Death knocked twice then climbed through the window. Its tongue began to wag like a snake dancing in the sea at night. A husky voice cracked into my mind and two words lodged in my ear...

Tokyo – Red Lights and Tattoos

Tokyo – Red Lights and Tattoos

Story by Nicole Reed

The first time I went to Tokyo was eight months after the tsunami hit and I was told not to go based on available information about the levels of nuclear radiation.

The country was obviously hurting a lot. Most of the businesses were only running on half power and I hardly saw any other tourists around the streets. The friends I made on that trip have become life long friends. They told me that they were grateful to have visitors at such a desperate time.

I stayed right in the middle of the Kabukicho red light district in Shinjuku. It was an interesting experience and even though local people balked when I mentioned where I was staying, I never felt unsafe walking around that neighbourhood.

I spent a lot of time in tattoo studios meeting tattooists from all walks of life, including the legendary Horiyoshi III, who has dedicated his life to studying and refining traditional Japanese tattoos. He has brought traditional styles of tattoos into the modern age. He is arguably Japan’s most famous tattooist.

Another tattoo artist who stands out in my mind is a woman named Horiren who was preparing to walk a long distance to help raise money for people who where suffering from the effects of the tsunami.

She gave us a demonstration of her style of traditional tattooing and then she took me out for dinner where everyone in the bar took off their shirts to display their tattoos and I drank way too much Sake.

I have returned to Tokyo since this trip and I was so happy to see that the city had recuperated at least some of the way and it was much more alive. It was a completely different experience. Tokyo is one of my favourite places in the world. It’s busy and hectic and bright and eccentric but structured, orderly and calm and I find I can relax and disappear there quite easily.

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