Landing tenderly upon the frosty branch, a little bird looks down at the hanging namakubi in this Japanese silk painting. The presentation of severed heads served as a frightening declaration of victory in medieval Japanese warfare.
Horiyoshi III (b. 1946) is Japan’s preeminent tebori master, whose work is indebted to traditions of apprenticeship and skill. While the world of tattoo remains one of secrecy and exclusivity in Japan, Horiyoshi III has transcended taboo, achieving national and international fame. Born Yoshihito Nakano, Horiyoshi III received his title from the late tebori master Yoshitsugu Muramatsu, known as Shodai Horiyoshi’s apprentice for ten years. By 28, Horiyoshi III’s bodysuit had been completed, hand-tattooed by Shodai Horiyoshi. Though ukiyo-e officially ended in 1868, Horiyoshi III's artwork carries on the spirit of Edo’s “pictures of the floating world”, all the while incorporating his own style and a contemporary perspective. This sensitivity to tradition extends beyond his tebori. In recent years, he has focused on traditional kakejiku (Japanese scroll paintings). Rendering Japanese folktales, calligraphy and religious subjects in sumi (black ink) and traditional mineral pigments, Horiyoshi III interweaves past, present and future.
In addition, Horiyoshi III tattoos full time, publishes books of his drawings, and is the founder of Japan’s only tattoo museum with his wife in Yokohama. His work can be found in the permanent collection of the Morikami Museum of Art. With over forty years of experience, he is the foremost authority on traditional Japanese tattooing.