Shige of Yellow Blaze Tattoo in Yokohama, Japan, has emerged as one of the foremost tattooers in the world, not just of the Japanese style, but of all styles. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Shige very well, from working conventions together to just hanging out, and am proud of his success and truly feel that he is advancing the art of tattooing. We just tattooed together at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco as part of a groundbreaking demonstration of Japanese tattoo art and Shige has definitely come a long way from his humble beginnings. Starting as a broke motorcycle mechanic to a self taught tattooer, he has dealt with a lot of negativity to get where he is. Now, world renowned, booked for years, with more first place trophies than he can count, he still remains a mystery to many tattoo artists and collectors. I wanted to share with the readers of Tattoo Artist Magazine some of Shige’s thoughts on the art of tattooing for I think it is important to delve into the psyche and motivations of one of Japan’s finest tattoo artists. In many ways, I see Shige a lot like my master in his younger years; Horiyoshi III used to run around the world, tattooing, showing his bodysuit as well as those of his clients and being more than just a hard working tattooer, but an ambassador of Japanese art.
— Horitaka, 2008
Horitaka: Can you give me your basic history?
Shige: Well, I was born in 1970 in Hiroshima; I was a first born son. My mother was very strict about education; she was very patient and never gave up. For a while, I lived with my mother and sister, my sister often took care of me. I wasn’t allowed to have “normal” toys, and as far as TV, only educational programs like nature shows! So I focused on hobbies and reading, things like that. I do think these “restrictions” helped me with my ability to concentrate and also made me more creative. My mother painted as a hobby and I think this definitely had an effect on me. She also recommended that I draw for fun. I was also interested in playing the guitar when I was younger; I even started music school after high school but didn’t stay very long. I worked some odd jobs and then ended up getting married at 20. I eventually became a Harley mechanic, and through the biker culture I was exposed to tattoos; I was really curious about it, and soon my interest was for tattoos more than bikes. I’ve always been a bit impulsive and really wanted to tattoo myself and get into it. When I began all this- maybe it was around ‘95- I was tattooing friends at night. You hear about people that become tattooers overnight and it wasn’t like that for me! I knew nothing, I bought machines from abroad and studied what I could but I had no guidance. In Japan there weren’t the magazines, shops and suppliers that there are today. Information was hard to obtain. I guess it was somewhat of an experiment, I looked at foreign magazines and learned what I could. Things didn’t work out with my wife and we got divorced. This was a very rough time for me, no money, getting divorced, but now I think it was meant to be. I met Chisato at this time and we fell in love. Anyways, I continued to work on tattooing, out of my house, and I was getting some clients. I was able to set up a studio in June of 2000. Things really changed when I met Filip Leu…
:: from tattoo artists magazines