By Josh Egnew
A while back some friends from around the globe and I decided that we should all converge in Tokyo to take one of Gomineko’s tours. Crystal Morey is a good friend and fellow tiger, so I knew that we would be in good hands. She's extremely knowledgeable about Japanese art and culture and speaks fluent Japanese. How could we go wrong? We can't sir.
Read on my friends…
After a bit of time travel on the ol' xanax express my cohort, Mr. No Times and I arrived safe and sound from NYC to Narita. Immigration was a shockingly a breeze. I'm talking freakishly friendly government employees. Not at all what I'm used to, but I'll take it. We were next greeted by Crystal Morey along with Foerdl (Vienna Electric, Austria) and Sam Rulz ( on the road, NZ). After Foerdl introduced me to the wonderful world of Japanese vending machines we boarded an express train to Tokyo. As we were making the transfer to the subway system we got some road beers for the remaining ride to our accommodations. The fact that you can drink beer (or better yet, sippy-boxes of sake) virtually anywhere would prove to be both a blessing and a curse as the week unfolded. The remainder of the first day however was kept pretty mellow with just a bit of sushi and Asahis before it was off to slumber-land.
Jet-lag is a motherfucker, it never fails. The upside is that we were all up and ready to go nice and early, so off we headed to the train station. As a side note: I do not recommend the hot corn soup accompanied by Pocari Sweat drink to wash it down (both from the train platform vending machine of course) for breakfast. You'd think I'd know better, but I'm a gambling man and hey…you just never know. Anyway, first stop today was the Kyosai Memorial Museum. Talk about starting off with a bang! It's not the biggest museum, but it makes up for its modest size in quality, and being as Kyosai is one of my favorite Ukiyo-e artists, I was more than pleased. The gems in the gift shop/bookstore were icing on the sweet-ass cake. Next we were to do a studio visit with Horiren where Sam Rulz was to be tattooed. We had a bit of time to kill though, so we wandered around and Crystal took us to a small, but impressive used book store. This particular shop seemed to specialize in used erotica and I scored a few nice Shunga books for the collection. At this point, I believe I'm about eight books deep on our first outing and the day’s not even halfway over.
Thank god for the lockers at all of the train stations or we would have been miserable throughout the trip, as it seemed we were constantly collecting goods like squirrels. After ditching our new wares we headed off to Horiren’s studio. This hidden little two-story private studio is filled with treasures by this amazing artist. She has adorned the walls with beautifully painted phoenix and dragons as well as impressive group shots of clients with body suit, after body suit.
What can I say, but the girl’s got skills! We watched while she drew a cool bat on Sam's leg and then banged out her tebori with precision. Once she began tattooing we turned our attention to making hanko stamps of our names and then had a nice little drawing session. We were then invited to a private dinner party she was holding later that night for her clients to come and show off Horiren’s magnificent works. Again we had time to kill before the event so Crystal treated us to a small strip club nearby.
Horiren gave us a coy smile as she was told where we were going. I would soon learn why. I'm not going to go in to detail about this club, but I will say I have never ever been to anyplace like this and I've been in some seedy joints in my day. This ain't no Motley Crüe shit. We're talking old broads getting dirty to some smooth geisha sounds. Totally fucking bizarre. We quickly got that out of our systems and headed for the party. We got there just in time for the awards ceremony and the awesome display of Horiren's living portfolio. It was truly impressive and we were fortunate to be allowed to photograph some of her clients. Then suddenly us westerners were thrust upon the stage to be stripped and judged ourselves. They did the judging by allowing the crowd to come up and place small colored stickers on our various tattoos. Matty and Sam stole the show in this category. It wasn't fair… they have bigger boobs than this skinny white boy.
Once we dressed and gathered our belongings we headed off to the train to make our journey home for some much-needed rest. Yeah… that didn't really happen. We NEARLY made it to the train, but this certain little karaoke bar was calling our names. It was begging us to come in and sing Van Halen. How could we disappoint this mistress of the night? We couldn't dear readers. We simply couldn't... So rocking their world was our only choice. The remaining wee hours of the night getting home happened, but are apparently not to be remembered. I know we entertained ourselves with those damned vending machines along the way though.
We were to go to Mt. Takao a.k.a Tengu Mountain today, but alas it was raining. It was actually well suited for our foggy heads though and we opted instead for a day of shopping. There is no shortage of shopping in Tokyo. First up, we headed to Harajuko to check out a cool antique store and enjoy some nice conveyor belt-style sushi. After a great meal and bit of the old hair of the dog we were on the mend. We decided to hit up some of the local spots including Erosticas for some rockin' jelly bean gear, Secret Base, a toy collector’s wet dream, Three Tides to say hello, as well as a slew of other places along the way. We took glamour shots in cracked out photo booths where you can give yourself anime girl eyes and Matty bought a Michael Jackson mask for our next bout of karaoke. I'd say it was a successful mission. The weather wouldn't quite agree with us, so we opted for an early night ending with some awesome Korean BBQ. The next day would be another big one, so we thought it best to get bit of rest.
A major day. It was a day that I never thought would ever come. As we made the hour-long train to Yokohama the whole group was in high spirits. Soon we were walking up a small street where I immediately recognized Horiyoshi III's private studio from the old Bushido book. We were psyched. You could feel the magic in the room as we entered the studio, exchanged salutations and took our seats on the floor.
Sam was up first and as he sketched out a severed dragon head for her thigh we were all hawk-eyes. From his art collection and books to his selection of animal skulls and masks, there was no shortage of visual stimulation. Soon the drawing was finished and they were up and running. The beautiful black and grey tattoo was finished in no time and I was up next. I decided on a classic Oni head to fit in an awkward spot above my knee. He quickly drew it on and blazed it in what felt like 20 minutes or so. After, he politely signed some books for us and we headed off for a quick lunch in Chinatown before taking a peep at the tattoo museum. The museum was fantastic. So many amazing pieces in there from all over the planet. I can't recommend it enough.
The sticker collection on the outside of the building alone is quite impressive. As night fell we made our way back to Tokyo and exited at the insane Shibuya station to check out Hachiko crossing. We got the mandatory flick of the infamous dog and meandered the streets until we arrived at the Tombstone bar.
I'll start by saying this, Ueda-san is the man. He and his wife run this tiny biker bar where Suicidal [Tendencies'] videos blare on the screen while they make you the best damned Yakatori you've never had. The shit is so good Crystal dubbed it "Crackatori" and I gotta agree there is none more apt title. There is even an underground “Crackitori Syndicate” for it’s faithful followers and an upcoming t-shirt from Dan Sinnes… another fellow member. There's nothing like a nice meal on a stick. Once we'd loaded up on grub and brews the "itis" hit us hard and it was time to hit the sheets. We slept like champions that night...
Crystal Morey/Gomineko Tours
(Josh Egnew is a tattooer and blogger for Tattoo Artist Magazine, Josh can be found at Three Kings Tattoo in New York City and his website: www.joshegnew.com.)