revealed the most common design he has done is a Japanese carp which is most associated with fisherman.

“Japanese guys take the spirit of the carp, rather than struggle against fate,” he said of the tattoo’s meaning, referring to the carp keeping fish calm once they are caught instead of making it thrash around as their fate is sealed.

Horihide currently has eight tattoo students. A handful are learning tebori, but none of them can draw their own designs yet. With Horihide as a teacher though, the future for these potential artists looks colorful.

 

Source: Los Angeles Times 

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