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.

Shibari Tattoos:

NSFW. Shibari is the ancient Japanese artistic form of rope bondage. In Japanese, Shibari simply means “to tie.”

Alix Ge Alix Ge tattoo, chez @misericorde.sete France
Snake and woman in Shibari ropes done by Alix Ge in France.
Phil Kaulen Tattoo Cologne | Tattooer&Star Wars Geek! 🔫 Partner in crime to @ohheavyheart | Working at Elektrotinte Tattoo
Blackwork woman in kimono done by Phil Kaulen at Elektrotinte Tattoo.
zhuo dan ting shanghai tattoo
Full Shibari back piece and octopus done by Zhuo Dan Ting at Shanghai Tattoo in China.

Shibari dates back to the 1400’s when police and samurai would use Hojo-jutsu, the martial art of restraining captives. This was used to both imprison captives as well as torture.

Alvaro Contreras Barcelona
Woman tied up, upside down done by Alvaro Contreras in Barcelona.
SAD AMISH Tattooer BODY LOVER OPEN JUNE BORDEAUX
Delicate blackwork piece by Sad Amish tattooer at The Church tattoo in Bordeaux.
Wes Harrison Black Wren tattoo , Bendigo . Devils ink tattoo , Melbourne
Neo traditional demon woman in Shibari rope done by Wes Harrison at Black Wren Tattoo.

By the late 1800’s and early 1900’s this evolved into a new kind of erotic rope tying called Kinbaku. Today, this erotic art form is generally just called Shibari.

Clara Welsh Tattooer at Evil From the Needle, Camden UK
Red rope Shibari woman done by Clara Welsh at Evil From the Needle in Camden UK.
Scott Garitson 💀TIL' DEATH DENVER
Heart and Shibari rope by Scott Garitson at Til’ Death Denver.

The knots used in Shibari accentuate characteristics in the models body, and show sensuality, vulnerability, as well as strength. The ropes create geometric patterns on the models body that contrast the bodies natural curves.

inserseriusseries La Coruña: Working at two of hearts tattoo
More Japanese style piece, featuring her own Japanese tattoos done by inserseriusseries at Two Of Hearts Tattoo.
Sergey Vaskevich
Torture by Shibari done by Sergey Vaskevich in Warsaw.

Shibari tattoos are erotic and sensual, showing off the human form in all its beauty. They are often done in black work, black and grey, realism, and neo traditional styles.

Lopes_Onepunch 💣Tattooer at @Gonefishing_Tattoo, Portimão, Portugal
Blackwork heart and rope done by Lopes Onepunch at Gone fishing tattoo in Portugal.
Tine DeFiore ::tiny of the flowers::Chicago::owner @blackoaktattoo:
Leg wrapped in rope by Tine DeFiore at Black Oak Tattoo in Chicago.

To see some live Shibari art please check out shibari.jp to see my favourite Shibari artist, Hajime Kinoko.

Németh S. Csilla Deep Art Tattoo, Nové Zámky
Realistic black and grey piece done by Németh S. Csilla at Deep Art Tattoo in Nové Zámky.
Ufoo Tattoo ✖️Dark Comics Work✖️Blackwork✖️ working at Kult Tattoo Fest
Blackwork shibari and video camera done by Ufoo Tattoo at Kult Tattoo Fest.

To learn more about the history and art of Shibari please check out http://www.artofcontemporaryshibari.com

Winnipeg Artist 11: J. Majury

J is the owner of First String Tattoo in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He works in a number of styles including black and grey, Polynesian, black work, realism, Japanese, and neo traditional.

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Fantastic coverup with deer skull, flowers and a book!
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Massive peacock. Look at those details in the tail feathers!
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Realistic black and grey Japanese Kitsune and skull.
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Big sugar skull inspired rib panel.

He does both large and small pieces, from sleeves and back pieces to tiny one shot pieces!

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Creepy crawly head tarantula.
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Some feathers and an awareness ribbon.
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Healed black and grey lighthouse.
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Viking themed frost giant on a bloody rampage!

You can check out his flash on his Instagram or in person and choose something cool, or talk ideas with him!

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A lovely loon covering up some old script.
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Neo traditional lady head.
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Japanese koi fish as a chest panel to lead onto a half sleeve.

As well as working in Winnipeg, J also guest spots in Saskatoon at Rites of Passage Tattoo.

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Neat drawn on Polynesian inspired piece.
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Polynesian elephant.
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Bright neo traditional owl!

If you’re looking to have some ink removed he can also do that for you as he does laser tattoo removal right out of the shop. If you’d rather have a piece covered up he does lots of that too.

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Brilliant brightly coloured sleeve with some skulls and flowers.
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Healed Where the Wild Things Are themed piece.
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Realistic black and grey snow leopard.

He has an incredible attention to detail and is sure to make you happy with any style you choose.

