Friday, January 26, 2018

Japan 2017 | How to Get a Tattoo at Tokyo Three Tides {スリータイズ タトゥー/ 三巴刺青}

Ok I said that the highlight for our Japan trip last year for the boy was to see the capybaras soaking in an onsen at Saitama Children's Zoo, but I think getting his first traditional Japanese style tattoo at the famous Tokyo Three Tides tattoo shop isn't too far off either.

Traditional Japanese tattoos usually feature Japanese deities and monsters, mythical creatures such as dragons, but also animals e.g. birds, koi fish, tigers etc., and flowers such as sakura, peonies and chrysanthemums. There are specific rules like you can't tattoo Buddha below the waist as it's very disrespectful, or clouds can only be used above the waist as they represent the sky... and there are also certain ways things are drawn, certain colours that are usually used, certain meanings to the different symbols, and how certain motifs are put together e.g. karashishi with peonies. Sounds complicated, but very meaningful.  

It was a tick off his bucket list and to be honest, I'm kinda jealous that he did it without me!! haha.. 

Note: We've gotten tattooed at Cat Claw Kyoto by Ritsu years before, but not in traditional Japanese style. One day, I hope to have a master do a tebori {手彫り, tattooing by hand & not tattoo guns} tattoo for me.

As a foreigner in Japan, it's not often easy getting things done if you don't speak or understand Japanese.

It's better in the city where there often are English signs or people speaking English around to help, but nonetheless Japan still is a country that holds traditions and cultural etiquette in high respect. I'm sharing his experience so that if you're thinking about getting a tattoo in Tokyo Three Tides, or anywhere in Japan in general, you'd know what to expect and do #yourewelcome

Tattoos in Japan are still a complex issue. On one hand, more native Japanese, especially the younger generation, seem more open towards them, yet on the other hand, they are still stigmatised for their association with the Yakuza {Japanese gangs} who pledge their allegiance with full-body markings.

People with visible tattoos are still not allowed in {most?} onsens, public baths or even swimming pools. This applies to both Japanese, and foreigners. You cannot show your tattoos at certain areas like gyms, and definitely not at work in the office. Some jobs don't even accept you if you have a tattoo.

{When I lived in Japan, the only times I went into the onsen was if it was late at night when no other people were around or if it was a private onsen. I didn't have as many obvious tattoos as I do now, but even then I had to cover them up even at the gym and at work.}

Last year, an Osaka court even upheld a ruling that only medical doctors can legally administer tattoos in Japan, meaning tattoo artists are now technically committing a crime every time they work on their art!! Tattooing, along with laser hair removal and chemical peels, is considered medical work since it involves needle piercing the skin. I'm not sure how vigorously the government is tracking this, but it certainly is food for thought.

It's a shame really, as traditional Japanese tattoos are so exquisite and there are many highly skilled and coveted tattoo artists living there, or even originating from there.

Three Tides Tattoo, is world-renowned in the tattoo industry. Their tattoo artists are well-known in Japan and overseas, and mostly specialise in Japanese-style tattoos, if I'm not wrong.

I reckon one of the reasons why they are so sought-after, other than because their distinct design and tattooing skills, is because they are foreigner-friendly {e.g. staff can speak English, located in popular tourist areas, active on social media} so a lot of their clientele are foreigners who help to spread their name to their friends and families overseas and online.

Anyway, they have 2 locations in Osaka and Tokyo. Their Tokyo shop is located in Harajuku, a little off the main Takashita-dori street.

We've been down that street many times and actually I was the one wanted to go in first, because I wanted to buy some socks from them haha #truestory

Their artists also design goods such as bags, T-shirts, towels, socks, enamel pins, figurines etc. for sale and had collaborations with Porter, Puma, Atmos and even Sanrio for Hello Kitty x Three Tides Tattoo mugs!!

Unfortunately, those mugs aren't available for sale anymore boohoo..

We went in and the boy said he wanted to get a tattoo. Whhhhaaat??! I know he's been thinking of getting a new one for a while but didn't think it was going to be on this trip heh. Anyway we talked to the receptionist / tattoo artist at the counter and she checked the schedule. She speaks English but is obviously more comfortable to converse in Japanese so I helped in the translation and luckily for the boy, Ichibay had a few slots open.. yay!!

Hide Ichibay, is according to one of the boy's tattoo artist friends, is apparently "a legend" in the industry by the way haha. See Ichibay's work on Instagram or in this write-up about him.

Ichibay wasn't in though and we couldn't confirm a tattoo slot until the design was discussed with him so we left. That was a Saturday and the next 2 days was spent communicating back and forth via email with Rita about the boy's tattoo design, who in turn related it to Ichibay.

To prevent miscommunication, I drafted the emails for the boy in English and Japanese, and sent photos for reference haha. As the boy and Douglas, would know... I am very, very anal when it comes to the tattoo details because I believe that they are meant to be permanent.

