The beloved and deeply historical world of Japanese tattoo is in perpetual danger today, as Japanese tattoo artists fight for their right to live and work in Japan. And yet, Tokyo tattoo artists continue to survive against adversity.
The Japanese government unfortunately turns a wary eye on tattooing, with its deep associations with the yakuza organised crime families. It’s an unfortunate situation, as much of the rest of the world celebrates tattooing as a beautiful form of art and expression.
Ironically, Japanese tattoo art is one of the most beloved tattoo styles in the industry. So what does all of this mean?
Well, that it can be really difficult to find a great tattoo artist or studio in Tokyo. We know; we’ve lived there. Japanese tattoo artists kind of rely on word of mouth, so we’ve put together our favourite Tokyo tattoo artists and studios to visit in the capital.
You can also check out some great Osaka tattoo artists if you fancy a trip south!
The Best Tokyo Tattoo Artists and Studios
Fortunately, where the fight against the government is concerned, things are changing bit by bit. We can only hope it keeps getting better. For now, here are seven great tattoo artists and studios to check out on your next trip to Tokyo!
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Eiji Fujisawa can be found tattooing at Studio Muscat in Shibuya — the heart of Tokyo. If you’re heading to Tokyo, the city will urge you towards Shibuya sooner or later.
And, while you’re there, book in with Eiji for a Japanese tattoo with a modern spin. Eiji is one of the most pronounced Tokyo tattoo artists working today.
He uses charcoal-style shading, soft, sometimes non-existent line work, and deep, bold primary colours to make a statement. He is at his best when adapting the traditional Japanese tattoo design into something unique and modern.
Designs like koi fish tattoos, traditional Japanese dragon tattoos, and hanya mask tattoos are among his most captivating and exciting designs. Check him out when you’re next in Shibuya.
Read More: Amazing Tattoo Artists in Taiwan.
Mii is a Tokyo tattoo artist who has shaken off the traditions of Japanese tattoo art to provide something fresh and unique to the Tokyo tattoo scene. Mii’s art focuses on intricate, thin black line work.
Mii’s in her prime when designing custom tattoos which make use of empty space and complex line work to create something calmly, subtly beautiful in its intricacy.
She does also do heavy shading and some colour, but her thin lines are mesmerising to follow and admire. Her designs are on the darker side; abstract and dark fantasy-inspired pieces of art.
What Mii can do with little more than a thin black line is miraculous and awe-inspiring. We are thrilled with each and every design we see Mii cook up. She is a bright light in the world of tattooing and one of the best Tokyo tattoo artists around.
Osakabe represents a return-to-form for true old school tattooing. These aren’t your typical neotrad tattoos; they’re proper Sailor Jerry-esque classic American tattoos, with a Japanese twist.
Taking the American style of tattooing from decades past — the kinds of tattoos we associate with sailors and bareknuckle boxers — and applying that style of tattooing to Japanese designs like geisha, maneki neko, and even yokai, is a stroke of genius. The styles and influences blend so seamlessly; a match made in heaven.
Not all of Osakabe’s tattoo designs are Japanese; some are very traditional old school American tattoos. While others still are inspired by other forms of art media, like anime and western cartoons. Most notably, Osakabe excels at creating original old school tattoos inspired by iconic characters from Studio Ghibli.
These tattoos are really something special: bold, brash, colourful, and vivid. We are celebrating the return of old school tattoo art, and seeing one of the coolest Tokyo tattoo artists boast astonishing skills at the craft is a pleasure.
Shuka (Chunk Tattoo)
Shuka (also known as Chunk Tattoo) is a Tokyo tattoo artist working out of the Takadanobaba neighbourhood on Shinjuku. Shuka’s style of tattooing is particularly hard to pin down, which makes it all the more exciting to talk about.
His tattoos range from large and detailed black-and-grey designs to minimalist line work. He also doesn’t shy away from full colour pieces and even watercolour tattoos. Shuka is a jack-of-all-trades kind of tattoo artist but we personally think he excels at the more abstract and minimalist style of tattoo design.
