Inked Out: Horitoshi I

For those of you who have been to Mario Barth’s Biggest Tattoo Show on Earth, or any tattoo show on Earth for that matter, you would know that one of the main attractions at these conventions is usually the booth where the Tebori tattooing is taking place. What is Tebori tattooing? It’s the traditional Japanese art of tattooing done by puncturing the skin with the needles gently while adjusting the pressure and really digging into the skin. If you’ve ever seen this before, you know that it looks extremely painful!

Tebori tattooing is such an ancient technique its history dates back to around the 18th century, and the various techniques used for creating these tattoos are complex and require years of apprenticeship. Because it’s a traditional art and not a sign of rebellion, the attitudes surrounding Tebori tattoos are more serious and personally reflective. They also tend to be “bodysuit” style, like the ones you see in the Japanese movies about the Yakuza mafia. Most people who get Tebori tattoos usually work with a tebori master, allowing them to have a piece of art permanently imprinted onto their body. And just in case you were wondering, the word ‘tebori’ loosely translates to “hand carving.”

Mario Barth’s Annual Tattoo Show in Secaucus, NJ, called Inked Out (sound familiar?), will be bringing the most sought after Tebori master in the world to this side of the globe the weekend of Sept. 23 until Sept. 25. All the way from Japan, his name is Master Horitoshi I, the head of the world famous Horitoshi Tattoo Family, and a close personal friend of Mario Barth. Horitoshi I is a master of the ancient Japanese tattoo technique, and he holds the secrets to many of the ancient techniques and mythologies of Japanese tattooing.

Horitoshi I began studying the craft when he was about 21-years-old in Tokyo and basically learned the art all by himself. It took him about 10 years before he could actually support himself as an artist and it took him even longer before he truly mastered the art. Today, Horitoshi’s son, Horitoshi II, runs and operates his own tattoo studio, while he has many deshi—or apprentices—under him learning the Tebori technique.

One thing that I did find interesting about Horitoshi I is that he claims that 80 percent of his customers quit prematurely because he said that it takes a certain amount of character to endure the pain of the Tebori tattoo and to see the work to completion. Can you endure the pain of Master Horitoshi I? If you think that you can, you can make your appointment now with him at to be tattooed by him at this year’s Inked Out Tattoo Show presented by Mario Barth in Secaucus, NJ, the weekend of Sept. 23 till Sept. 25. Try to find Master Horitoshi I on YouTube before making any appointments. This type of tattooing is really painful, but then again, maybe you’re into that sort of thing.