[OSAKA, JAPAN] [MUTSUO, TATTOO ARTIST] I don’t think Mutsuo would ever talk about himself that much. [CHRIS GARVER, TATTOO ARTIST] He’s a very unassuming kind of guy. You’d meet him and you’d be like, oh, he’s a really nice, quiet guy, and he’s not like a hustler, he’s just really dedicated to tattooing as an artist. He’d learn how to tattoo everything. Kind of like in the United States in the 90s, you just tattooed whatever came in the door. He kinda got like an American 90s tattoo education. He’s probably the first person in Japan to get that. He’s a maverick. He doesn’t even know. [TATTOO AGE] [MUTSUO] [PRESENTED BY NEW ERA, FLY YOUR OWN FLAG] [NAMI, TATTOO ARTIST] Mutsuo’s tattoos are not tied to one kind of style. Whatever the style, Japanese or American traditional, he accomplishes it flawlessly. [MASA SAKAMOTO, THREE TIDES OWNER] Mutsuo did this God of Wind and Lightning dragon that I love. His work is powerful. [HIROSHI HIRKAWA, TATTOO ARTIST] He knows the history of tattooing and highly values its foundations. That comes out of his art and tattoos. I try to perfect every style that I can. Having to choose one that I like better makes me have to give up the other ones. There’s so much that I still need to absorb. Mutsuo, he’s like a walk-in artist. I don’t know like if he has any weaknesses at this point. Like everything I’ve seen him do looks totally legit. He started tattooing I guess in 2000, 2001. Yeah, I can’t believe he’s been tattooing for like 13 years now, you know, time goes by so quick, but Mutsuo is like the foundation at Three Tides now. Three Tides Osaka is located in Minami Horie. It’s in a neighborhood called Minami Horie in Osaka. All of Minami Horie is a fashion town. It’s a great vibe. The shop is very open and has two floors, and it’s in a great location. The tattoo artists are… In Japan, there’s Nami and Hiroshi. Ichibe travels the world. It’s been awhile. -Oh, sorry, thanks so much.
-Just thought I’d bring this since I was coming. He brought us this, so tell everybody to thank him. Customers, they are bringing in some food. Some sweets. There are a ton of customers who come from far away. We get appointments from all over. People come from the US, Australia and Europe. We have a fun atmosphere here. I knew about Hiroshi and his artwork before I started working here. I thought his ukiyo-e paintings were amazing. I hasn’t even been two years since Hiroshi started tattooing. He’s just as serious about his tattooing as he is about his painting. He’s going to get better and better as an artist. Nami is the tattoo artist at Three Tides that I’ve worked with the longest. He does very clean black and gray work. He loves metal. Nami’s a metalhead. Mutsuo and I have a relationship as friends but also as co-workers. We’re also teacher and student as well as rivals sometimes. I didn’t know anything about tattooing when I first started apprenticing. I didn’t know how to design or how to use any tools. Mutsuo taught me all of those things. Mutsuo got angry at me all the time when I was apprenticing. I couldn’t draw Japanese or American-style tattoos all the time. I would get yelled at until I was able to do it. When he gets mad he gets really mad. But he’s usually just joking around. Mutsuo is still pretty strict with the younger guys who are apprenticing. If he’s lecturing them he’ll raise his voice. I definitely feel bad. It’s hard to have to yell at someone. We’re still expanding and working on becoming more successful. I want to continue to work hard for everyone who helped us get to where we are. -How many years has it been?
-I don’t know. -Is it gonna hurt?
-A lot, actually. I forget what it’s like. I like it. -Good luck then.
-You usually never say that to me. In general, Japanese people are just shy. It’s rare to have a camera crew in a tattoo shop. I’m sure the customers aren’t used to cameras either. But Masa isn’t shy at all. Hey. -How are you?
-Good. I got so tan. You’re really dark. The luckiest thing that ever happened to me was meeting Masa. I wouldn’t be working here if I hadn’t met him. He’s kind of like a big brother to me, even though he’s my boss. This is the new one. They all got changed? Yeah, when we got the new ones. I have tremendous respect for him, I’ve learned a lot from him, not only about tattoos. As a tattoo shop owner, he’s considered a pioneer in Japan. We started Three Tides in 1998. 14 or 15 years ago was a pretty early time to set up a tattoo shop. There weren’t really any street tattoo shops here. People used to get tattooed in private spaces and not in shops. If you wanted a tattoo, you’d have to ask people with tattoos. Sketchy people with tattoos. Otherwise you couldn’t find a place to get tattooed back then. When Three Tides started, it was like a very new concept in Japan, to have like a Western-style shop where you could get to go in and you could get almost any type of tattoo, wasn’t necessarily a Japanese-style tattoo, it could be an American traditional, or single needle black and gray, or Japanese maybe like, you know, just a dragon on your arm. I think a lot of people that were young, whether they were into skateboarding or rock ‘n’ roll, a lot of ’em would be intimidated to go to a traditional tattoo shop and be like, “I wanna get a panther,” you know, it’d be like, just something that wasn’t really done at that time. That was a niche that Three Tides filled for a lot of people. Something they saw in an American tattoo magazine they could get done in Japan without having to travel to the United States or Europe or something like that. Mutsuo can really do anything. Mutsuo is a sponge. He can do anything. But more than anything, he’s someone who treasures Three Tides. He means a lot to me. I think of myself as an original member of Three Tides, so I want it to become more well-known. I want everyone who works here to succeed and help make a name for this shop. Just keep working harder, that’s what’s important to me. [VICE, CONTINUED IN PART 2]