These might be the best cattoos we've reported on yet. Kazuaki Horitomo Kitamura is not only a mind-blowing Irezumi artist, he has also invented a provacative and invaluable motif within the style — Monmon cats. Felines have been a long-standing popular image in Japanese art, coming all the way back from the advent of the ukiyo-e genre which rose to prominence through the 17th to the 19th centuries. Horitomo has picked up on this trend and imported it into body art with a fun twist: the cats themselves have Irezumi, hence the name "monmon," which translates as "tattoo."
In 2013, Horitomo put out a book of paintings of his monmon cats. It's a publication that features oodles of awesome images like the one above. It's spectacular to see how his interesting motif translates from fine art into body art. Try to track the book down if you can. You will not regret it, we promise. It's simply wonderful.
Though they are some of his simpler monmon cats, those that exhibit Irezumi's timeless floral imagery are lovely. He often depicts these fur-balls as having cherry blossoms, chrysanthemums, and lotuses on their backs.
Some of Horitomo's cutest monmon cats are the fat ones, especially those that are chowing down on sushi. The way he illustrates them with such looks of satisfaction imbues them with a luxurious and over-indulgent playfulness that's hard not to enjoy.
Some of Horitomo's monmon cats play with the idea of Irezumi itself by having the tattoo overlap from the felines' bodies and onto the negative space of their collectors' skin, toying with the idea of who really wears the body art.
It's awesome how he illustrates some of his monmon cats with tanto (samurai daggers) in their mouths, giving them a lethal vibe, especially when rendered in black and grey or paired with imagery that is suggestive of things like decapitation.
The way Horitomo postures some of his monmon cats is priceless. They tend to sometimes lounge lazily on the body, while other times the slink slyly down appendages or look ready to pounce. The range of classic Irezumi iconography that appear on them is also remarkable. In these tattoos we see everything from chrysantemums and Daruma dolls to namakubi (severed heads) and Oni.
Horitomo's best monmon cats are arguably those that exist in large-scale. Rendering these felines on wider stretches of skin allows him to put more detail into the tattoo on the cats body, which makes for a more interesting piece overall. There is something incredibly metacognitive and self-referential about a back-piece of a cat with a back-piece of a Fudo Myoo.
We hope you found Horitomo's incredible monmon cat tattoos as charming and clever as we did. If you're curious about seeing more, you can see more of his feline body art on his Instagram. Also, he works at State of Grace in San Jose, CA, so hit him up if you want your very own Maine Coon with a back-piece of a koi or tabby with a tattoo of a foo dog.