Hyottoko and Okame Tattoos:

Hyottoko and Okame are an endearing and comical pair of peasants that have been a part of Japanese folklore for centuries. They are two of Noh theatres most beloved characters and both are portrayed using very stylized masks.

Black and grey piece of them together by David Sáez
Okame by Owen Yu in Suzhou China

Hyottoko is a male character with an oddly shaped face, prominent cheeks that are red from drinking too much sake, with one eye larger than the other, pursed lips, and a white handkerchief with blue dots tied and knotted around his head and under his chin.

Hyottoko by Jeff Ma at Ukiyo Ink in Winnipeg
Hyottoko by Christos Serafeim in the UK

He is a kind peasant spirit who according to legend could remove gold from his navel and spit fire through a bamboo tube that he always brings with him. This tube is also why he is usually depicted with pursed lips as though perpetually ready to blow fire through his tube. He is also described as a drunkard who enjoys dancing and parties. The handkerchief around his head is also a nod towards him being a drunk as toothaches were common from drinking too much.

Hyottoko and flower half sleeve by Wootattoo_1 at Authentink Tattoo Studio in Australia
Okame and Hyottoko flash by Maiz Art

Okame is a female character (also sometimes called Otafuku) with a smiling face and large cheeks. She also has white makeup and red lips, in the style of a geisha. 

Okame by Rocky Burley at True Nature Tattoo Studio in Arcata, CA
Okame by Alec at Gastown Tattoo Parlour, Vancouver

She is meant to bring happiness and enjoyment, and also embodies the ideal of feminine beauty. Okame is also often associated with geishas because of her playful nature and more silent and secondary role in theatre and folklore. 

Okame by Jeff Ma at Ukiyo Ink in Winnipeg
Hyottoko and Okame by Baku Zumi in South Korea

Do you have a Hyottoko or Okame tattoo?

Edited by Harrison R.

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Artist of the Month: Christoffer Woien

Christoffer Woien is co-owner and tattooer at Blue Arms Tattoo located in Oslo, Norway.

Nure-Onna on the ribs
Dragon on the thigh

Chris is known for his notable work in two main styles, Japanese and traditional old school, with some black and grey or black work versions of both styles thrown into the mix.

Hannya and snake back piece
Black American traditional torso

Chris’ Instagram is full of both large and small scale work, including back pieces, full sleeves, one-offs, and job stoppers.

Hannya job stopper
Kintaro wrestling a wolf

His work is crisp and detailed, and you can tell how much pride he takes in his work by spending only a few minutes looking through his portfolio. Much of his work takes direct influence from woodblock Japanese artists as well as old school tattooers from the 19th-20th centuries.

Kyōsai’s frog
Black and grey Japanese sleeve

If you’re able to make the trip to Norway or are lucky enough to live in Europe where it’s easy to travel between countries, Chris is a must see artist.

Fujin and Raijin chest piece
Tiger 3/4 sleeve

Edited by Harrison R.

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Centipede Tattoos:

Centipedes make great tattoos because of the versatility in their shape. They can be long and straight or wrap around other existing tattoos.

Creepy one done by Filosh Tattoo at Pink Machine Tattoo
Black and grey centipede with eyes done by Rafel Delalande at Seven Doors Tattoo in London

Centipedes are creepy enough on their own but they can be made even more terrifying by using skulls or heads to make up the body.

Centipede made with heads done by Ganji at Capital Tattoo in Australia
Old school centipede done by Ashley Thorne at Tattoo Bug Studio

People get centipedes tattooed on them in a number of styles; mainly old school, black work, Japanese, or neo-traditional.

Centipede and flowers done by Jessica Paula at Kelz Ink Kingdom in Yorkshire UK
Lady head centipede done by James Mckenna at Golden Panther Tattoo

Many people choose centipedes as a gap filler due to their shape, and they can also be done quite small or as a huge statement piece.

Chain and skull centipede done by Marlee Natale at Modern Moose Studios
Old school centipede done by Eli Fakes at Brass Monkey Tattoo in Ohio

Do you have your own centipede tattoo?

Skull centipede done by Johan Navarro in Guadalajara Mexico
Heavy black work centipede done by Gara Tattooer at Lighthouse tattoo in South Korea

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Tattoo History 17: Shanghai Kate

Kate Hellenbrand AKA “Shanghai Kate” AKA “America’s Tattoo Godmother” got started as one of America’s most well known female tattooers in the early 1970’s, and still tattoos now (though she is semi retired). She works out of Holy Work Tattoo in Austin, Texas, and works tattoo conventions with her husband.

Classic rattlesnake
1970’s flash

Kate has worked alongside some of the greatest American tattoo icons of the 1900’s including Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins, Jack Rudy, and Ed hardy, and was also good friends with the late Lyle Tuttle. 