I reckon some people are quite flippant about getting inked because there are a few ways you can remove tattoos nowadays e.g. through lasers, or you can even cover up unwanted tattoos. However, personally I feel that if you are getting a tattoo, you must think through it carefully and choose something meaningful that you can live with for life. Don't get something that you will regret and if you're not 100% satisfied from the beginning, don't get it.

Above is a cost guide from Tokyo Three Tides website that I translated. On Monday, we went back to the shop for the boy to talk personally to Ichibay about the design, confirm the tattoo slot, and to make his deposit of 10,800yen {non-refundable, tax included}.

On Thursday, the boy had his tattoo appointment in the afternoon.

Tokyo Three Tides has 3 floors. The first floor is the reception, merchandise store and has small couch to wait at. It is open to public.

The second floor is the workspace for 3-4 tattoo artists, and the top floor is another workspace which I assume is a tatami room where they do the tebori tattoos, and the rest-room. The second and third floor are only accessible to those with appointments, as space is tight and they want to protect the privacy of the clients too.

Ichibay let me up with the boy, but since it was full house on top and perhaps they were worried Lil Pumpkin might accidentally disturb the artists at work, she had to wait on the couch below... which she was ok to do with a video to entertain herself haha.

I just stayed with the boy at the beginning to help him check the size & position of the tattoo {original art by Ichibay} and watch Ichibay at work for a while, then went down to wait with Lil Pumpkin. Ichibay is a very efficient tattoo artist and even though it was estimated to take around 1-1.5hrs, I think he took only 1hr to complete the tattoo.

Granted, it wasn't a very elaborate tattoo but it was significant to the boy nonetheless. He says that it reminded him of Xixi, one of his clinic pets that passed away some time back.

Tokyo Three Tides tattoo artists charge per hour. Each artist's price would be different and Ichibay's price was 20,000yen per hour {as of Dec 2017}. On top of that, the tattoo studio also charges 4,000yen for used materials and 8% service tax. The exact price, however, will also depend on the design/size that you and the tattoo artist agree on.

When making payment, your deposit {10,800yen} is deducted from the total amount. Do note as well that if you use credit cards, you will have to pay I think 3%? more for merchant fee, so it's best if you pay by cash.

He was mighty pleased with the tattoo and I think it's very well done too, especially in the shading. So happy for hubby!!

  • Advance appointment reservation is preferred, but walk-ins & on-the-day tattoos are accepted if available. Good for tourists!
  • You can choose your preferred tattoo artist and design, obviously. 
  • However, do note that the English ability of the tattoo artists may be limited. If possible, bring someone who speaks Japanese with you when talking to the artist about your design / during your appointment to make sure the artist fully understands your needs and ideas. On the day of the boy's tattoo, there was a foreigner receptionist there that could speak English, but I'm not sure how's her translation skills and if she works there full-time.
  • Confirmation of tattoo slots are only made after tattoo designs are confirmed.
  • When confirming tattoo slots, you need to show identification and pay the deposit {either in-store or via PayPal}.  
  • The deposit is non-refundable, even in cancellation.
  • If you can't make your appointment, you may change it at no extra fee but notification must be given in at least a week in advance.
  • Arriving over 30mins late for the appointment without prior notification will result in cancellation & forfeit of deposit. 
  • You can go back to the shop 1 month later for them to check on your tattoo after it has healed. 
  • If necessary, they will help you to touch up the colours, make alterations etc. for free then.

Tokyo Three Tides {スリータイズ タトゥー/ 三巴刺青}
3-24-2 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo {東京都渋谷区神宮前3-24-2}
Opening hours: Daily 12noon - 8pm
Tel: +81 03-6455-5908

P.S. I actually started a tattoo blog, Red Shibui, haha some time back as a pet project. Haven't had time to update it but if you want to know some general FAQs about getting a tattoo, pop by to have a look!

Other things to do in Japan:

Useful info for Japan travel:


Stacy said...

This is such an interesting post. Also counting how much a tattoo artist can make... ooo a lot. Haha.

Love the cat with fish that your hubby got.

VC said...

You are nice Tatto artist. It is good to sea such a nice tattos of differnt peoples.

mail4rosey said...

I didn't even know that there was tattoo rules, but now that you say it, they make sense! Glad he had a good time and loves his tatt.

Theresa Mahoney said...

All of those rules are quite interesting. I agree, one shouldn't get a tattoo willy nilly, but should think long and hard before getting one. I think the boy's tattoo turned out really nice. I am glad he was able to to be fit in while there.

An Apel a Day said...

I have yet to get a tattoo. My husband used to have a set. He actually gave himself some tattoo. I think they are fun, but I also think I'd grow tired of the one I'd have. Then I'd want a different one to cover up that one. It's not so easy to do that. It looks great on your hubby!

Indah Nuria Savitri said...

Really works of art! Thanks for sharing those tips, Ai

Shub said...

This is one topic that I keep thinking and rethinking and postponing...Want to get tattoo but somehow not got yet! Thanks for motivating me with this post...