The Floating Needle

It may be the “tramp stamp” in America, but in Japan the tattoo remains an underground art, long associated with the yakuza, or organized crime. Some modern tattoo artists are hoping to change that, while simultaneously keeping alive the time-honored approach of their craft. Traditional Japanese tattooing, or horimono, doesn’t use an electric needle. Instead, its adherents hand-ink with needles attached to long, thin bamboo handles, which are thrust repetitively into the skin. Needless to say, the technique is difficult to master. One of the few Americans trained in it, Takahiro Kitamura, aka Horitaka, who apprenticed with master tattoo artist Horiyoshi III in Japan, gives a live demonstration tonight in “Japanese Tattoo,” part of the Matcha social series. Horitaka, who owns the State of Grace tattoo shop in San Jose, has written two books; he travels back to Japan as often as he can to study the craft’s traditional subjects, which include landscapes depicted in woodcuts from the Edo, or “Floating World,” era, as well as mythical figures from folklore. On hand from Japan will be tattoo artists Shige, whose work won the 2007 Milano Tattoo Convention backpiece contest and the 2007 Taiwan International Tattoo Convention, and Mutsuo, whose tattoo-inspired graphic work has been featured in fashion lines Bathing Ape and Hysteric Glamour. There will be tea, cocktails, and beats from DJ Saiman.
Thu., Oct. 2, 5 p.m., 2008

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