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Ronin de Goede Photographs the Work of a Japanese Tattoo Master in ’ASAKUSA’

Raw depictions of Yakuza gang members, intimate tattoo sessions and more.


Dutch photographer Ronin de Goede recently released a new photographic diary entitled ASAKUSA that chronicles the work of Japanese master tattoo artist, Horikazu. Across 216 pages, de Goede captures black and white imagery of Horikazu and his clients who hire him for his full-body tattoo specialties. Candid pictures of intimate tattoo sessions are interspersed between street photography of Japanese festivals, raw depictions of various Yakuza gangs and abstract composites that evoke the gritty and banned world of tattoo in Japan.

“Yakuza thrive on their image as honourable outlaws, perpetuated in Japanese novels, magazines, plays, films and manga. But nothing could be further from the truth – while they may make very public displays of their rare acts of public generosity, ultimately their power is based on fear,” as per a foreword by Mark Poysden in the book. “Like criminal syndicates around the world, in Japan the yakuza run protection rackets and drugs, they trade in human flesh, they extort, bribe, bully, maim and kill, and because of their nationalist, usually right-wing ethos, became enmeshed with the government due to their long and complicated history serving as the government’s enforcers, most prominently after the Second World War (…)”

Check out select pages from ASAKUSA in the slideshow above and purchase a copy now on Zen Foto Gallery’s website for $78 USD. This past September, the Supreme Court of Japan ruled tattooing legal — allowing artists to work without a medical license.

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