Horitoku tattoo master is a traditional Japanese tattoo master who is considered one of the top tattoo artists in Japan. Being one of few tattoo masters in Tokyo who specialize in “tebori”(手彫り, literally to carve by hand): technique of tattooing by hand), he occasionally does outlines with a machine. Horitoku has started more then 40 years ago and till today he creates many tattoos by hand.
He mentioned earlier for The Japan Times, that “To study tebori is to protect Japan’s culture and tradition, all the way back to the Edo Period.”
While the most young tattooists prefer the easier-to-learn machine method, Horitoku sees himself as an artisan. He passed his knowledge on more then 20 assistants. While living as a single man his clients and assistants made up his “family”.
Horitoku was know in earlier days for his browsing through book shops at Kanda (a part of Tokyo with concentration of second-hand books stores), searching for original sources like old books, original woodblock prints from Edo period of Kuniyoshi, Yoshitoshi and many great masters of that time to learn the most. He mentioned that tattooists need to study Edo Period illustrations otherwise it wouldn’t be traditional Japanese style.
It is as important to study and see kabuki, sumo wrestling, traditional Japanese festivals to gain other cultural knowledge, in order to replicate the prints authentically.
Unlike famous Yokohama based Horiyoshi III who spread his name all around the world, Horitoku sensei is a tattoo master with very little touch with current Japan. Except TV and his phone, he does not run any home pages or use social media. What matter for him are his clients. He live and die for them and for his craft.
Interview by The Documentary Channel here.