Harizanmai 針三昧





Learning begins with imitation. In Japan, it has long been believed that in order to master an art it is essential to learn the basic kata from a master and to imitate it repeatedly. Among artisans it is said, “Watch technique and steal it” which is just another way of saying “copying” the master’s work.

The importance of imitation is also thoroughly discussed in “Fushikaden”, a treatise on performing arts by the two great masters Kanami and Zeami who established Japanese Noh drama. To imitate is to learn, and it is a road paved with gold that should not be avoided if you want to master an art.

だがあえて真似ることを良しとせず、他に依らず、ひたすら己と向き合い続けてきたひとりの彫り師がいる。抜きん出た独創性で世界に名を馳せる京都 針三昧の主宰、五打氏である。


However there is one tattooer who has taken a unique approach by not imitating others and has continued to embrace himself. Gotch, is the owner of Harizanmai tattoo studio in Kyoto, and is known throughout the world for his outstanding originality.

His avant-garde and brave style is distinct from both traditional and neo-Japanese perspectives and is purely the result of his search for “something that exudes from within”. He says that since he was young, he has consciously kept away from and avoided seeing the works of other tattoo artists while aspiring to be different and unique.



When Gotch turned his gaze inward instead of outward to find out what was at the core of his being, he embraced the original landscape of his home town Kyoto. The streets are filled with shrines and temples, and all of the architecture is careful created to preserve that essence of traditional Japanese design. Although Gotch claims, “I had not paid particular attention to it”, it must have unconsciously taken root in his sense of beauty.

As a result, the clouds and waves he draws are not inspired by irezumi or ukiyo-e from the past, but by the wood carvings and decorative metal fittings used in the architecture he grew up around. It is obvious that this is what makes his work very unique.



The strongest hint of the influence of traditional architecture is in the blackwork-like approach that Gotch calls “jinjya (shrine) tribal”. The distinctive design of the roofs, pillars and other parts of the shrines and temples are skillfully incorporated into his work.

It is a very heavy and solid expression but surprisingly it is in harmony with his style of irezumi. This is probably because the original shrine and temple decorations also used clouds and waves as motifs, and the design is familiar to the Japanese people who have a sense of nature worship engraved in their DNA.



Gotch has pursued a style that only he can create but he explains “I don’t do anything too out of the ordinary.” Due to the lifelong nature of tattoos, he believes that it is important for his work to be able to be viewed for decades.

If it’s eccentric it may create a buzz, but it’s only temporary. For this reason, he fuses what he exudes from within with traditional elements to give it universality.


The black of Gotch’s irezumi is extremely deep. Irezumi is written 刺青 (poking blue) because the ink looks bluish through the skin, but his is jet black like the wet feathers of a crow. The other key color, red is just as deep as the black. I can’t help but marvel at the fact that it is possible to create such dense colors without tattooing over and over.


He uses common ink and old rotary machines. This coloration is the result of a technique that he has studied, refined and mastered. A technique that leaves ink in, without damaging the skin. It is well known that damage to the skin can cause fading and clouding of the color. I would like to mention that I witnessed a session and to my surprise there was almost no oozing of blood.


Harizanmai used to be located in Shijo-Kawaramachi, Kyoto’s busiest district, but moved to Karasuma-Oike several years ago in search of a calmer environment where Gotch could focus more on his work. Currently Gotch only takes one client a day, and he spends plenty of his time facing each irezumi piece.


He values the communication with his clients which takes place during this relaxing time, and he latches on to their personalities through casual conversations and projects them into his works. This is why the works shown here have different impressions; some are powerful and others are dreadful. Gotch’s irezumi, an expression of his inner self, now also reflects the characteristics of his clients and further strengthens their unique presence.


住所: 京都府京都市中京区(烏丸御池駅から徒歩約5分)
営業時間: 11:00〜(火曜定休)
Eメール: gotch5@gmail.com

Address: Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto city, Kyoto(5 mins walk from Karasuma-oike station)
Business hour: 11:00〜(Closed on Tuesday)
Email: gotch5@gmail.com
※Appointment only.

HP: harizanmai.jp
IG: www.instagram.com/gotch_tattoo

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