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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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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Kirin Tattoos:

There is a mythological creature from Japan known as a Kirin. It is known to have the body of a lion, scales like that of a fish, with deer antlers and hooves. 

Kirin with flames as a back piece by Marco Biondi at Freak Show Tattoo Studio in Cesena, Italy
Forearm Kirin and flames by Samantha Fung at 59 Tattoo in Hong Kong

Some people believe it may be based on a giraffe that may have been brought to China after one of the emperors expeditions to Africa.

Kirin half sleeve by Kan Stroker at Stroker Tattoo in Japan
Kirin and flames back by Horitsubaki in Fukui City, Japan

It is always seen as a harbinger of good luck or some kind of positive event that will happen, such as a period of abundance.

Black and grey Kirin by Dokgonoing
Black and grey Kirin back by Horitomo at State of Grace in California

Kirin are also meant to have an abundance of rui, a Buddhist concept that can be roughly translated to “serenity” and “prosperity.” This is visualized usually by flames surrounding the creature.

Kirin and flames on the leg by Victor Martins at Sacred Cartel
A bold thigh Kirin by Ian Det at Psycho Tattoo Studio in Rome

It is quite a popular creature in Japanese and East Asian tattooing in general, and it makes for a great stand alone piece or as part of a larger piece of work like a sleeve or even back piece. 

A healed back Kirin by Greg Kinnamon in Omaha Nebraska
Shoulder Kirin by Hide Ichibay at Tokyo Three Tides

Edited by Harrison R.

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Fukushi Masaichi “the skin collector”

Fukushi Masaichi (1878-1956) was famous for his interesting and macabre collection of human skin, specifically tattooed human skin. Dr. Fukushi was a Japanese physician, pathologist, and professor of Nippon Medical School in Tokyo. He was studying moles and movement of pigmentation in human skin, which is how he became interested in tattoos; more specifically Japanese bodysuits. This interest led to him collecting tattooed human skin after people died (with their permission).

Dr. Fukushi worked for a long time at the Mitsui Memorial Hospital in Tokyo, which mainly helped the poorer and lower classes. At the time, these classes were largely the kind of people who were also getting tattooed in Japan such as gangsters, construction workers, and other day labourers.

The doctor had such a fascination and interest in tattoos that he even paid for some people to get full bodysuits, or to finish existing work on the condition that he could harvest their skin when they died. 

This fascination also lead to him forming friendships with his tattooed patients, and helped form the Tattoo League of Japan. The League would meet in public bathhouses to show off their body art to each other and the doctor.

Don Ed hardy is one of the few lucky foreigners to have seen the collection in 1983 at the invitation of Dr. Katsunari Fukushi, Masaichi’s son, who also continued the collection. At the time there were over 3,000 photographs of tattoos, over 100 tattooed human skins, and notes and records from Masaichi. 

Edited by Harrison R.

Information from: Don Ed Hardy, Remains to be Seen, in Tattoo Time, Volume 4: Life and Death Tattoos, (1987).

Vice Magazine, June 29 2015, Simon Davis. Human Pelts: The Art of Preserving Tattooed Skin After Death

https://www.eikondevice.com/blog/tattoo-histories-skin-collector-fukushi-masaichi-1878-1956

Japanese Blackwork Tattoos:

Japanese is undeniably one of the most popular tattoo styles, but heavy black pieces are changing the game.

Blackwork wave sleeve mixed with geometric patterns by Raimundo Ramìrez.
Spirited Away’s Yubaba done by Stephen Doan.

Japanese tattoos traditionally use lots of red and black, but also feature some yellows, orange, and shades of grey. Basically the same colour palette as original American traditional.

Blackwork tiger back done by Takizomoro.
Samurai Hannya done by Daniel Ra.

Blackwork is becoming a more and more popular style all the time, and can be done in many styles.

Blackwork leg sleeves done by Guy Le Tatooer.
Blackwork cloud sleeves with geometric patterns done by Gakkin.

