2-3-7 Osu Naka-ku Nagoya, Aichi
FRESHLY INKED: What year did you start tattooing?
GENKO: In May of 1998, I started working at Eccentric Tattoo in Japan. After eight years of working there, I opened my own shop.
How did you get into tattooing? At Eccentric Tattoo, I started out drawing designs every day. I didn’t actually start tattooing until after three months of working there. Instead of being an apprentice, like how most tattoo artists start out, I was an employee at Eccentric from the beginning.
So, did you apprentice?
In the beginning, I didn’t understand exactly how the tattoo system worked, so I watched other artists while they were tattooing until the process became clear to me. To train, I spent a lot of time thinking about the process and running through the steps in my mind, like one would do to train for kung-fu. I practiced so much that my middle finger is now permanently bent from holding the tattoo gun.
What conventions have you worked at? Have you won any awards?
In the eight years after I started working, I went to three conventions. In 1998, I went to the Tattoo Tour outside Miami. I remember that the sea was beautiful. After opening my shop, I’ve gone to many conventions, including ones in London, Milan, and Berlin. At the fourth London Convention, I received a second place award for best back piece. At the sixth London Convention, I got first for best ornamental piece. At the 21st Berlin Convention, I got first place for the best large tattoo. In the future, I am planning to travel to America.
How do you describe your style?
I wouldn’t say that I actually have a personal style. That’s because I work in the style that’s best for each individual order from my customers. I think of myself as being a craftsman rather than an artist. So each time I choose a style that works best for the customer and work in that.
What inspires you as an artist?
From magazines and the like, I can see and learn from pictures of others’ work. I think each tattoo is amazing and inspiring.
What sets you apart from other artists?
Every morning, I wake up at 7 a.m. and eat breakfast. I’m in the store at 9 a.m., and I work until 10 at night. While other tattoo artists might play around sometimes, this is what I do every day.
What other mediums do you work in?
In order to be able to work faster, I’ve been making my own tattoo machine, though it’s still just a prototype! Other than that, I do paintings, as well as logo and clothing design.
How have you branched out from tattooing?
From the time I started tattooing, I’ve thought that my job is to do the best tattoos I can. Because of this, I’ve focused on doing tattooing.
What tattoo artists do you admire most?
I always like looking at other artists’ work. I think everyone has their good points.
What kind of tattoos do you look forward to doing?
At my job, I always have to work with my customers. It’s the most fun when their image of what their tattoos should be and my ideas can come together and match.
Before someone gets a tattoo what advice do you give them?
When many people get a tattoo, they want to know the meaning of the design, but I don’t think a meaning is needed. If you just think of the meaning behind the imagery, you can’t create a new design. Deep meaning and theory are not needed for a good tattoo.
Is there a tattoo that you haven’t done yet that you are dying to do?
If there was time, I’d like to take a woman with untouched skin and do a full body tattoo, leaving empty space in between the designs, like you can see in traditional Japanese painting. Other than this, I want to take traditional Japanese styles and remake them in my own design. I’d like the next generation of tattoo artists to be able to see my work and be inspired by it.