Julia Shibata (DEU), tattoo artist, Tokyo

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‘My heart brought me to Japan. And also manga. I didn’t feel at home in Germany and I discovered Japan and its culture through the comics I was reading. It made me curious, since so many cultural aspects were so different from mine. I knew I really needed to visit.’

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‘In 2006, I travelled there for the first time and from the moment I landed it felt like home. I had traveled a lot before that, but never experienced a place like this one. When I went back home, I started to put aside some money and came back in 2009 to travel around in Japan for a couple of weeks. That same feeling of ‘coming home’ came over me for a second time, so a year later I started a working holiday visa here and I’m still here now.’

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‘My master, who’s in his 40’s now, is an amazing artist. He was taught the traditional way of tattooing: hand-poking. He makes amazing body suits in the traditional Japanese style. Some of his pieces are based on the art works of Kuniyoshi, one of the last great masters of the Japanese Ukiyo-e style of woodblock prints and painting. Typical elements you’ll find in Kuniyoshi’s work are koi fish, dragons, waves, clouds… He’s is a big inspiration for a lot of tattoo artists.’

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‘The two koi fish on my front I got back in Germany, while I was waiting to move here. It was my personal connection to Japan. A lot of my tattoos refer to happenings or events in Japanese history. The one on my back also refers to a story from Japanese mythology, being the story of Tamatori Hime, which translates to Tide Jewels. The story of a sea goddess using jewels to control the waves in her conquering adventures. There were three elements I wanted to combine in that tattoo: First, I really love water. Second, I wanted a story of a strong woman, since Japanese culture still hasn’t advanced much on gender equality and female anticipation. And last but not least, I wanted something related to Japanese history or culture. So it’s a perfect match.’

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