Classic pinup
Black cat and 13 for Friday the 13th

Kate has a background in art and became interested in tattooing when she lived in New York with her partner Michael Malone at a time when tattooing was actually illegal in the city. The two worked out of an apartment and would hand out business cards to anyone they came across who had a visible tattoo. Tattooing was difficult at the time, and they even had to make machines using parts bought at bike shops, or pretend to be nursing students to acquire medical equipment.

Crossed pistols and desert themed florals
1970 Jack Grice, Kate, Thom Devita, Sailor Sid

In 1972 Kate was invited to be one of the seven tattooers at what was the first international tattoo convention in Hawaii that was hosted by Sailor Jerry. This group was called “The Council of the Seven.” This lasted around one week, but when the other tattooers left, Kate stayed behind to work with Jerry for a number of weeks. Sailor Jerry was notoriously protective of tattoo culture and disliked most newcomers to the industry particularly women, but Kate seemed to be an exception and was welcomed wholeheartedly and taught a lot.

Bright and bold dragon
Fortune Teller

As well as still occasionally tattooing, Kate also sells tattoo memorabilia including old flash from the greats, tattoo books, and also gives talks at tattoo conventions around the US. 

Kate’s signature added to an old back piece by Sailor Jerry
Kate tattooing that same signature

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Elbow Tattoos:

Elbows are one of the more painful spots to get tattooed, but if you’re wanting that full sleeve it’s something you’ve got to tough out. 

Horseshoe and Flower by Caige Baker at the Brindle Room in Calgary, Alberta
Spiderweb by Tony Torvis at Mortem Tattoo in Montréal, Quebec

There are lots of designs that fit the shape of the elbow well, such as spiderwebs, flowers, mandalas, geometric shapes, and other “gap filler” type pieces. 

Mandala by Hans Joen Heggum at Blue Arms Tattoo in Oslo, Norway
Heart web done by Tasha Terror at Three of Swords Tattoo in Halifax, Nova Scotia

Elbow tattoos also often take a bit longer to heal than many other locations on the body just because it’s a joint that most of us use all day every day. All that movement irritates the area so you can expect prolonged swelling, and maybe more scabbing than other tattoos you have.

Spiderweb done by Gabriel Buison
Bright flower piece done by Jasmine Worth at Remington Tattoo in San Diego

Because the bone lies directly under the skin with virtually no “padding” on your elbow, it’s going to hurt more than the rest of your sleeve, which is why many people choose to save it for last, or choose a design that doesn’t fully cover the area such as a spiderweb or a horseshoe.

Geometric dot work piece by Tommy Birch
Bright and bold flower piece by Capa Tattoo at Tattoo Circus in Italy

While spiderweb tattoos are arguably one of the most popular elbow designs among old school collectors, you should be aware that originally this design was meant for people in prison, often signifying how much time a person has done. Nowadays most people won’t assume that you’ve been to prison if you have this tattoo, but it’s important to be aware of. 

Black work butterfly by Alin in Seoul, Korea
Colourful spiderweb by Dave at Trophy Tattoo in Hamilton, Ontario

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Artist of the Month: David O’Connor

David O’Connor is a traditional tattoo artist working out of Trophy Tattoo in Hamilton, Ontario. The shop caters specifically to those looking for American traditional tattoos, and all of the artists who work there do fantastic work.

Jesus chest piece
Old school flowers

Davids Instagram is full of classic flash and finished pieces that would have been seen on the walls of tattoo shops throughout the 1900’s and on the bodies of sailors. 

Healed Geisha
Black traditional chest piece

When booking a tattoo with David you can choose from pre-drawn flash or bring your own idea to the table. David and the rest of the shop also take walk-ins.

Tiger vs snake
Classic old school dragon

The majority of his work is done in colour, with the traditional colours of black, red, and green, but if you’re looking for some black traditional work he’s got you covered as well.

Queen of Hearts
matching forearm pieces

Whether you’re looking for a small walk-in piece or a full back, David does it all, with style. If you’re in Hamilton or just passing through he is a must see artist for all your traditional needs.

Battle Royale backpiece
Bert Grimm butterfly lady

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Gap Filler Tattoos:

Gap filler tattoos are exactly what they sound like, small tattoos that fill the gap between other pieces to make a sleeve or torso look more fluid.

Cute bondage Kewpie done by Cobra Kai Tattoo
Frog filler by Tattoo Mozart

Generally when someone says gap filler they’re referring to a more old school style, as the custom with old school tattoos is to collect lots of smaller tattoos that then form a larger piece when it’s all put together.

Flail by Gary Gerhardt at Key City Tattoo
Coffin nails by Hudson at Rose of Mercy in London

Some common gap fillers include centipedes, flowers, butterflies, spider webs, nails, snakes, frogs, etc. Almost anything can be a gap filler if it can be made small enough and can have some diversity in placement to fit those odd angles.

