Horiyoshi III is revered by tattoo enthusiasts as possibly the world's greatest horishi, or full-body tattoo artist. (Horimono are tattoos done purely for fun, while irezumi are tattoos that mark criminals.) Friendly and too cool for words, the 61-year-old loves digging his needle into people — he definitely gets under their skin while doing his beautiful works. Although Horiyoshi considers the human body as his canvas, he has published 10 books of artwork on both paper and skin. His latest collection of drawings, "36 Ghosts," arrived in bookstores this month.

A master knows his own mistakes and wants to erase the evidence. I heard of a swordsmith who was dying and ordered his apprentices to find and destroy all the swords he had made when he was younger. I wish I could do that with some of my earlier tattoos.

One must suffer for beauty and for art. Normally women and artists experience such pain, but in my business it is the client, especially since it is illegal to use painkillers while tattooing. Although it's a real pain to be poked at, the results are so amazing that people are happy to lie down to suffer for at least one hour a week for about two years.