Japanese tattoo artist Horiren 1st is one of the world’s most highly regarded and sought after tattoo artists yet is self-taught and only started tattooing at the age of 30 after a trip to Australia during which she received her first tattoo.
Horiren works primarily in traditional Tebori (tattooing by hand) style, however she will sometimes use a tattoo machine where time is limited. Her reputation has spread by word of mouth alone, and appointments with her are a rare opportunity.
In June, Lust for Life, a Queensland based tattoo parlour and gallery, were lucky enough to be afforded the opportunity to host both Horiren 1st and her former apprentice Horimasu at their studio in conjunction with an exhibition of photos celebrating Horiren’s career.
Taken by photographer Hara Hiroyuki, the exhibition of photographs titled JAPAN? document the last 14 years of Horiren’s tattooing life and consist of a striking and vibrant display of unseen images of men and women covered in Horiren’s large works.
Horiren’s trip to Australia was about more than tattooing, she also came to Australia to create awareness and share personal experiences about the devastation in Japan following the earthquake and tsunami in March, 2011.
Earlier this year Horiren travelled through the devastated coastal regions of Japan stopping to meet locals and visit shrines regardless of whether or not they still existed. While visiting the town of Hakosaki, which lost 700 out of 760 households, Horiren discovered a festival called Toramai (Tiger Dance).
On the one year anniversary of the disaster, Horiren encouraged the residents of Hokosaki to once again dance the Toramai (Tiger Dance) by hiring a bus and driving residents from the town to the fashionable Aoyama district in Tokyo to perform the dance.
According to her website, after graduating from the Nippon Institute of Design, Horiren first started working for a computer-game design company after which she moved further afield and became successful working as a muralist. Unable to give up on her desire to become a tattoo artist, she began her path of self-study at the age of 30 and has now devoted herself to the tattoo profession.
Inspired by artists Horiyoshi III, Horiwaka and the tattoos featured in Jitsuwa magazine, Horiren rejected the traditional path of becoming an apprentice in favour of studying the work of other artists and practising on herself and friends.
Horiren has received many awards for her work including three first prizes over two consecutive years at the Amsterdam Tattoo Convention (2005-2006) and a third place at the London Tattoo Convention in 2007.
To mark the 10th anniversary of her tattoo career in 2008, Horiren collaborted with Swiss watch maker Swatch to develop a limited edition watch featuring one of her tattoo designs.
After visiting Australia, Horiren will continue her pilgrimage to Holland and then the rest of the world, sharing her art, tattoos and fostering compassion and awareness for the many people still suffering from the horrific Japanese earthquake.
For more information on Horiren and her work visit:
Click view slideshow below to see Horiren 1st in action at Lust for Life