Japanese blackwork often makes great use of negative space, making the subject pop, particularly when done on lighter skin tones.

Blackwork Bodhidharma by HoriNami.
Blackwork peony and snake sleeves by Lupo Horiōkami.

Some artists also mix styles such as Neo-traditional and geometric with their Japanese work. Both of these styles are often done as all black pieces, so it mixes well.

Blackwork namakubi by Damien J. Thorn.
Blackwork fish by Horihiro.

Which tattoo is your favourite?

Blackwork negative space sleeve by Oscar Hove.
3/4 sleeves and chest panels by Gotch.

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Tsuchigumo Tattoos:

Tsuchigumo is a Japanese yōkai, or demon. It’s a creepy crawly beast that according to legend can grow to a monstrous size, big enough to eat a person with no problems.

Tsuchigumo as a NSFW shunga piece by Carlos Guerrero.
More American traditional style Tsuchigumo piece by Isaac Bushkin.

Tsuchigumo literally means “ground spider”, and is found in mountains, forests, and caves.

Traditional Japanese Tsuchigumo by Harriet Street.
Crazy neo-traditonal head piece by Alex Rusty.

In legends, these beasts live in silk tubes in trees and caves, from which they trap their human or animal prey. Think Aragog from Harry Potter or Shelob in the Lord of the Rings.

Tsuchigumo sleeve topper with a Hannya mask, done by Lukas Speich.
Bright and bold Tsuchigumo by Dani Ardila Escobar.

Like a lot of Japanese yōkai, particularly snake and spider ones, Tsuchigumo relies on tricks and deceit to catch their smarter prey.

Tsuchigumo with a traditional Japanese skull done by Rocky Burly.

For example, one legend tells of a Tsuchigumo using an illusion to torun itself into a beautiful woman, with an army behind her, to attach Japan. Warrior Yorimitsu met army on the battlefield with his own force, and first attacked the woman general. When she was struck by a sword she transformed back into a creature, while her army disappeared as it had all been an illusion. she ran away back to her cave where she was sliced open. This led to thousands of babies spilling from her swollen abdomen, but each one was killed by the Japanese warriors.

Black and yellow Tsuchigumo done by Nero Morte.

Many more tales feature Tsuchigumo using illusions to trick their prey, leading to many people being eaten by the giant spider-beast.

Traditional Japanese Tsuchigumo as part of a sleeve by Jason Lambert.

As a tattoo, Tsuchigumo is usually done in a traditional Japanese style, as it comes from Japanese folklore. Though it can also be done with a more American traditional twist, Neo-traditional, or realistic style. It pairs well with Japanese warriors, or as fillers with webs, skulls, or flowers.

Big thigh Tsuchigumo by Ricardo Araya Con.

Which piece is your favourite?

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Boost Your Immune System With Tattoos

Full back done by Joel Soon at Sanctum Tattoo.

Over the last few years there have been numerous studies looking at tattoos and their effect on the immune system.

And for all you fellow tattoo collectors I have good news. Tattoos do in fact have a positive impact on your immune system!

Are they going to keep COVID-19 away from you? Unfortunately, no, but people who have more than one tattoo generally have a stronger and healthier immune system than those who do not.

Full back done by Don Ritson at Rebel Waltz Tattoo.

In one test, a group of 29 people were tested before and after visiting a tattoo shop in Alabama. The researchers tested levels of cortisol, which is one of the body’s indicators of stress levels, as well as Immunoglobin A, which is in simple terms is an antibody that helps our bodies fight infections . This study showed that those going in with no tattoos yet showed a greater strain on their immune system with a dip in their Immunoglobin A levels, while those going in for their second, third, or even tenth or more tattoo, actually experienced a large boost in their Immunoglobin A levels immediately following the tattoo. The full test can be read here “Tattoos to Toughen Up.”

Big Hannya mask done by Hide Ichibay at Three Tides Tattoo.

