芳柳 “侠客”




A back piece of kyokaku (chivalrous man) which is newly created without taking a model from existing ukiyo-e by Houryu, who is pushing forward the main path of traditional Japanese tattoo. The bold deformations, strong lines, and simple color make the work look powerful even from a distance, which is an unmistakable lineage of the classics.

The image of the kyokaku sits on the head of oni (Japanese demon) which he may have defeated with his back to cherry blossoms and has a cup of sake even evokes some story. This is a great work that shows a glimpse of Houryu’s flexible imagination.



The term kyokaku refers to those who are willing to sacrifice themselves and have a chivalrous spirit to help the weak and frustrate the strong. The temperament of this kind of chivalry is called ninkyo and its essence is considered to be same as bushi-do. When it resided in samurai it’s bushi-do and when it appeared in townspeople it’s ninkyo. It was a term of endearment for townspeople who would not yield an inch against power and the establishment, regardless of their profession.

As a side note, a group of three frogs is a word play from long ago which is a good omen for prosperity.

※See Houryu’s interview here
And see more of his work on Instagram

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