31.05.2013
Over the last four decades Oguri Kazuo has tattooed notable geisha and countless yakuza, members of Japan's notorious mafia.
Today, the 79-year-old artist, known professionally as Horihide (derived from "hori," meaning "to carve"), is working on a client who is a little more subdued.Motoyama Tetsuro has spent hundreds of dollars, traveled thousands of miles and waited more than three decades for a session with Horihide. This distinguishes them from American tattoos, which are largely personal expressions of individualism.
Japanese masters spend years perfecting their craft and learning the stories behind the tattoos, derived from woodblock prints and Chinese folk tales.


Artists such as Horihide work under a cloak of secrecy plagued by associations with criminality. Although the grandfather is happy to show off his tattoos in California, he, like most, is careful to hide his arms in Japan behind long sleeves despite searing summer temperatures.Controversy is now flaring up again. Last month, the right-wing populist mayor of Osaka, Toru Hashimoto, ordered all government employees to voluntarily divulge any concealed or visible tattoos. If you didn't do it right, you could be beaten," recalls the artist, as he sits cross-legged on the floor, carefully filling in the yellow hues of a tiger on Motoyama's other shoulder.


When money ran out and hunger started to gnaw, he saw a sign offering room and board to a tattoo apprentice.



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