Spirited Away is Hayao Miyazaki’s most popular film to date. It is an Academy Award winner, and Japan’s highest grossing film of all time. It came out in 2001 and is still one of the most popular Japanese films out there.
The film was created without a script. The artwork came first, and it was drawn, directed, and written by Miyazaki himself.
The lead character, Chihiro, was actually based on one of Miyazaki’s friends’ daughters. She was supposed to be a relatable character and as average as possible. This was to show that ordinary people, particularly young women, could be heroes too.
A common occurrence in Miyazaki films are the quiet scenes of inaction. These are often some of the most beautiful scenes in his films. In Spirited Away, these scenes include driving, various nature scenes, and characters staring off into the distance.
Spirited Away has many memorable characters that make for fantastic tattoos. Some of the most popular characters for tattoos are no face, Chihiro, Haku, Yubaba, and the cute little soot sprites!
These tattoos are often done in blackwork, neo traditional, dotwork, and watercolor.
Zhuo Dan Ting is the owner of Shanghai Tattoo as of January 2007 (located in Shanghai, China) where she tattoos people from all around the world. People seek out her art from far and wide, and are not disappointed with the results.
Zhuo Dan Ting has been an artist since an early age, where her father (an art teacher himself) and his friends would teach her new techniques. She went on to art school in Harbin after high school, but quickly moved onto something entirely different.
Ting found the subcultures of death metal and punk music, which is where she fell in love with tattoos. Ting started off tattooing her friends in Harbin’s underground music scene, where she quickly started making a name for herself in the tattoo world.
Ting does brilliant black and grey, photo realism, portrait art, and Asian styled pieces inspired by both Chinese and Japanese art. Along with making beautiful art, Ting was also the first woman in China to open her own tattoo shop, a big step for the Chinese tattoo community!
If you’re in Shanghai, Shanghai Tattoo is the place to go!
Yōkai are supernatural monsters/ghosts/demons from Japanese folklore. The word itself is made up from the kanji for “bewitching, attractive, and calamity” and “spectre, apparition, mystery, and suspicious.” There are hundreds and hundreds of yōkai, from fairly harmless tricksters, to monsters that prey on human flesh. Being an animal that many are already afraid of, of course there are also spider yōkai.
As a tattoo these creatures are usually done in Japanese style, but can also be neo traditional, American traditional, black and grey, or blackwork.
There are three main types of spider yōkai:
-Ushi Oni: Which is actually classified as an ox demon. This demon is often depicted with the head of an ox and the body of a spider, and is usually near bodies of water. These creatures are always carnivorous and dangerous to humans. They are not always spiders, but this is one of the more popular depictions. The Ushi Oni is described as cruel and vicious, breathing toxic poison, and sometimes inflicting curses or spreading disease.
-Tsuchigumo: A giant spider who can live a very long time, and grow to monstrous sizes. When they get old enough they can transform themselves into other yōkai, even taking the form of humans in order to lure and kill people. These creatures live in forests and mountains, mainly preying on travelers. One famous tale tells of this creature transforming into a beautiful woman who leads an army of yōkai against Japan. A man named Yorimitsu is the first to meet the beast on the battlefield and strikes her, making the army disappear. The Japanese army then follows her back to her cave where she morphs back into a giant spider. Yorimitsu slices her open, unleashing thousands of human sized baby spiders. The Japanese army kills every last one and returns victorious.
Jorōgumo: This creature was known as the “whore spider” but is now better known as “entangling bride”. She lives both as a beautiful yōkai in human form and as a giant spider. This spider gains the ability to transform after it has lived for 400 years. She uses her human form to lure unsuspecting men to her lair before eating them. They live in caves, forests, or abandoned houses. This creature is often seen as part spider, part woman, generally the body of a spider and head of a woman.
All versions of this beast are terrifying, and all make a bold tattoo. Which is your favorite?
Foo, or Fu Dogs as they are known as in the West are Chinese lion guardians called Shi. These creatures are both guardians and good luck charms. When placed outside buildings they are meant to protect those inside from negative energy and to stop those with intent to harm from entering. These ancient symbols have been around since the Han Dynasty (206 BC- 220 AD).
As a tattoo this creature is also meant to be protective. Keeping the wearer safe from harm. This creature is also tattooed to be a representation of the wearer’s strength, courage, and heroism.
Foo dogs are firstly a Chinese tattoo, but are also associated with Japanese tattoo’s and can be incorporated into Japanese pieces. They are often also done as black and grey pieces, American traditional, and realism pieces.
Foo dogs are often placed on hands, with the head fitting perfectly, lining up with the knuckles.
Foo Dog’s make a brilliant and powerful tattoo for those seeking protection and good fortune.
Monmon is a Japanese term for tattoo, and a monmon cat is a cat with tattoos. They were designed by Horitomo, a Japanese tattoo artist well known for his hand work (tebori) and his monmon designs. He published a book entitled Monmon Cats and has inspired other tattoo artists around the world.
Monmon cats are usually done in traditional Japanese style, and usually have their own Japanese tattoos. They can also be done realistically, in black and grey, and have other tattoos such as American traditional, flowers, and skulls.
The geisha, or, “person of accomplishment” date back to 1751 in the mid-Tokugawa period in Japan. Geisha’s were originally men, but eventually became women.
Geisha’s were trained artists skilled in tea ceremony, flower arranging, and as singers, dancers, storytellers, servers, and conversationalists. These women were all literate and were familiar with poetry and tales of warriors in order to entertain their patrons. Geisha’s were not prostitutes, but worked in the pleasure districts, also called “the floating world” and while not they were not sex workers, some did become concubines or mistresses for men who would buy their contracts from their masters.
Geisha’s are known for their musical prowess, particularly with an instrument called samisen, which today is also used in kabuki plays and has an inherently “Japanese” sound. As for appearance, while working a geisha would wear a kimono tied from the back, which is another difference between a geisha and a prostitute as a prostitute would have her kimono tied in the front. A thick white foundation of makeup is applied to the face, neck, and upper chest, with a line around the hairline creating a mask like appearance. Other makeup includes black around the eyes and eyebrows with bright red lips.
Geisha’s still exist today, though due in part to the rigorous training in order to become one, are much less frequent. Today, geisha’s mainly entertain politicians at parties.
As a tattoo a geisha will generally be done in Japanese traditional style, neo Japanese, American traditional, neo traditional, black and grey, or realism.
Geisha’s are an important part of Japanese history and make a fantastic design!
Sean Cushnie is a talented artist working out of Kapala Tattoo in Winnipeg. His style is both neo traditional and neo Japanese. Sean uses a mix of black and grey with bright colours to make his work pop. Sean’s black and grey work borders on realism while his colour is solid neo traditional, making it not only a mix of colouring, but also mixing style.
Sean is a must see Winnipeg artist for your neo trad needs.
Nissaco is a tattoo artist based in Shinsaibashi Osaka at an unnamed private studio that goes by the name room_23_26 on Instagram.
Nissaco does mainly large scale pieces such as full sleeves, back pieces, and even body suits. His style is black geometrical work and it is extremely detailed.
His work is hard sought after with visitors going to see him from all around the world. Along with having clients from around the world, he also travels, going to various tattoo conventions. Most recent he will be at the 13th London Tattoo convention in September 2017.
Along with being geometrical in design, Nissaco’s work also often features classic Japanese elements such as dragons, waves, flowers, snakes, koi fish, and hannya masks. These pieces are almost entirely black, but occasionally feature a small amount of red to make them really pop.
Nissaco is a must see artist in Osaka, Japan, but book well in advance as his books fill up fast!