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.
Translated by carlosaustokio.com
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.