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Huge flower for a coverup.
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Fresh and healed. Sugar skull and a more nature themed skull.
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Healed shots of an octopus sleeve.

J is a must visit artist in Winnipeg or Saskatoon!

Getting a Tattoo in Japan:

Getting tattooed in another country can be a daunting experience. Where do you even start? This post is designed to walk you through the steps of getting a tattoo while visiting Japan and make it a little less stressful.

I was tattooed in Japan on June 2nd, 2018, by Hide Ichibay at Three Tides Tattoo in Tokyo.

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If you’re getting a tattoo in Japan, i’m going to assume you’re wanting some sort of Japanese tattoo, whether it’s traditional or just something to remember your trip by. Traditional Japanese tattoos are their own style, but Japanese themed pieces can be done in a few different styles. Such as traditional Japanese, neo Japanese, realistic Japanese, black and grey, and black work.

Once you know what style you want you can start looking for artists. The best way to do this I find, is to look in a specific city. So for myself I started with a simple google search of traditional Japanese artists in Tokyo. I sifted through the first three pages on google, looking at some websites and portfolios and chose my top three shops and a few different artists. Once I had those I looked more at their sites and checked out more portfolios, pricing, and most importantly their hygiene. Lots of artists will also have Instagram accounts, such as my artist, making it easy to see their work.

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Tattoo shops in Japan aren’t regulated like shops are in Western countries since in Japan only someone with a medical degree can legally tattoo. Therefore the shops you’re seeing aren’t regulated by the government, so you want to make sure they aren’t re-using any tattooing instruments that touch blood, and that the shop is clean. Most sites will have a section on this, and if the site is in Japanese and you can’t read it, such as myself; you can always use google translate to get the gist of it. If you’re still questioning it you can also send an email, or just pick another shop.

Once you have a shop and artist picked out you can send an email. Some shops, such as Three Tides, will have a receptionist that you will deal with, rather than the actual artist. You’ll want to email at least a few months in advance (some artists will require more time than that, even up to a year in advance), and request an artist, and give a few different days that would work for you. You should also include some reference pictures for what you would like, include any needed information like if the tattoo will be in colour or not, and how big you would like it and where it’s going on your body. Once that is set up you may also have to include a picture of where on your body it’s going, especially if you have other tattoos in that area that the artist has to work around.

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You may also be required to send a deposit to hold your spot. This is normal and most shops will use PayPal, though if you don’t have PayPal and don’t want to get it you may be able to work something else out such as a direct deposit.

The next step is getting your tattoo finally! If you have tattoos then you know what to do and you’re all set. The only difference may be that you’re used to having a consultation first, and for this tattoo you’ll spend the first thirty minutes to an hour basically doing that. If it’s your first tattoo then you’ll want to make sure you eat something before your appointment, and maybe have a juice box with you incase your blood sugar gets low.

This was my first time getting tattooed in a country that is so hot and humid, but I had gotten some tips from other people who had been tattooed in Japan as well. Most people have their favourite cream or gel that they like to use for healing (mine is vitamin E gel or a cucumber cream) and you can still use that, but for dealing with the heat I recommend using a chilled coconut oil. You can keep it in the fridge (it will harden quite a bit) and use a tiny amount when it’s dry. The coolness feels fantastic in the heat of Japan. Thanks to my new friend off of Reddit for that tip!

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Finally you can enjoy your new tattoo! Have fun being tattooed in Japan and on your trip.

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My healed Japanese tattoo by Hide Ichibay.

If you have any questions about getting tattooed in Japan feel free to leave a comment.

Artist of the Month: Shige

Shige works out of Yellow Blaze Tattoo Studio in Yokohama, Japan.

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Beautiful back piece that leads into a sleeve as well as legs.
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Very bright sleeve.
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Full leg sleeve.
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Rib panel that attaches to a back piece.

He has been tattooing since 1995, after teaching himself the craft.

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Brilliant bodysuit.
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Full samurai back piece.
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3/4 sleeve with a Buddhist goddess, Benzaiten.
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Hannya torso piece.

He tattoos in the Japanese style, while adding some realism to his pieces, making a lot of his work neo-Japanese.

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Full sleeve that also contains some coverups.
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Hannya back piece.
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Hannya chest piece.
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Full body suit with lots of colour.

Shige does large pieces including full sleeves, leg sleeves, back pieces, chest, and body suits.

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Half hannya torso piece mixed with tribal in a collaborative piece.
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Almost full bodysuit with lots of natural imagery.
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Tiger on top of the head.
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Fudo Myoo on the back of the head.

Much of Shige’s work revolves around Buddhism, including demons and gods and goddesses.

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Bright full sleeve.
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Sleeve topped with a raven.
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Bright red hand piece of Agyou.

Shige is a must see artist in Japan.