BRAVERY Here Horiyoshi III depicts another tattooed hero from the Suikoden, the famous Chinese novel about the exploits of a band of 108 brave warriors.
SPIDERWEB The client requested "a delicate and detailed image" for his underarm, one of the most painful areas to be tattooed and also one of the most dangerous. The needle pricks are constantly subjected to excretions from the sweat glands. The underarm hair suggested to Horikin the idea of a furry spider's web. The spider in Japan has dual meaning: if seen in the daytime, good luck; at night, misfortune.
Spiderweb is also the nickname of a famous American tattoo artist. There seems to be a universal respect for the complex delicacy of this natural phenomenon. The inherent contradiction of the spider, which creates beauty to capture and kill, reflects some of the preoccupations of the irezumi.
WIND AND LIGHTNING In this unusual monochrome tattoo by Horiichi III, the circular medallion at the solar plexus between the drcgon-tail nipples is probably the code logo of a Yakuza group of buddies, or nakama. It is a stylization of a rice cooker, and its hidden meaning is that "he who eats from the same pot is a brother." Right, mid-chest, Fujin, God of the Winds and another of the twelve Deva Kings of Buddhism, is always depicted as a clawed demon. Here he is engaged in combat with a comical, laughing dragon of rain. On the subject's right thigh is the secret name of the group within the group, a wild bird.
DEATH AND BEAUTY A beauteous courtesan is haunted by the specter of old age, death, and disease.
GRACE (right) A tattoo terminated at this point. Like Kabuki, where every onstage moment if arrested would make a perfect picture, so, too, the tattoo even at its beginning should stand as beautiful although incomplete. The subject here is a jazz musician with, of course, no connection to the Yakuza.
TRANSCENDENCE Horikin designed this pattern for his head ("the seat of all senses"), which was then tattooed variously by Horigoro III, Horikin II (his brother and disciple), and Horiyoshi III. Here the art of tattooing joins that of calligraphy. The large red characters are a form of modified Sanskrit for Acala. The small characters repeat, like a chant, the god's name one hundred times. The image has many levels of meaning and resembles a seated Lord Buddha with smoke rising from his holiness. This is the second tattooed head in Japanese history. The first belonged to Horikame, who died in 1932. Now that Horikin's hair has begun to thin and his forehead shows his tattoos, he wears a hat in iblic.
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