Old school flower by Aaron at FHC Tattoo in Melbourne
A happy little sun by Daniele Delligatti at Sacred Circle Tattoo in Rome

If you’re going for that bodysuit look you’ll probably end up with some gap fillers unless you pre-planned your whole body before you started getting tattoos, or worked with a style like Japanese where gap fillers are less common (though not unheard of).

Pistol and butterfly by Jade Harper at House of the Rising Sun Tattoo in Winnipeg
Floral fillers by atomlenhart

What gap fillers do you have or want?

Mosquito by Dan Coy at Hobart Tattoo Collective in Australia
Dice and floral filler by Eva at Baltimore Ave Tattoo

Edited by Harrison R.

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Battle Royale Tattoos:

The Battle Royale is an old school design that consists of an eagle, a snake, and a dragon, all battling it out to be number one (sometimes it is depicted as an eagle vs a snake, or even other animals fighting).

A more neo-traditional take on the Battle Royale by Sergio Latorre at Octopus Tattoo
Classic colours in this Battle Royale by Tim Pausinger at Pearl Harbor Gift Shop

This design has been passed down for generations through tattooers and tattoo collectors, usually as quite a large design like a full back piece, chest, or stomach, but also as smaller work on arms and legs. 

Black work Battle Royale by Nico at El Furgón Tattoo Parlour
Colour Battle Royale by Rudi Ridgewell in Worthing, England

This most famous design was tattooed on D.C (Dave) Paul by Huck Spaulding and Paul Rogers, though there are a few older designs that are bit different. One was tattooed by George Burchett when he was working with Japanese artist Hori Uno in his shop in London, and the other by Percy Waters in Detroit. Ben Corday’s version is also quite popular.

Black work Battle Royale by Gil Guerra at Heart of Oak Tattoo in Belgium
A more neo-traditional Battle Royale by Erich XXX in Buffalo, NY

The Battle Royale is an American traditional design that has clear roots in Japanese tattooing as well as American. It was designed to represent the eternal struggle of keeping balance, particularly between the East and West, but life in general as well. Everything in life requires balance and hardship. This is a battle that will never be won.

Bold and colourful Battle Royale by JF Bourbon
Spaulding and Rogers version by Leonardo Maria Cardinali at Fat Cat Studio in Viterbo Italy

Most people choose to get this piece in full colour as the first wearers of the tattoo would have, but it also looks great without colour, or as a more neo-traditional piece. 

Black work Battle Royale by Alban at Lig Neverte Tattoo in Montréal
A very bright Battle Royale done by Alfy Iglesias at Old Ironside Tattoo in Honolulu, Hawaii
Ben Corday’s Battle Royale by Rich Hardy

Edited by Harrison R.

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Kintaro Tattoos:

Kintaro (literally translated as “golden boy”) is Japanese mythology’s equivalent to Hercules.

 

Kintaro vs the giant koi Done by Hide Ichibay at Three Tides Tokyo
Kintaro’s head Done by Diau Yīshēng in Cape Town South Africa

Despite being called golden boy he’s usually depicted as red-skinned. He is also always seen as quite a young boy, very muscular, squat, and usually either naked or covered by only a loincloth type material.

Kintaro side piece Done by Marco Rossettini in Spain
Kintaro sleeve Done by Ryo Niitsuma in Okinawa Japan

According to legend Kintaro was raised by an ogre in the mountains, and his feats of strength are just as well known in Japan as Hercules’ are in most Western countries. Kintaro defeated a bear and an eagle at the same time, uprooted a massive tree to form a bridge over a river, and most famously wrestled a giant koi fish into submission. 

A more old school take on Kintaro vs the koi Done by Kendi at Victory Tattooing in Vancouver, BC
Kintaro vs snake Done by Amar Goucem in the Netherlands

It is this last image of Kintaro wrestling the giant koi that is most often seen in tattoos. Utagawa Kuniyoshi most famously painted that specific image and made it popular for tattoo collectors. 

A bright and bold Kintaro Done by Davide Di Cintio at Cloak and Dagger in London, England
Black and grey Kintaro vs koi back piece Done by the Gioi Tattoo

Though Kintaro is a famous legendary figure, scholars believe he is at the very least based on a real person. The real Kintaro was most likely the son of Sakata Kurando, one of Emperor Suzaku’s bodyguards in the tenth century. Sakata’s wife Yaegiri was apparently a very beautiful woman, but when Sakata committed suicide after losing the Emperor’s favour, she took her son Kintaro to remote Mount Ashigara to raise him among animals, spirits, and mythological creatures. Here he gained powers of strength and was able to communicate with and control animals, and Yaegiri became a sorceress. Kintaro also eventually gained a powerful weapon, the very axe the god of thunder Raijin used. 

Kintaro vs the boar Done by Baki in South Korea
Kintaro head on the foot Done by Ordi at Black Rose Tattoo in Barcelona

Information found in the book “Japanese Tattoos: Meanings, Shapes and Motifs” by Yori Moriarty.

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