Year End Party with Horimitsu The Tattoo Master of Yokohama… aka wabori galore!

(I want to praise myself for not using  a clickbait title here as I totally could)

July 2013, Kitasenju, humid summer night. On my way back home from work I stopped by my favourite bookstore and found Tattoo♥Girls — a magazine about tattoos targeting Japanese women. At the time I was thinking about touching up my arm tattoo, so I was quite thrilled to see a nice catalogue of studios in Tokyo. After browsing a bit, I bookmarked the page introducing studio LaRuche.

December 2013, Studio LaRuche in Shinjuku. I had my first tattoo session with Betty. She turned my poorly drawn kokeshi into a little piece of art and I came back to studio Laruche many times after that, to get new ink or just to say hi to Kazu-San and Betty.

May 2014. I started blogging and decided to share some information about having tattoos in Japan and where somebody should get tattooed in Tokyo. I was also featured in the 2014 issue of Tattoo♥Girls. I started receiving e-mails from people and a heap of them asked me for help with bookings, some information on tattoo prices, advice etc. With time, it turned into a somewhat regular thing and I currently help the studio create their website in English, manage their Facebook page, answer inquiries in English and manage bookings for foreign people looking to get tattooed at LaRuche.

December 2015, Yokohama. Kazu-San and Betty asked me if I’d like to join a very special end-of-year party organized by the famous hand-poke tattoo master Horimitsu (http://www.horimitsu.jp/). Every year he invites his clients to a private party and presents his artwork to a very closed circle of people. And on top of that, Betty was his apprentice and I just had to see the person who helped her develop her mad tattooing skills. Of course I had to be there!

I didn’t really know what to expect, but I knew that I’d get to see things not many other people get a chance to see in their whole life.

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I guess you could say it was a regular company end-of-year party at first. Maybe a bit more casual since only a few people were wearing suits.

I sat at one table with the LaRuche crew — Betty-san and Kazu-san and for the first 30 minutes everyone was busy devouring the delicious top quality shabu-shabu beef the restaurant owners had prepared for us. Just look at it! Never in my life have I tasted meat so bursting with flavour and so amazingly tender!

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Special thanks to Betty-san and Kazu-san for inviting me to the party!♥

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Betty’s hand tattoos

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And then it began. Master Horimitsu gave the guests a sign and they started leaving the room in groups of three. When they returned to their seats they were wearing nothing but fundoshi — an article of traditional clothing worn as underwear (and barely covering the secret bits ), I just couldn’t help but stare at their intricate tattoos in awe. 

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It was simply amazing. I would never have thought that one day I would be sitting somewhere in Yokohama, feasting upon the finest beef in Japan, surrounded by Japanese people with fantastic full body tattoos. It was such a rare view, I didn’t know what to lay my eyes on. Media in Japan, and the whole country in general, likes to pretend that Japanese people don’t have tattoos and it’s the weird foreigners who come here and plant strange ideas in the minds of the poor Japanese. It is simply incorrect and…Okay, I prepared a few more fancy adjectives to put here, but to be honest I’m tired of the whole *OMG tattoos* discussion so let me stop this train of thoughts right here. If you think otherwise — cool, good for ya. Let’s agree to disagree. I happen to have attended a party for people with traditional tattoos which of course might be associated with particular groups of people (hence photos of those tattoos only), but these days young (not only! you’d be surprised) people get more Western designs, cute one-point or lettering tattoos. And they all look badass. 

Getting back on track…!

It was amazing, but also really intimidating. I kinda realized why people with traditional Japanese tattoos are banned from entering certain places (though that affects pretty much everyone with any type of tattoo). I believe I am one of the few people who got this chance to see this with their own eyes, so trust me here — it is hella intimidating. There was something different about the men, they seemed really confident, not afraid to tell you off if you stared at them too much (which didn’t happen, but I got the impression it could have happened). 

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I myself would probably be seen as a person with many tattoos if I only decided to show them off (though I don’t so you can’t really tell), so you might be surprised I claim that the whole experience made me feel like a 1st grader who accidentally entered a clasroom full of high schoolers. I cannot find the perfect words to describe it, but elegant hand-poke body suits with traditional Japanese designs do make one look powerful and yeah, I’ll say it, scary in a way. 

