Jon Mitchell asked some foreign Japan residents to spill the story behind their ink.
Designer, 45 (German)
My mother passed away 12 years ago, so I wanted a tattoo that reminded me of her. I chose Shige from Yellow Blaze. He always puts all his knowledge and power into making his work perfect. This is Monju Bosatsu — a Buddhist deity — and it took around 50 hours to complete.
Writer, 39 (Welsh)
I’m from Wales, where the national emblems include daffodils and dragons. So this tattoo is a way to remember my roots and a reminder, each morning, to thank the Lord I’m Welsh. It took 10 hours from Tomo at Yellow Blaze.
Nail artist, 25 (American)
For me, tattooing is art. I’m a very joyous and colorful person and this tattoo suits my personality. It was done by Hiroshi of Three Tides in Tokyo. I sat for six hours, and it’s beautiful.
Life coach, 52 (Canadian)
At the time I got this tattoo, there was a lot of turmoil in my life. This tattoo is my internal pain externalized. I needed a way to rationalize what had happened, and this was the best thing I ever did.
Filmmaker, 40-something (British)
Tattoos are part of a tradition thousands of years old, so they ought to mean something. That’s why I chose this Green Man, which has an English, pagan meaning. It was redrawn — almost line for line — from a picture by my father. It’s my mark of respect for him, and it took 45 hours to complete.
Antique dealer, 36 (British)
It’s my first and only tattoo, so I wanted the best I could get. I chose Horitoku, who works in tebori style — everything hand-done, not using a machine. I’m one of the few foreigners he’s tattooed. It took 25 hours over the course of a year and I love it. It’s part of who I am.
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