|Mid 20th century, Japan - A group of traditionally tattoed gamblers. Umezu , the chief of gambling, sits among them ©Hulton-Deutsch Collection|
There is more to traditional Japanese tattoo besides beautiful body art, and that includes the complex relationship between the Horimono master and his apprentice. While modern tattoo techniques have undermined the old tebori culture, it is still an important part of tattoo history.
The Uchi-deshi system first arose among the skilled craftsmen of Edo during the mid-18th century, along with the lineage nomenclature that still exists today. Upon retirement, a master would bestow upon his apprentice his professional name, but with the suffix 'The Second' added to it. This carries on ad infinitum i.e. "The Third, The Fourth etc" with successive generations. This hereditary naming system applies to almost all artisan professions in Japan, including tattoo artists.
In modern times, the Uchi-deshi is a rapidly diminishing phenomenon as more students undergo part-time apprenticeships. These apprentices are therefore able to support themselves with other part-time jobs and maintain homes of their own, commuting to their masters' workplaces instead.
Some people use the word Irezumi-shi. In the Edo Period, the word Horimonoshi was the most common way to refer to a tattoo artist, to distinguish him from the Horishi who carved woodblocks for Ukiyo-e prints. It is generally considered normal to add the honorific suffix, san ("Mr. Tattoo Artist") to Horishi when used in conversation.
|Horace Bristol ,Tokyo ,1946|
Hori names, and now, Hori names are used mostly for artists still practicing tebori, the traditional Japanese hand tattooing. Whilst speaking in person to a traditional Japanese tattoo artist, one usually uses the generic term sensei (lit. 'one's elder') in the third person, as a mark of respect.
|1946, Tokyo, Japan — Tattooed Men at Public Bath — Image by © Horace Bristol|