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One of my favourite photos. The woman was the wife of one of the men. You cannot see it here, but she covered herself with a white towel and the men couldn’t turn around when she was in the room, so no worries.

We chatted for a while and she complimented my tattoos. Many Japanese people I met did that too (if any part of my tattoo was showing which is rare), but you can never tell how honest they are really and I have my reasons to think it’s all lip service so don’t get too excited if a Japanese person comments positively on your tattoos.

I knew that she meant what she said and that was really, really nice.

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Master Horimitsu asked all of his customers to pose for him one by one and diligently took detailed photos of all the art he has created.

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(One of my favourite shots 🙂 )

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Men in the photos I took are so different from the businessmen with serious faces I see everyday going back home after hours of overtime.

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One last thing…

I feel like I need to specifically include this information as I’ve received lots of comments on Instagram regarding this matter and you were probably looking for it in this post anyway. Are those men members of the infamous group that does illegal things? I honestly DO NOT KNOW, but I know for sure that most of the attendees were just regular salarymen in love with the art of wabori — whether you believe me or choose to stereotype them is entirely your business. I DO NOT have any associations with the said group, I DO NOT have any special connections as some seem to think judging by their comments on my Instagram. I got a chance to see this hidden part of Japan and I took it. That’s all.

I hope you enjoyed this mini-coverage of the very special end-of-year party I attended. Oh, and if you’re OCD about the inconsistent logos — that’s a prevention measure I had to take to stop people from stealing my photos (so don’t steal my photos, yo).

Thanks for reading! ♥

What has happened and what’s going on

Hi guys, it’s been a while!  If you don’t count those two solitary posts from August and September, you could say that I haven’t blogged in, like, 6 months?! Now that I’ve promised to reactive the blog I’ve abandoned for months, I have to keep it going! I’ve been thinking a lot about what direction I should take my blog. I was ready to give up, throw in the towel. But when I thought about it long and hard, I realized I really like having my own place to share all the cool places, cute cafes, interesting facts and even just my daily boring life sometimes. At the moment I’m rather busy not only with the daily grind, but also things like job-hunting and studying for the next JLPT, so I won’t be able to post that often — I promise to keep updating at a somewhat steady pace though. I also realized that I didn’t give you much opportunity to read about my experiences or personal views on different topics. In fact I was rather vanilla when it came to choosing topics to write about. I didn’t want to touch controversial topics before, but now I think ‘Actually, WHY NOT?’ So yeah, anyway, feel free to ask me questions about me and my life in Japan, if there’s anything you ever wondered about or there was no one yet to answer your question. I’ll try to include more advice and recommendations as I get asked about various things quite frequently. Hopefully you’ll like this makeover. I won’t be posting my OOTDs anymore as Instagram seems to work better for these type of photos (I will sell some of my stuff though, check out my Depop account!). I decided to keep my monthly digest posts, as they probably give a good insight into what the daily life of someone who decided to live their life in Japan looks like, although it might not be as exciting or crazy as most people imagine.

The last few months were like a crazy roller coaster though, with an insane amount of ups and downs. Let me fill you in on what has happened and what is going on.

September

I must say that September started off pretty well. Weather got a bit autumny, I went to Tokorozawa and even blogged about it, met up with my Twitter friend Zerosonico who snapped some awesome pics…

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…went to a Winner’s concert…

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I caught the last moments of summer in Makuhari…

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… and even became a Hina Doll for a day.

(Would you like to know where you can experience this fun makeover? Let me know!) 

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Like I said, it started off pretty well. I should have known that just when everything seems fine, you should expect life will kick you in the teeth, and most likely will do it with twice the power you could ever expect. Having said that, the end of September was absolutely horrible. Whatever happened, and some rather heavy stuff did, it was the main reason I stopped blogging for a while. I will not go into needless details here as it’s all far away and there’s no real point in digging it up now. If you follow my social media and have any sort of deducting skills, you probably figured it out anyway. At that time I just needed some time off. I went back to instagramming fairly quick, but mainly because it’s fast and easy— and taking pics around Tokyo was one of the things that made (and still makes) me happy.

October

I was still in some kind of an online hiatus for the bigger part of October and didn’t go out that much hence the lack of pics. I did go out to eat sometimes and discovered that Taco Bell is the feast of gods and chestnut ice cream isn’t edible at all. Really, listen to my advice on this one and don’t ever buy chestnut ice cream.

