Although nowhere near the scale of LA or NY, Japan is slowly opening up to the idea that tattoos are fashionable. Whilst traditionally getting tattoos was predominately the pastime of men, women are also taking an interest in fashionable skin art and have a strong presence in the tattoo industry.
However, having said that, be aware that most people are still quite shocked by tattoos- and if you get heavy tattoo work, you will inevitably find yourself wearing long sleeves in summer. Aside from being aware of the fact that you probably won’t be able to go to your favorite onsen without either refusal or quizzical stares, also take into consideration that tattoos are quite the luxury, with a standard 15,000 yen per hour charge.
Japan is full of inspiration, and tattooing motifs can come from the classic lexicon of traditional tattooing motifs, such as dragons, carps, phoenixes, foo-dogs and the like, that come with their own prescribed meanings, that should be taken into consideration. We have selected ten of the more reputable street shops in Tokyo that are accessible, friendly, offer top notch tattoos, and are strict with sterility. 56 tattoo is conveniently located in Shibuya, and houses one of the Japanese tattoo scene’s veterans, Horimasa – a tattoo pioneer to the craft having learnt under Horitoku, one of Japan’s top tattooing masters. Inkrat are a modern street shop in Koenji that has taken as is its mission the task of introducing American traditional to a local audience. Most of the tattoos consists of solid, minimal color usage, good line work, appealing designs, and are decidedly clean, and simple.
Although this shop is in Shizuoka Prefecture, not Tokyo, it is worth the trip for quality work, and one of the most comfortable and stunning studios in Japan. Female tattoo artist Asao is super friendly and down to earth, operating out of a small and clean studio in Shibuya. She tells us that she used to be a pattern maker in the fashion industry, and turned to tattooing after she got fired!
While she can do any style, she does a lot of tribal – strong lines and shapes, but with a certain delicacy, and an undeniably Japanese aesthetic.
If large scale Japanese work is your cup of tea, then Horiyasu is one of Japan’s best. He is one of the most highly regarded Japanese masters, and is world renowned for his striking traditional pieces that are executed with a modern flare, having won numerous awards at conventions internationally. He will only take on large pieces, as traditional Japanese work is typically of a prolific size – although the end result will flow beautifully with the body.
Horiyasu has one of the most fascinating backgrounds of any artist in the Japanese tattoo scene. Coming from NZ (reputedly one of the most tattoed nations in the world) I was recently in Tokyo and was very impressed by the artwork people were wearing. For a few years on the look for a permanent TATTOO, but was never satisfied and was looking for the best. Im visiting Tokyo in April and looking to get inked while I am there – any of these places speak English? I have question for any one that knows of a tattoo artist that was based in Tokyo around 1996-2000, his name is Joe schome he is an America… I really want to get some work finished.


Wow thanks so much, Ive been trying to find the perfect tattoo shop and thanks to you now I have!
We are very happy to announce that we are now endorsed and supported by George Papas Tattoo Shop, one of the most famous tattoo shops in Chicago, USA! Offering world famous Tattoo Artists and Body Piercers, men's and women's fashion, designer, collectible and exclusive high fashion jewelry.
If you have a minimum of 3 years of experience, and want to work in a shop that's ALWAYS busy. Despite the widespread discrimination towards people with tattoos, with rules that prohibit tattooed people into hot springs, golf courses and gyms, it is still one of the best places in the world to get the best quality ink jobs. Led by celebrities such as Amuro Namie and Hamasaki Ayumi, the notion of getting skin art is hardly as taboo as it used to be, with its stygian yakuza associations. Many of the top artists are female, the editors of the tattoo magazines are also typically women, and the pseudo fashion magazine Tattoo Girls features models from agencies shot by prominent photographers such as Hiromix…although strangely enough, they are all sporting fake tattoos.
There are three major magazines for the tattoo enthusiast, and half the pages are ads for tattoo shops.
There are several excellent tattoo magazines, the best being Tattoo Burst, and numerous books aimed for the fashion conscious sold at any bookstore, especially the cooler shops like Village Vanguard. However, living in Japan, it’s just as common for clients to get inspired by Sanrio characters, kimono prints, and Pokemon. It’s best to go, consult with the artists, see if you actually like the person, and are comfortable getting tattooed by them, and then proceed. Located in Takeshita Dori in Harajuku, they are the first street shop in Japan – reflective of the American system of entering a shop and ordering a tattoo, as opposed to the subterranean norm of yore where tattooing was done in someone’s apartment, with little advertising. So rather than motifs with solid compartmentalized colors, most of the designs are geometric lines and are small in size.
For many Japanese clients who are worried about the underground image of tattoos, this is particularly important. She says a lot of her clients are female musicians, and she does get a lot of clients because they feel less threatened by her. She says she is conscious of her being Japanese and, accordingly, uses traditional Japanese motifs, and draws inspiration from Japanese art such as wood block prints.
She trained for two years – and was at Tokyo Magical Tattoo, which is now shut, but was considered one of the best tattoo shops in Japan. His work is flawless, but take note that he only specializes in Japanese work- no anchors or roses here! He requires advance notice and a Japanese translator who will make communication, although he is one of the most hospitable and genuinely lovely people in the Japanese tattoo industry.
Starting as a sword smith, after working on blades for 16 years, he changed his career at the age of 36.
The tattoo artists are friendly, the studio is impeccably clean and they place a fantastic tattoo.


Her travels have taken her to the villages in Tibet, the Sound Systems of Jamaica, the anarchist squats of Greece, the catwalk shows in Paris, the Playboy mansion parties to the surf gangs of Hawaii. Perhaps the social stigma is the reason people don’t just have any old crap tattoed to their bodies.
So this is a very helpful site, and will definitely check some of those places out once I’ve got the money. A young tattoo artist under the name of Haku who is specialized in gaming and anime tattoo. Club Tattoos' sexy concept is sure to catch your eye with its patented Interactive Tattoo touch screens to create your own tattoo design, tattooing being performed center stage or the world's largest offering of body jewelry including gold, platinum and diamonds.
The shop is quite small, and resembles an overseas tattoo shop with flash on the walls, and a counter with booths in the back, but the art work delivered is top notch.
Highly regarded for a reason, his shop is welcoming and he is one of the most skilled artists in Tokyo. They are subtle, and elegant and have an Eastern aesthetic to them, with very little usage of colors.
While it sounds extreme, it is done with extreme subtlety, so the tattoo looks completely natural. He quickly rose to the top, winning the respect of both old school tebori artists and modern street shop artists along the way. The tattoos are beautiful, artistic, and is highly recommended by many people in the tattoo industry. Her work has appeared in Asian GEO, CNN traveler, Transit, and the Japan Times amongst 50 other publications.
Also is hard for me to speak with them and understand how to arrange everything in advance, I will be there 4 days so I have to get the design decided before.
Many celebrities have trusted George Papas for his expertise in tattoos and piercing, including Vince Neil from Motley Crue. If discretion is an issue, but you still want a nice motif, this is a nice place to start, and the interior of the shop is like a salon. In Japan, there are lots of people wanting lettering this year, such as kanji and English, for some reason.
Kohki uses fantastic subtle colors and his work is very clean, and they all excel at small, trendy designs.



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