Horiyoshi III, given name Yoshihito Nakano, is one of the world’s most legendary full-body-tattoo artists.The controversial history of Japanese tattooing, or irezumi, can be traced back to around 10,000 BC, in the Jomon period. The Japanese government banned tattoos in 1872, as while the practice had risen as an art form, tattooed marks were still used as a punishment. The ban wasn’t lifted until 1948, but the practice has retained its image of criminality. For many years, traditional Japanese tattoos were associated with the yakuza, Japan’s mafia, and some businesses in Japan and public baths still ban tattooed customers.
Yoshihito’s most devoted clientele are covered in full-body designs. Until 30 years ago, Yoshihito did his tattoos entirely by hand using the tebori technique, where a needle-tipped wooden or metal stick inserts ink into the skin. Nowadays, due to health and time constraints he completes them freehand using an electric needle. His clientele is now mostly westerners, attracted by his popular Instagram.
We met Yoshihito to talk about his career, and meet some of his client base.
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73-Year-Old Tattoo Artist Is A Legend In Japan