Crez interviews Houryu (Tokyo, Japan)

I’ve met Houryu in France at Primitive Abstract (today Lucky Electric Strasbourg) with his brother Shiryu and Shinryu: the “Ryu family”. They were travelling across Europe, for the first time, I guess it was the year 2000. We’re great friends since then, we’ve worked together many times, painted together and got drunk together pretty often! When I am in Tokyo I stay at his place. Houryu is a great craftsman, he really loves what he does, and does it well. It’s always a pleasure for me to see his strong works! Houryu is a modern “Edo Shokunin”, keeping the roots of his culture in his daily routine. A tattoo done by him carry all this strong energy: this is what I like about his works.

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When and how did you get started in tattooing?
When I was 15 years old, I started using needle and thread to poke myself and some friends with crude designs. At 17, a good friend of mine introduced me to a professional tattooer and I got a Karajishi (Fu-dog) and peonies on my arm. Then I became his pupil years later at 23.

How long did it take to get the first proper results?
I’m still working on that (laughs).

Do you consider painting a part of your learning process?
I consider a very crucial and important step to develop your tattoo technique

Before you’ve started tattooing were you involved in any subculture?
Working in construction and being involved in music. I was always in contact with tattoos.

If you have to pick 3 tattoo artists that inspire your work who would you mention and why?
First of all, HORI UNO 1. A great master of his time and without doubt his work influenced all the next generation of tattooers in Japan. Azabu’s HORI YOSHI 2 (Kuronuma Tamotsu). When I was working in construction, my boss had a back piece from him. HORI HIDE from Yokosuka. When I had the chance to visit him, I got impressed for the amount of drawings he had produced.

From when you started, how has the business evolved in your country?

I can say that is getting slightly more accepted.

Machines (rotary or coil), Tebori (hand tools) or both? What’s your choice? Why?
For machines, I use coil. Basically, I do outlines by machine and color/ shading by hand. But, sometimes I can do a complete piece using only machines or by hand.

Can you list a top five of your favorite visual artists of all eras? What is attractive on their work in your opinion?
I would say any craftsman in general. I live in downtown Tokyo, so I’m surrounded by traditional craftsmen. I know they aren’t visual artists, but I like KOKONTEI SHINCHO (RAKUGO master, a traditional Japanese art of comic monologue storytelling). HIROSAWA TORAZOU (ROKYOKU master, a traditional Japanese narrative singing) and drinking Shōchū! That’s my gasoline (laughs)

How do you feel about the ban of tattooing in Japan?
I have not a slice desire to have tattooing fully accepted by society

What’s the most challenging subject for you and why.
All of them! (laughs). That’s what makes tattooing interesting and challenging.

Make sure to follow his progress on his Instagram page: @houryutattoo