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I’m lucky to have amazing friends who don’t mind dressing up in silly costumes and taking purikura pics with me, despite the fact that we’re both closer to 30, rather than 20 years old. While we’re on that topic, I thought it would be interesting to introduce my best friend Ayaka and tell you about her in more detail, so a special blog post might happen someday soon.

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On the last day of October I spent a lovely day in Kichijoji, wandering around Inokashira Park and hunting for cute cafes. If you haven’t been there, plan a trip to Kichijoji for your next day off because the area is top notch!

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November

Pretty eventful month. I kept myself busy and tried to spend every day off with friends. With some of them I visited fancy Japanese restaurants and ate grilled eel, others took me to Taco Bell and if you asked me which one I prefer, I’d have a hard time responding to that question as I love them both equally. (Update: I gave it serious thought and I have to say…TACO BELL ♥)


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For quite a while I felt strong aversion to all things Korean and was kinda worried that the September stuff would irreparably ruin BIGBANG for me, but worry not, it didn’t. The boys gave their best again and this time I was lucky enough to have gotten tickets for two days! I went to one of the concerts with my friend Sharla and here you can see her video of us preparing for the concert and here’s the one taken on the concert day!

And actually, ever since the concert, things started to get better and better. 

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I spent most of November studying for JLPT. I studied in all my free time, at every lunch break and then after work. All my days off work looked the same — I woke up, went to a cafe and studied for 6-7 hours. It would probably have gotten boring real fast, but this time I had a very good study partner* who showed me lots of great ‘secret’ study spots, so different than your run-of-the-mill Starbucks, occupied by high schoolers from dusk til dawn. Ueno, Marunouchi, Yurakucho, Sendagaya…

(*study partner as in: I studied my Japanese stuff, he studied his uni stuff) 

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December

It got all romantic and Christmassy, my study partner and I started hanging out more often and visited all the nice “illumination” spots. Take notes and be sure to visit them next year, if you can! Shinjuku, Roppongi, Tokyo German Village (which is not actually in Tokyo) ↓↓↓

(I’ll be posting a separate post about Tokyo German Village — while the place is really cute, it doesn’t get the coverage it deserves)

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6th of December. I had the JLPT test in the morning and as I studied for it for a few weeks, I didn’t worry about it too much (← OK, that’s a total lie, I was freaking out). My JLPT took place in Ichikawa in Chiba Prefecture and from there I had to somehow transport myself to Yokohama, 2 hours away by train. Needless to say I was absolutely exhausted by the time I got to the next venue but it was all worth it. I got to attend a very special event and see things not many people have a chance to see with their own eyes. There will be a whole post dedicated to it, so I won’t go into much detail now. I’ll just give you a quick sneak peek.

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The end of this year was definitely one of the best New Years I have had so far in Japan. I went to Kusatsu where I discovered that crab is actually insanely delicious, skiing is fun and a doctor fish manicure is something I’d like to repeat. I also experienced my first ever outdoor hot spring and let me tell you: nothing beats watching the snow fall on you from the starry night sky, as you soak in steaming-hot water with no one else around you. Moments like that will be one of the best experiences of your life, if you ever have a chance to try it. (Worry not, there will be more photos from Kusatsu!)

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I was lucky to have spent the final days of 2015 with some of the loveliest people on the planet ♥

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On the 31st I did what most people in Japan do. I ate toshikoshi soba, went to a shrine and wrote down my wishes for the New Year on a prayer plaque. I went to the majestic Yasukuni Shrine and drank amazake… Then I had to kill time for nearly 3 hours in a manga cafe watching TV, but that’s a story for another time.

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Several minutes before midnight I stood in front of Tokyo Tower and was virtually floating along in the wild crowd. I guess the only reason I didn’t get trampled by the excitedly celebrating crowd was that there was someone in that crowd who held my hand.

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And this is how I entered 2016 with a peculiar feeling that this year will be a good one ♥

Oh, by the way, his name is Yuya

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Guys, thanks for staying around even if I wasn’t active for the last couple of months. I got lots of e-mails and messages of support, thanks for that. The dark clouds are gone and I’m very optimistic about the things that are yet to come, so be sure to come by from time to time to see what’s new in my chronicles of living my Tokyo dream ☺

Thank you for reading!♥