Chûsenko Teitokuson from the Suikoden by Johan Svahn (IG—johansvahntattooing). Irezumi Japanese JohanSvahn traditional

10 of Our Favorite Traditional Japanese Tattoo Artists

Here are some awe-inspiring back-pieces by masters of the traditional Japanese style.

Powerton in Tattoo Artists

Traditional Japanese tattoos have been around ever since the Edo period (1603-1868), and though the art form has been subject to considerable prejudice in its homeland over the years, it is currently experiencing a renaissance. There are tattooists who specialize in the style operating out of nearly every corner of the globe. To illustrate just how far it has spread, here are 10 back-pieces by some of the most impressive Irezumi artists from around the world.


Even though Irezumi was outlawed from 1872 to 1947 and is undergoing yet another wave of crackdowns by authorities, the style still persists to this very day. In fact, it’s never been more vibrant. The country is home to the most famous Japanese tattooist of our age, Horiyoshi III. In recent decades, a number of extremely talented artists, like Horitada, Horizaru, and many others, have also earned the title of “Hori” (given to those who complete traditional tattoo apprenticeships in Japan) studying under masters like him.

An amazing bodysuit by Horiyoshi III (IG—horiyoshi_3). HoriyoshiIII Irezumi Japanese traditional
An amazing bodysuit by Horiyoshi III (IG—horiyoshi_3). #HoriyoshiIII #Irezumi #Japanese #traditional
A black and grey bodysuit of Kannon and a dragon by Horitada (IG—horitadajapan). Horitada Irezumi Japanese traditional
A black and grey bodysuit of Kannon and a dragon by Horitada (IG—horitadajapan). #Horitada #Irezumi #Japanese #traditional
The Nue falling from his cloud by Horizaru (IG—en_horizaru). Horizaru Irezumi Japanese Nue traditional
The Nue falling from his cloud by Horizaru (IG—en_horizaru). #Horizaru #Irezumi #Japanese #Nue #traditional

Numerous Irezumi artists have set up shop in the United States to escape the stigma exerted on the art form in Japan. The U.S. is home to an incredible amount of outstanding tattooists who specialize in the style. With the exception of a few like Horitomo, most stateside Japanese tattooists don’t carry the title of Hori, but their work rivals that of their contemporaries in both quality and authenticity. Through how their pieces related age-old legends, Mike Rubendall, Regino Gonzales, and Rodrigo Melo all show how one doesn’t need to be trained in Japan to honor the rich culture behind the tradition.

One of Horitomo's depictions of Fudo Myoo (IG—horitomo_stateofgrace). FudoMyoo Horitomo Irezumi Japanese traditional
One of Horitomo's depictions of Fudo Myoo (IG—horitomo_stateofgrace). #FudoMyoo #Horitomo #Irezumi #Japanese #traditional
An amazing back-piece of a foo dog by Regino Gonzales (IG—rg74). foodog Irezumi Japanese ReginoGonzales traditional
An amazing back-piece of a foo dog by Regino Gonzales (IG—rg74). #foodog #Irezumi #Japanese #ReginoGonzales #traditional

Recent from Tattoo Artists

Zhang Shun crashing through the water gate from the Suikoden by Rodrigo Melo (IG—rodrigomelotattoo). Irezumi Japanese RodrigoMelo traditional
Zhang Shun crashing through the water gate from the Suikoden by Rodrigo Melo (IG—rodrigomelotattoo). #Irezumi #Japanese #RodrigoMelo #traditional
Two oni heckling a tiger by Mike Rubendall (IG—mikerubendall). Irezumi Japanese MikeRubendall oni tiger traditional
Two oni heckling a tiger by Mike Rubendall (IG—mikerubendall). #Irezumi #Japanese #MikeRubendall #oni #tiger #traditional

Due to the style’s vast diaspora, a number of superb Japanese tattooists are located throughout Europe as well. Some of the most stylized Irezumi in the world comes out of countries like the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Denmark. Though all of their tattoos fall into the category of Irezumi, the compositions by Caio Piñeiro, Henning Jorgensen, and Johan Svahn have their own distinct aesthetic that makes them stand out, illustrating how diverse the style has become over time.

A fierce dragon by Henning Jorgensen (IG—henning_royaltattoo). dragon HenningJorgensen Irezumi Japanese traditional
A fierce dragon by Henning Jorgensen (IG—henning_royaltattoo). #dragon #HenningJorgensen #Irezumi #Japanese #traditional
Keyamura Rokusuke riding a giant frog by Caio Piñeiro (IG—caiopineiro). CaioPiñeiro Irezumi Japanese traditional
Keyamura Rokusuke riding a giant frog by Caio Piñeiro (IG—caiopineiro). #CaioPiñeiro #Irezumi #Japanese #traditional
Chûsenko Teitokuson from the Suikoden by Johan Svahn (IG—johansvahntattooing). JohanSvahn Irezumi Japanese traditional
Chûsenko Teitokuson from the Suikoden by Johan Svahn (IG—johansvahntattooing). #JohanSvahn #Irezumi #Japanese #traditional

The global reach of Irezumi is a testament to its impressiveness. The art form has survived centuries of oppression in its place of birth and spread around the entire world because it is one of the best looking styles ever invented. Traditional Japanese tattoos are, in many ways, the pinnacle of illustrative body art, and given that they’ve lasted the test of time for so long, it’s probably safe to say that the sun will never set on Irezumi. 


Make sure to keep up with the amazing work that these masterful artists create by following them all on Instagram. If you want your own back-piece done in the traditional Japanese style, commission one of them to do it.

Powerton

@Ross Howerton

Originally from Oklahoma. BA in literary studies from The New School. MFA in creative writing from New Mexico State University. English teacher, published poet, and writer for Tattoodo. I love art, books, movies, music, and video games.

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