Kenji and his wife Yasuno run a place called “YK-Tattoo Art Studio” in Saitama (Japan). Let’s discover his work inspired by wild tigers and wise use of color
Hi Kenji, tell us a little bit about yourself. Was it hard to become a professional tattoo artist or did it all happen naturally?
Well, there’re no licenses or qualifications to become a tattoo artist in Japan. So it’s not too difficult to be a tattoo artist. However, it’s really hard to be a good professional tattoo artist.
What has been your path from day one?
During my first year as a tattooist, I spent almost all of my time studying for the tattoo art, except for sleeping and eating. I have done this as a daily routine, drawing pictures, touching tools and carving on my legs. Ok, it was a monotonous task, I didn’t ask for too much, but focused on what I could do to improve.
Today my knowledge was more than yesterday, tomorrow more than today, I have believed in myself that I would be able to move forward and be good at it. The work of repeating the same thing may seem inefficient because it’s monotonous, but that’s not the case.
It’s important to acquire the technology first so that the body can remember it, rather than understanding it with the head.
You’re talking about the sacred art of repetition to improve oneself.…
Yes. Repeating it makes easier to notice small changes. Being sensitive to trivial matters sharpens your sensibilities. I’ve been good at painting since I was a kid, but I don’t have any special talents and I’m a very ordinary person. So in my case, I think that there’s only effort even now.
Did you learn the tattooing technique from someone or are you completely DIY/self-taught?
There was a person who taught me about hygiene and how to use the equipment, but I learnt the technical aspects by myself with my wife Yasuno without being taught by anyone.
I notice that you work a lot on the use of color to make your tattoos “explode” from the skin of the customer. Is this a challenging process?
Sometimes I do it hard, but when the color gets used in the skin is deep and I like it very much. It’s a very rewarding job for me.
Why so many solemn tigers in your creative imagination?
Well, there are many orders for tigers. Even though it’s a simple tiger design, there are various facial expressions and movements. In addition, the image changes greatly depending on the sub-motifs such as cherry blossoms, Japanese maple, and bamboo etc. It depends on what kind of atmosphere the customer wants the tiger in.
Regarding the iconography of these wild animals what are you inspired by?
What I refer to is mainly Japanese paintings and Chinese paintings. Especially the tiger depicted in Chinese paintings is wonderful. I often go to the zoo. There, we observe various animals including tigers.
Can you describe us the “YK-Tattoo Art Studio” in Saitama? What does “YK” mean?
“YK” refers to my name Kenji and my wife’s Yasuno. I named it “YK-TATTOO Art Studio” because it’s very simple.
Do you miss international conventions? Do you plan to return to take part as soon as possible?
There are no plans to attend international conventions at this time. I have participated at international conventions and have had many wonderful encounters with tattoo artists. Currently under the influence of coronavirus, it suddenly changed into a situation where it was difficult to go back and forth around the world. And we are very sad because we are forced into various restrictions and deprived of our freedom and security.
I mean you miss all that good and chaotic atmosphere…
Obviously, I miss my friends, tattoo artists overseas. I hope the world gets safe and secure as soon as possible.