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Ichi Hatano: Interview by Crez

During one of my frequent journeys around Japan I’ve had the chance to meet Ichi Hatano, the first time at a “cat cafè”, so unusual place, but so funny memory, we became friends, and I’ve guested him at Adrenalink few years later.

Ichi works and lives in Tokyo, he is a very dedicated tattooer, with a very classy and bold style, his tattoos are strong and very well executed, here we go with the same questions I’ve posed to several other colleagues in this blog, enjoy.

When and how did you get started in tattooing?
In 1996 I started getting tattooed by an artist in Naka-Meguro, Tokyo, from there I began an apprenticeship with him in 1997 and became a professional in 1998.

How long did it take to get the first proper results?
I have always believed I can be better, even at a young age I was striving to be better. The process to achieve better results takes time and I am always continuing to improve my work.

Do you consider painting a part of your learning process ? (Speak about your drawing and painting routine)
I believe painting has played a major role in my learning process. Since 2000 I have been going to LA once or twice a year, and always spent as much time as I could painting and learning with my friends out there.
Back in 2000, almost 18 years ago I met and stayed with Jiro (of Onizuka Tattoo), in the apartment next door was an artistic professor who offered to teach us how to draw. Although it was just a small amount of time, it is a great memory for me.

I also have spent much of my time in LA creating pieces. In 2008 I was invited to participate in the art show ‘11×14’ and from there ‘Art of the dragon’ in 2012, ‘Irezumi art show’ in 2013 and a range of other exhibitions. It was (probably) at the ’11×14’ show that while I was painting I caught the attention of Luke Atkinson (Checker Demon tattoos in Stuttgart) and he reached out to me, saying “please participate in the Fudo myoo exhibition” which he organized. I was overwhelmed and could not have been happier. Since then I have been to visit Germany many times.

Since then I have been invited to participate in many other exhibitions, press and book prints. For me this has meant I spend a lot of my time painting for exhibitions etc, however I now do not spend much free time just painting.

I see my tattoos as an extension of my art, which is why I free hand draw my pieces straight onto the skin with Japanese style brush pen.

Right now I am currently studying ‘Shodou’ (Japanese calligraphy).

Before you’ve started tattooing were you involved in any subculture? (punk , dark, metal, rock and roll, rap….)
I love music, but I was not really into any specific subculture. I did ride a motorbike as a teenager. My hometown was by the coast in Ibaraki, so a lot of my friends would spend their days surfing.

If you have to pick 3 tattoo artists that inspire your work who would you mention and why?
Just choosing three artists is a pretty difficult task. Every generation, every country, every culture had its own different styles and masters. For about 20 years I have been good friends with Small Paul, he is currently tattooing my own back, he taught me so much about LA local culture as well as introducing to so many great people in America. He taught me things I never would have learnt in Japan, like carving a pumpkin for Halloween, and how to cook a really good thanksgiving turkey.

In 2000 while I was in LA I met Ivan Szazi. Back then my English really was not very good and we could not speak a lot, but one thing that really sticks with me was after I came back to Japan he sent me a photograph of him and his friend painting with a letter too. This was still before email was not that common, I still have it and the photo has so much value to me.

Lastly, of course Crez, we met about 6 years ago in Tokyo, Okinawa, and then of course meeting and hanging out in Venice. I still remember the incredible food that you cooked and introduced to me. The fresh Mozzarella cheese at the market, the fresh fish, it was all unbelievable. Also, when we met last year at the London Tattoo Convention was really great. I have always admired how much you are always pushing and challenging for new things.
Also, when you came to Tokyo and introduced me to Mr. Kakimoto aka Yokosuka Horihide, having that opportunity to meet him before he passed away and hear some unbelievable stories, was something I could not quite believe and will never forget.

There are so many people that have inspired me up until now and will continue to throughout my future.

From when you started, how has the business evolved?
I read in an anthropological book that since 20 or 30 years ago the Japanese tattoo artist population has increased by more than 100 times. In the past 20 years, with the introduction of the internet, no matter the industry or where you are a from it feels like we are seeing rapid change in all types of business. What the average person now feels about the changing environment I could not possibly say, but maybe it’s changing for the better.

Machines (rotary or coil), Tebori (hand tools) or both? what’s your choice? Why?
I use machines. At the beginning I used a coil but now I am using a rotary. Simply put it fits my style.

Can you list a Top five of your favorite visual Artists of all eras? What is attractive of their work in your opinion.

I really like contemporary art, however to answer your question I will focus mainly on Eastern artists.

Wáng Xīzhī 303-361
Kūkai 774-835
Katsushika Hokusai 1760-1849
Keisai Eisen 1791-1848
Utagawa Kuniyoshi 1798_1861

I really appreciate the philosophy behind each artists’ individual work rather than the art itself.

How do you feel about the “ban” of tattooing in Japan?
In my opinion, it is not just Japan but there are many other countries and cultures that still do not accept tattoos. That is why I actually feel that this is a special chance for us as artists. In this generation, there is a chance for this industry to contribute more to society and culture, and show that there is something important in what we are doing.

What’s the most challenging subject for you and why.
I’m not sure if this is actually the most challenging thing for me, however in June I have a painting exhibition in a small Tokyo gallery for my 20th anniversary as an artist. This is a turning point for me. Once everything is in place I will publish all the information on my site and social media.


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