Hiroshi Kawai

An anonymous author once observed that “the world is divided into two kinds of people:  those who have tattoos, and those who are afraid of people with tattoos.” It truly is sad when such a shallow remark manifests generations of misconstrued concepts to come, concerning a truly reputable art form, is it not? The truth of the matter is that although the iconology of uniform, flesh-pressed, gang-based symbols bombards and corrupts the connotations that we make with tattoos on a daily basis, the original intent of the art is to create and to express the self. Many artists continue to strive in an attempt to elevate tattooing to fine art status, comparable to painting or sculpture, and several remain rather successful in doing so. One such creator is Hiroshi Kawai. Kawai, one of Japan’s most eminent tattoo artists, has broken the seemingly indelible barrier between what is characterized by the western and eastern styles of body art, being defined in his words “as the free-flow of European adaptability to a specific (and any specific) design at the wish of the client and the Japanese tradition of depicting a flowing story, as it begins upon the back and branches around the body.” Working throughout Europe and South America in 1990, Kawai’s style has become a synthesis of all his cultural experiences, as he appears of equal skill (if not greater) in anything he pursues to these who explicitly train in that field. Traditionally tattoo artists will set aside two dates for a single tat: one for design (if you choose not to pick a generic one off the wall), and one for tattooing. Kawai, however, works in a single appointment—conversing, illustrating, adapting and “pricking” in a matter of hours—there presenting the client with an end result that one would believe to be a month-long masterpiece (especially when it comes to the impeccable details involved in Japanese style) and, not to mention, with a hefty bill. But do you really want to be stuck with a second-rate bit of trash? I didn’t think so. Hiroshi Kawai is the founder of Tokyo’s Tattoo Art Maruyama studio, and sincerely from him: “You are always welcome at my place, just make sure to bring lots of money.”

-Cam Jones