Dempatoo Tattoo Studio



観光客が闊歩する華やかな表通りと、そこに暮らす人々の生活が息づく裏路地。チャイナタウンとして東アジア最大の規模を誇る横浜中華街は、清濁飲み込み発展を続けてきた。そんな日本でありながら日本ならざる混沌とした喧騒の縁に一軒のスタジオがある。和彫りを専門とするDEMPATOO TATTOO STUDIOだ。

Juxtaposed between the glamorous main streets where tourists stroll and the narrow back alleys, the unique lives of the locals come into view. Yokohama Chinatown, the largest Chinatown in East Asia, has continued to develop by taking purity and impurity. There is a studio on the edge of the chaos and bustle that is Japan, but not Japan. Dempatoo Tattoo Studio, specializing in Japanese tattoo, calls this distinctive place home.


First impressions may lead to the belief that the studio is owned by a tattooer with a strong habit because of its unique location, but in fact, it is a dignified woman with a gentle demeanor who greets you when you open the door. Yutaka Bonten, owner and tattoo artist, studied under the famous Bonten the Second —Yusui— and after 5 years of training was allowed to become independent. She is a genuine member of Bonten the second’s family. As soon as she turned 18, she applied for the opportunity to become an apprentice, and her tattooing life has since spanned more than 20 years.



Her style is influenced by gongbi, which she’s been honing for years and is a type of ink painting that originated in China and would later have an huge effect on Japanese ink painting. It uses pigments and ink made from ores and plants. The artist paints with a technique of applying thin layers of color, with the extremely pale gradation that attracts the viewer.

The same characteristics appear in Yutaka Bonten’s tattoos; the delicate bokashi (meaning “blur”) is undeniably beautiful. Traditional Japanese tattooing based on ukiyo-e prints has a relatively flat color scheme, but her works presents a different worldview. However, there is no hint of the West. Her style is solely based on the flow of Eastern art.


Yutaka Bonten’s works, especially karasu bori —roughly translating to “crow tattooing”, meaning black and grey style— is reminiscent of the words of Zhang Yan-yuan, an ancient Chinese scholar who compiled the oldest history of painting in China. Yan-yuan famously stated that “Ink encompasses all the five colors.” There are some theories as to its true meaning, but the general interpretation is that the shade of ink can express any color. In the graceful and unchanging monotone world, we catch a glimpse of all colors of nature.


Yutaka Bonten also has a taste for Japanese dance, and remarks how she has learned a lot from its gestures and pauses. For example, as she learned dancing with pinpointed focus on the purposeful movements of her fingers, she became more aware of the fineness of “motion” and was able to expand this range of expression in human figures. Her portrayal of the characters is well thought out, with careful consideration of even the smallest gesture.


Despite her traditional training, Yutaka Bonten is not constrained by the old-fashioned way; she is also proficient with modern and playful approaches. One of these modern interpretations are small tattoos she calls “wan point”; wa meaning Japanese style. She started this to facilitate ease of entry for everyone to get acquainted with Japanese tattooing, as opposed to the all-encompassing traditional style of a full back, sleeve, or bodysuit. Wan point is also perfect for overseas tourist’s souvenir tattoos who come to Yokohama for sightseeing.


A few decades ago, Yutaka Bonten was inspired by a line in a movie that said “A tattoo can even change a person’s destiny,” and decided to pursue a career in tattooing. She was a dreamer, you might say. She learned of Bonten the First while immersing herself in tattoo-related books at the library and was so shocked by his multi-talent that she knocked on the door of his family. When she became independent after a difficult period of training, she no longer was a girl with an idealistic fantasy; she had emerged as a dedicated professional artist with a sincere devotion to tattoos and tattooing.


From the fashionable girls of today to the old-fashioned yakuza, the clientele of Dempatoo is very broad. “Tattoos can be a person’s confidence and armor. I still think it is true that it has the power to change one’s destiny and life. If I have the chance, I would like to help people enrich their lives,” she said while smiling, and in that moment the reason why her clients continue to return became clear.

Dempatoo Tattoo Studio

住所: 神奈川県横浜市中区山下町127-9
営業時間: 10:00〜20:00(水曜定休)

Address: 127-9 Yamashita, Naka-ku, Yokohama city, Kanagawa
Business Hour: 10:00〜20:00(Closed on Wednesday)
※Appointment only.


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