Online Shop Book a hotel JapanTravel

Japan Travel Logo
Blooming cherry blossoms

Three Tides Tattoo

Getting inked in Tokyo

10 July 2013
Rent a car
Find a hotel
Hiroshi is hard at work tattooing my piece. Hiroshi is hard at work tattooing my piece.

Japanese society holds quite a disdain for people with tattoos. When many Japanese think of a person with body art, visions of black suits, missing pinky fingers and a certain organized crime syndicate pop into their minds. Beware: certain onsen (hot springs), golf resorts and gyms will not allow entry to guests with ink. Those with visible art will also have a difficult time landing a bank loan. Yet, despite the everlasting notion of tattoo discrimination, Western-style tattoo shops are cropping up around the nation and the idea of tattoos as fashionable body art, rather than as a symbol of crime connections, is becoming increasingly popular.

It was due time I got yet another tattoo. Three Tides Tattoo, with two locations in Osaka and Tokyo, is world-renowned and talked about in a number of art, culture and tattoo-centric publications. Recently VICE produced a segment called “Tattoo Age” chronicling tattoo artists around the world- Mutsuo of Three Tides was one of the subjects. For a closer look, check out this three-part series on YouTube.

Three Tides Tattoo was one of the first Western-style establishments to open in Japan, that being a tattoo parlor on the street and open to the public. Three Tides stands as a pinnacle of excellence in the tattoo community. With sufficient research in my pocket and knowing that I would be in Japan this summer, I set out to make an appointment with Hiroshi at the shop in Tokyo. The shop’s manager, Mika, was incredibly helpful and we communicated via e-mail back and forth discussing various aspects of my design for a few months prior to my appointment. Three Tides is very welcoming to overseas guests. Mika can e-mail you in English but the tattoo artists have limited English language ability, so be sure to bring a translator if it would make you more comfortable.

Tokyo’s Three Tides location is in, where else? Harajuku. Walk down Harajuku Dori and you’ll find the shop kitty corner to the massive A Bathing Ape boutique. The tattoo shop itself is actually quite small; two tattoo artists working on customers plus the shop manager makes for some cramped quarters, but it works. The walls are covered in a smattering of art and drawings making for an effortlessly cool vibe. Take a look around and you’ll spot the most befitting shop pet, a green tree python.

After about six hours of sitting for my tattoo, I can say with a gigantic sigh of relief that I am incredibly happy with my piece. The dull roar and constant jab of the needle is a feeling that I can live without for quite some time. Well, I say that now, but tattoos are addictive…

Three Tides Tattoo has a number of artists to choose from at Three Tides plus a selection of rotating guest artists hailing from around the globe. Visit the online gallery on the shop’s site to view the artists’ work.

Tattoos are a lifetime commitment, they're expensive and yes, they hurt. My only regret about having tattoos is that now I can’t gain access to every onsen. I suppose my visit to Ooedo Onsen Monogatari will forever be postponed.

Where to go next
Gallery TOM (Touch Our Museum)
Gallery TOM is a private museum where blind and visually impaired people can experience an art exhibition through touching the sculptures and statuaries. More
Where to eat
Hakata Uma Uma Ramen, Shibuya
In the Hikarie building right next to Shibuya station, Hakata UmaUma is a friendly noodle restaurant serving hearty bowls of tasty Kyushu-style Hakata Ramen. More
Where to stay
Court Annex Roppongi
Court Annex Roppongi is a sixty-two unit complex featuring five types of apartment with accommodations ranging from small studios to three-bedroom apartments. More
Perri Silverstein
Written by Perri Silverstein
Contributor, Tokyo
A free spirit who loves cats, ramen, nail art and of course, travel.
Join the discussion
karen t.
User rating of this articleUser rating of this articleUser rating of this articleUser rating of this articleUser rating of this article
8 months ago
Vote up Vote down

I personally went to Japan a few years back and after reading this article, I have to say how frustrated I am at myself! I went to, I don't even remember where, tattoo place. I wish I read this sooner! You'll be my tour guide it seems when I go back!
User rating of this articleUser rating of this articleUser rating of this articleUser rating of this articleUser rating of this article
9 months ago
Vote up Vote down
I have back piece from Mutsuo. Its worth the trip to the Osaka location. I found staff very friendly as well. Great pics!

I'm happy to see some tattoo love on here!
User rating of this articleUser rating of this articleUser rating of this articleUser rating of this articleUser rating of this article
9 months ago
Vote up Vote down
Amazing article. I've heard of these guys and seen there work in tattoo books. You're absolutely right, tattoos are veryyy addictive lol. Thanks again Perri.
Share your thoughts with us
If you would like to share your thoughts with us, please login. If you don't have a Japan Travel account yet, then why not create one?

Are there any errors in this article? Let us know here.

Your name
Your e-mail address
Your message

Unable to update your favorites. Please refresh your browser, ensure you are logged in, and try again.

Loading Loading...

Please login or register to save favorites.

Or login using Facebook:

3-15-8-201 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 〒150-0001



Website (English)

Website (Japanese)

Japan Travel Specials
Authentic Japanese products delivered worldwide
148 Hiroo
Wi-Fi in Japan