My First Tattoo! (Art Exhibition)

So the title may be misleading; I didn’t actually get a tattoo. But rather…


I went to an art exhibit displaying the work of famed artist, Yousuke Akimitsu. He is known for being one of the most famous tattoo artists in the world! Multiple artists from New York even showed up to get a look at his beautiful paintings.


I was lucky enough to attend this exhibition, as it was set up in my friend Natsuko’s café, which I described in a previous article, Buddhism: Preserving Tradition in a Disappearing Landscape.


When I arrived, the lady asked me to sign in, which proved a slight problem, as everyone’s names were written in Kanji. For a quick and dirty lesson on understanding the Japanese language, read my associated article: How to Learn Japanese (A VERY Brief Overview).


As Kanji is traditionally written from top to bottom, the sign in sheet moved horizontally across, instead of vertically down, the page; thus I was confused. I must have shown this confusion on my face, because she looked at me (in pity), turned the page sideways, and gestured for me to write horizontally. So, the final result was a page full of beautiful calligraphy Kanji followed by my ugly chicken-scratch cursive. It probably looked a little something like this:

*this is an artist rendition, not the actual photo


Once I got over my initial embarrassment, and entered the exhibition, I was blown away. Here’s the first painting that greeted all visitors:

This masterpiece is painted on six giant slabs of wood which, when brought together, display a majestic dragon eliciting a sense of wonder and mystery. From here, I turned further into the gallery to witness the rest of Akimitsu-san’s artwork. It appears that he mainly specializes in dragons


But he also paints other figures, like this beauty right here:

Yes, he is staring into your soul


Natsuko helped me take a picture with Akimitsu-san. For a man at the top of his field, he was incredibly humble and radiated warmth.

After bowing my head muttering “kirena” and “arigato gosaimasu” a somewhat comical number of times, I bid them adieu (er…sayonara) and left the exhibition. While walking back home, I ran into a Japanese businessman whom I recognized from the event. He obviously recognized me as he smiled at me, and started speaking Japanese while pointing back towards the café.


We conversed for a minute even though neither understood the other, but communicated with lots of smiles, laughter and gesturing. From what I could gather, this man had a tattoo on his chest from Akimitsu-san’s apprentice. To drive the point home, he unbuttoned his shirt on the street, and showed me part of an image that must have spanned his whole torso.


I laughed, gave a thumb’s up and one more “kirena” to leave this man smiling as he returned to the exhibition.

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