Inks and tools

The tools and materials that are used are different for each tattoo artist, and it is said each group of tattoo artists have secrets that they never reveal to others. As time goes on Horihiro feels that he would like to teach the traditions of Japanese style tattooing to the younger generation.


Nowadays, most tattooists’ ink is mass produced by various manufacturers, but the ink Horihiro uses is made from traditional natural materials. Sumi, a bar of ink is rubbed into an ink stone with water just like Japanese calligraphy, and it becomes a liquid. Then the end of a bundle of tattoo needles is dipped into the ink and applied to the skin.

The ink he uses has been produced and sold by Kobaien, a long-established Sumi maker in Nara for over 400 years. According to their website, the ink sticks are made by hand with “the soot of burnt coleseed, sesame and paulownia tree oil”. They say that their ink bars are “of superior quality with fine colour pigments and will produce ink with a deep black glossy finish”.

The ink stone Horihiro uses is not of an especially high grade quality but after using many types of ink stone, the one he currently uses is small and has a rough texture, these are his favourite type.
The ink uses only 100 percent natural materials and is naturally gentle on the skin and will become a glossy indigo blue.


The needle stick used in the tattooing process are hand-made according to tradition. They are made by carving hard woods such as ebony or wood from persimmon trees into a comfortable shape by hand. Then tiny silk needles tightly bound into a bundle without gaps and are firmly tied to the end of the hard wood stick with string. The ends of these needles are then dipped in ink, and the ink accumulates in the tiny gaps between the needles on the end. Then pierce the skin with those needles. The exquisite beauty of shading, which is considered important in traditional Japanese tattooing especially in the Kansai region, can all be seen in just these hand-inked tattoos.

Although Horihiro also uses a machine for outlining because of its efficiency, the shading is still only done by hand.

When the needles are used, there is a “one person one needle” policy. Also, before they are used they are soaked and sterilised for 30 minutes. In the 30 years that Horihiro has been tattooing, there has not been one case where someone has needed treatment for a skin infection.









手彫り用の針は、昔ながらの手作りです。黒柿や黒檀と言った堅い木を、自ら自分の手になじむよう、削ります。そこへ裁縫用の絹針をぴっちりと隙間なく束に したものを、糸でしっかりとくくりつけます。その針先を墨に浸すと、針と針の小さな隙間に墨がたまります。それを肌に突き込んでいくというわけです。和彫 り、特に関西彫りで重視される「ボカシ」の精妙な美しさは、このような手彫りでこそ、出せるものです。