The Safest Places In The Capital To Get That Kanji Inked Right
It’s your body, your choice. But choosing the right place to get inked is your responsibility.
Maybe you’re looking to commemorate a loved one, empower yourself with a quote or a Japanese kanji or you just like art and want a piece of it for yourself — there are hundreds of reasons to get a tattoo. It’s your body, your choice. Despite the still existing discrimination towards people with tattoos (you may have to give up on your hot spring habits or going to the local public gym), with a long history of skin art, Japan is still one of the best places in the world to get the best quality ink work.
But whether it’s your first or 50th tattoo, knowing the right studio to go to is as important in your home country as it is in Japan. Based on my own years of experience (yes, I have many tattoos), here are three of the best tattoo studios in Tokyo that provide high-quality work, are easy to access and are female-friendly.
Sunsqlit Tattoo has two studios in Tokyo: one in Ueno, and the other just down the block from Tower Records in Shibuya (look for the 7-Eleven — it’s in the same building). Both locations have five artists in residence, with female artists Ako in Shibuya and Takane in Ueno. They’ve also been featured several times in Tattoo Girls, a well-known tattoo magazine for women in Japan. All design types, including highly customized work, are available here.
Despite not having an English website, the entire process is quite easy to navigate, as Sunsqlit prides itself on being the ideal studio for first-time tattoo seekers. Their motto is “creating a tattoo that, without compromise, you will love for the rest of your life,” and they really stick to this promise. Even though I only had simple designs in mind, they took the time to carefully arrange and place my tattoos, and always make sure that I am completely comfortable with them before any ink is even poured. I’ve gotten three done there, and I’ve never had a bad experience.
Sunsqlit does accept walk-ins, but if you have a custom or larger piece in mind, it’s best to make an appointment. They can usually fit you in for a consultation within the week.
Where: Sunsqlit Shibuya: Daines Ichibankan 6F, 1-11-5 Jinnan, Shibuya, Tokyo. Sunsqlit Ueno: Onoda Bldg 4F, 6-8-19 Ueno, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Business hours: Sunsqlit Shibuya: 12 p.m.-9 p.m., Closed Thursdays. Sunsqlit Ueno: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Closed Thursdays.
Average price: Small designs from ¥5,000, large designs (A5 size) from ¥45,000
2. iPo Tattoo Loyal
A survivor of the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake, iPo has been a tattoo artist for five years, and just opened his studio in Harajuku in March 2018. His specialties are Neo Japanese, tebori (traditional hand-poked tattoos), and Oriental tattoos. He is blood brothers with Stefan Fischer, the owner of Bavarian Custom Irons, a high-quality tattoo machine brand from Germany. I’ve had four tattoos done by iPo, including one cover-up, and his work is impeccable.
iPo uses all new technology to produce his tattoo work — every aspect of the design is carefully mapped out and drawn on photos of the desired location first, and can be easily adjusted with just a few swipes on his Illustrator/Photoshop-synced iPad. All of my tattoos up until now had been done the old school way — so this was a really fascinating part of the tattoo process for me to witness. Not only that, but iPo is a fluent English speaker, so consultations can be easily made in English or Japanese.
iPo is the only artist at this studio, but if you are interested in getting a tattoo done using traditional Japanese inks and materials in a modern setting, this is the place to go in Tokyo. While there aren’t any female tattoo artists on staff here, there are two female apprentices available if you want one present. This studio is also child-friendly, so if you need to bring your son or daughter along, just let iPo know in advance and he’ll try to accommodate your needs.
Where: #102, 3-6-21 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo
Business hours: Based on consultations. Contact iPo directly via Instagram.
Average price: From ¥10,000 for 2 hours
Established in 2003, Stroker Tattoo has two locations: one in Yokohama and one in Machida. This studio currently has five artists available, including one female artist, Chihiro. Their work runs the gamut from traditional Japanese art to black and white, portrait style, lettering and American traditional styles.
What drew me to this studio was its comfortable, Western studio appeal and the overall talent of all their artists. Every step of the tattoo process was carefully discussed in advance, and I was consulted on each detail of the design. Out of all the tattoos I’ve received in Japan, they took the most time creating designs with slight variations in order to fully flesh out what I was after. They also don’t mind giving you breaks during the same session for larger pieces, so you can get up and stretch before continuing on with your tattoo. My two tattoos here were done in a single day, and have really lasted well.
Their website is also available in English, which makes them a popular option for visitors to Japan as well. All you need to do is fill out an application form with the approximate size, location, description/photo of your desired tattoo and its color scheme, and when you are available to do it and they will get back to you right away.
Where: Stroker Tattoo Machida, 3F TM5 Building, 1-35-4 Morino, Machida, Tokyo
Business hours: 12 p.m.-8 p.m. Open daily.
Average price: Differs by artist and tattoo size.
Tip for booking: If you would like to see a female artist, you will need to mention so in your tattoo reservation/inquiry.
Bonus: Body Piercings
If you prefer piercings to tattoos, then check out Extreme in Harajuku off Takeshita-dori. Here, if you make a reservation in advance, you can get pierced from head to toe and purchase custom piercings from reputable overseas and Japanese brands as well. They are licensed by the Japan Piercing Association too, so health and safety are high priorities here. Extreme is also affiliated with studios in Ueno, Omiya, Yokohama and Hiroshima, so make sure to check that you have the right location before making your reservation.
Whether you want a quick, cute little design, or something traditional and large scale, these three studios are sure to meet all of your tattoo needs in Tokyo.