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Horihide Rest in Peace, in memory of the master

Hideo Kakimoto aka Horihide, died 21st of April 2017 at the age of 88.

He was one of the most prolific and talented traditional tattoo artist of Japan.

He’s style is recognizable from miles away and have inspired tattooers from around the world.

He was a strong person, very determinated, very professional, he had worked on his paintings and tattoos ‘til the end, an example for all of us.

I was lucky to meet him and get tattooed by him, the following interview was done by me , Shion & Rico some years ago, the word of Sensei Horihide inspire my life as well as the life of many fellow tattooers, he will be missed, hope his example of dedication will keep inspiring this generation of tattooers.

Ciao Sensei, you are my hero.

Where and when have you been born ?
I was born on January 1st of 1929, in Tsurumaki town, Setagaya area in Tokyo, as second son of Seitaro(father) and Teru(mother). My father worked in the Imperial Household, forestry agency at the time, my brother was a student of Nihon University and my younger brother was a little kid.

Tell us something regarding the environment where you grew up, your area, the war , and what happen to you when you were kid, try to focus on what drive your interest in tattooing.
When I was a child I lived in Tokyo, and moved to Yokosuka when I was on elementary school. I started to get interest in tattooing when I was 20 years old, after the War.
I started tattooing around 1951, I was 22 years old.

Did you have a master or do you learn by yourself ?
I was influenced by 2nd Horiuno and 2nd Horigoro but I learned by myself.

Did you have contact with other tattooers at the beginning of your career?
I had contact with 2nd Horigoro and 3rd Horigoro from Tsukishima in Tokyo when they came to Yokosoka to tattoo on foreign people. they both already died. and also Horitoyo from Yokohama who started to use tattoo machine at the same time I did, with whom I had a close friendship and learned together. He also died  already.

Who tattooed you and when? What did you get on you?
I have  dragons both arms, shichibu(7/10) of length, by Yaneguma san from Nabeya Yokocho in Tokyo. and my back peace is Omandala ( a Buddhism prayer surrounded by a dragon) by Yokohama Horigin. He’s already dead.

How was being a tattooer in the end of the 40′s in Japan?

Around 1950, because of Korean war, there was United Nations force and also was many sailors in town because of that there was maybe 10 tattooist coming here at the time. That was a difficult time with not so much work so that was a good chance to work. I’m very thankful for that.

Have you got contact in that period with tattooers from overseas?

I had a little contact with Pinky Yun, when he used to work in Yokosuka. I heard he’s now working in America.

You grew up a style that is recognizable from everyone-else , which are the print artists and the painters that influence you the most?

As tattooists, 2nd Horiuno and 2nd Horigoro. I always used Hokusai and Kuniyoshi artworks as a source of study.

How do you approach to the study of Japanese tattooing? Do you draw with reference in front of you, do you prefer use reality as a reference….. try to explain your way of learning.

I studied the work of the previous generation of tattoists and reproduced Hokusai and Kuniyoshi artworks, I also add my own arrangement and redraw them few times till i reach to a point that I felt satisfied. I think the more we draw, more we learn.

How many bodysuit you think you did during this 60 years?

Backpiece and sleeves with background about 500 people, maybe 10% of that are “munewary”, and 6 or 7 people have full body suits.

Have you got any preference on the subjects, there’s something you like to do more than other, there’s something you don’t like to do?

I like titles that are easy to recognize even for ordinary people, for example popular titles of Kabuki plays.

Do you have apprentices?

they all independent now, but when they were around me they were apprentices.

Are you still tattooing and painting?

Yes, I still tattoo , and I’ve been painting all of this time as well.

Your ideas are a reference to a lot of tattooers world wide, people interested in the real roots of Japanese tattooing, why do you think you work make a so strong impact on other tattooers and customers, what is the point of force in your works?

I think if keep drawing everyday using Kuniyoshi and Hokusai, little by little everyone can develop his own style.

What do you think about modern tattooing in japan?

I started at first doing just tattoos (not traditional Japanese motifs), and at the time Japanese people really didn’t look at them. I think even though nowadays after get a few small tattoos, Japanese costumers end up moving towards traditional Japanese direction. Traditional Horimono have a very different taste from modern tattooing.


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