Yusuke Hamamoto (JPN), bonsai artist, Chiba

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‘I started studying as a bonsai master’s apprentice at the age of 21. At 29 I started my own company. I make bonsai for people, lease them to shops or restaurants, do small exhibitions… Recently the interest in bonsai boomed. I quite often have to travel overseas to teach or work on local bonsai.’

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‘I love things with history. Cool things with a deep tradition stay cool forever, they don’t get out of fashion and don’t need to adapt to modern trends. That counts for bonsai as well as tattoos. Throughout time, tattoos and bonsai, it has always been there. For me personally tattoo and bonsai are not connected. They’re just two things I happen to like. I’ve been making a lot of bonsai for tattoo artists though. I’m very lucky to see my hobbies intertwined in some way. Sometimes we just exchange. I work on their bonsai, they give me a new tattoo in return. Just as bonsai, tattoos is an art form, so maybe that’s why there’s a big interest from tattoo artists in bonsai as well. It’s a different field, but we’re both creating art.’

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‘My job allows me to travel a lot. Wherever I go, I get – at least – one new tattoo. I never request anything, I always go for the specialty of the artist I’m visiting and I’ve never been disappointed. I travelled to LA for the first time at the age of 18 because there was an artist I really liked and I wanted him to tattoo me. I don’t care what people think, it’s something that I personally really like, that feeling is much stronger. But I do believe respect is really important. I don’t want to offend people, like young kids on the train. In summer I’ll always wear long sleeves, a cap,… Japan has its history with tattoos, so I think it’s important to keep that in mind.’

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‘When I’m home in Japan, I’ll have an average of one new tattoo a month. While traveling overseas it’s a lot more. Last time when I was in LA for a month, working on a bonsai for a tattoo artist, I had 23 new ones in that month. That’s almost every every day. I really love LA, I wouldn’t mind moving there, but I think the Japanese bonsai is much cooler then the American one, so it’s better to do my work here and just visit the city of angels on a regular base.’

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