Another test done in American Samoa by the same researcher took 25 saliva samples at the start and end of tattoo sessions on both tourists and locals getting tattooed. They also measured the tattoo recipients height, weight, and fat density to account for general health. Again, both cortisol and Immonoglobin A were extracted and tested, as well as an inflammatory marker C-reactive protein. A similar finding was concluded here, with Immonoglobin A staying remaining higher in the bloodstream even after tattoos had healed. As well, people with more and larger tattoos tested higher Immonoglobin A levels than those with less or no tattoos prior to the start of getting tattooed. This effect also appears to be dependent on getting multiple tattoos and not just having some time pass after getting tattooed once.

Full front torso done by Rich Hardy.

Of course having lots of tattoos won’t guarantee your health, but based on testing it can be beneficial for general immune health, and in particular skin injuries and health.

Both studies were done by Dr. Christopher Lynn.

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Artist of the Month: Kelly Smith

Kelly Smith works out of Cry Baby Tattoo in Sheffield, England. Kelly mainly does American traditional pieces, but also works in black work and Japanese styles.

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Bloody panther head and a deadly looking snake.
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Some gorgeous pink peony’s paired with solid black filler in a forearm half sleeve.
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Some old school flowers for a bold neck piece.
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Badass scorpion ready to sting for this side neck piece.
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Japanese kitsune, or fox spirit.

Kelly’s work is bright and bold as hell, mixing the traditional themes of Americana and Japan with the bright colours of a Neo-traditional style.

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Some classic clasped hands and trad flowers on the collar bone.
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Traditional geisha wearing a beautiful kimono.
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Anchor featuring Neck Deep lyrics.
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Good luck horseshoe and some mountains done in blackwork style.
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Badass Sailor Jerry inspired piece.

If you’re looking for a banging one off then Kelly is the one to see, but don’t be shy about getting a big piece! A back or torso design will be a brilliant addition to your collection.

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Toad getting that zen life.
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Lots of green in this gorgeous back piece featuring Eve and Lucifer with that dratted apple.
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A painful spot for a mean looking eagle.
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Wicked snake head with some bright colours.
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Very painful looking old school piece featuring a tiger and a snake battling it out.

If you happen to find yourself in the Sheffield area Kelly is one to visit. I know I will!

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Blackwork lady and rose.
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Namakubi hand banger. Gorgeous blue tones in that bloody head.
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Another peony, featuring a cute old school butterfly.
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More pink peony’s and solid black. These pieces are great for some heavy contrast.
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Sick traditional dragon looking ready to get into some mischief.

You can find Kelly on Instagram at @kellysmithtattoos

Artist of the Month: Rob Kelly

Rob Kelly is the owner of BLACKOUT Tattoo in Hong Kong. Rob has been tattooing since 2005, and has lived in Hong Kong since 1994. BLACKOUT Tattoo was founded in 2010 and features brilliant permanent artists as well as travelling guest artists.

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Realistic black and grey tiger.
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Realistic black and grey lion head.
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American traditional lady head butterfly.
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Black and grey Japanese Kitsune.

Rob tattoos in many styles including American traditional, Neo traditional, black work, Japanese, Chinese, black and grey, line work, realism, tribal, and more.

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American traditional butterfly.
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Water colour dragon.
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Tribal chest panel.

Rob has a book of flash you can choose from, or you can book a consultation with him and collaborate on something completely original for yourself.

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Blackwork half goat, half mermaid.
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Classic mom tattoo with a heart and dagger.
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Japanese lucky cat, Neko!

The shop abides by all health regulations, including using new ink and needles, so no need to worry about infections.

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Blackwork chrysanthemum.
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Chinese dragon in American traditional style.
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Bright red chrysanthemum.

Rob has incredible attention to detail and will make sure you leave the shop happy and with a badass tattoo! Check out his website and set up a consultation http://www.blackout-tattoo.com

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American traditional cherub and skull.
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Black and grey Harry Potter piece. Expecto patronum!
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Legend of Zelda sword.