Beyond the style of his tattoos, Shuka also stands out with the content and themes of his tattoo designs. While many of his tattoos are recognisable (tiny fruit and flowers or big, lifelike portraits), he also takes bizarre and surreal themes and brings them to life on his clients’ skin. Dreams into reality. That’s the beauty of tattooing.
Read More: Most Beautiful Travel Tattoos.
Rainfall Tattoo Studio
Rainfall Tattoo Studio can be found in Nakameguro, Tokyo. It’s a place that celebrates the long-standing tradition of blending old-school British, American, and Japanese tattoo styles.
If you like your true classic, old school tattoo designs, Rainfall Tattoo is where you need to be heading during your trip to Tokyo; they are home to some of the coolest Tokyo tattoo artists.
They are very much dedicated to preserving the older ways and aesthetics of tattoo art, something that we can hugely appreciate and respect.
If you like your nautical-themed old school American tattoos that call back to the time of Sailor Jerry, or prefer the more traditional Japanese tattoo styles of dragons and koi fish, you’ll find both styles being handled with grace, skill, and passion at Rain Fall Tattoo. Give them a visit.
Related: 8 UK Tattoo Artists to Check Out.
WTS Tattoo Studio
This Tokyo tattoo studio is actually a little outside the city, but so very much worth the short trip to get there. WTS Tattoo Studio is located near the Atsugi American naval air base, which is super accessible from Tokyo city centre.
We cannot overstate just how sharply talented the two artists who work there — Vin Uehara and Marcio Yuge — really are. These are two of the best Tokyo tattoo artists, full stop. They produce astonishing colour tattoos full of bold brightness and bordered with intricate line work.
The animals, people, and flowers they create are so bursting with life, it’s remarkable. They’re fun tattoos that celebrate the tradition of Japanese tattoo while also being something bold and different and modern and gorgeous.
Not enough can be said about these two artists and their studio. It’s really excellent work.
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Spin Tattoo Studio
Spin is a Tokyo tattoo studio located in Meguro. Their artists are fantastic professional artists who create original tattoo designs in a wide range of styles.
They can produce traditional Japanese tattoo designs, but also photo-realistic black and grey portraits. Their local artist, Kei, is especially deft at this side of tattooing.
While he is able and willing to do anime-inspired tattoo art, or big bold colours, he’s at his peak when doing dazzlingly intricate black and grey art that looks deceptively, eerily lifelike.
Spin is a very diverse Tokyo tattoo studio with a range of styles. Whatever kind of tattoo you’re after, they will do our ideas justice.
Tokyo Three Tides
We’ve saved the most famous for last. Even if you have no knowledge of Tokyo tattoo studios, which is very likely given the unfortunate attitude of the Japanese government towards tattooing, there’s a good chance you’ve still heard of this studio.
Tokyo Three Tides is a modern legend in Japan’s capital, and for good reason. Their artist Mutsuo is doing so much for the world of Japanese tattoo.
He is a modern artist worth celebrating, as he keeps the flame of traditional Japanese tattoo burning bright. His work calls on the ancient Japanese arts and designs we love and cherish to this day, and he tattoos them with true craftsmanship.
We can’t thank him enough for the work he does. When it comes to Tokyo tattoo studios, Three Tides is the real deal.
Every good list of tattoo artists needs a dedication to the art of small tattoos. Taking ideas and using the steadiest of hands to transplant those ideas onto skin, and making it really work, is a real rare talent that must be respected.
Not much is known about Yukidajuke but, given the difficult state of tattooing in Japan, that’s to be expected. Whatever the case, they are a furious talent when it comes to small tattoos. They tattoo intimate places like necks and ribs with the most beautiful and delicate little tattoos.
Whether you want black and grey tattoos or full colour tattoos, Yukidajuke can deliver. Their tattoos range from tiny kanji to flowers and animals, and even intricate Japanese-style portrait tattoos.
The breadth of style and design on display here is amazing, making Yukidajuke a force to be reckoned with, and one of the most unique Tokyo tattoo artists around.