Tokyo Tattoo Shops – Top 10 English-Speaking Parlors
Japan has a love/hate relationship with tattoos going back a long way. This means that in Tokyo, though you may not be able to use the onsens, you can visit world-class tattoo shops and get inked by some of the best artists around. Find out how, with us.
The traditional art of tattooing in Japan, called irezumi or horimono, meaning “carving” or “engraving”, has been going on for thousands of years. Over the centuries, the purpose and connotations of tattoos in Japan have fluctuated wildly: at one time serving a spiritual or decorative purpose, at another being seen as a status symbol and even forcibly given to criminals during the Edo period as punishment. It was also during this period (1600-1868) that Japanese woodblock painting, or ukiyo-e, also flourished as an art form. The skills, tools and designs used for ukiyo-e soon began to be carried over to tattooing, a process that led to the development of Japan’s uniquely beautiful and instantly recognisable tattoo style, known as irezumi.
Over the years, Japan’s distinct, detailed and lavish tattoo style garnered international acclaim. However, even today, tattoos are subject to lingering negative connotations, mostly due to their association with the yakuza—an organised crime syndicate based in Japan. Thankfully, this connotation is slowly disappearing, though you’ll still be lucky to be allowed into an onsen (hot-spring) or public bath with visible tattoos.
If you’re in Japan, speak English and want to get a tattoo but don’t know where to start, look no further. We’ve compiled a list of the 10 best English-friendly tattoo shops in Tokyo. All of these shops have at least some English-speaking staff and house some of the most talented artists in Japan.
1. Tokyo Three Tides
If you’re looking for traditional Japanese tattoos, one of the best, neatest and most professional tattoo shops around is Tokyo Three Tides. They have a store in Osaka and another in Tokyo, tucked away on a Harajuku backstreet roughly 10 minutes from the station. The shop has over 10 artists in its crew, all of who are highly skilled at creating unique, custom and traditional work.
A coin sized piece will run you about 10,000 yen and larger pieces will cost around 15,000 yen an hour. For a professional tattoo done by some of the best irezumi artists in Tokyo, the prices are more than fair. They have traveled widely, attending numerous tattoo conventions and events around the world. They also do alterations and cover-ups if you’ve got a piece you’d rather forget about. It’s better to call or email to make a reservation but you can show up and hope they can fit you in if you like. The shop also carries some incredibly beautiful merchandise designed by the artists.
Opening Hours: Sun-Sat 11:00 - 20:00 Walk-in: OK! Website: Three Tides Tattoo Address: 3-24-2 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo Access: Meiji Jingumae Station Phone Number: 03-6455-5908 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Tokyo Ink
This tattoo shop is actually composed of two different studios, 56 Tattoo Studio and Tag Tattoo, together creating Tokyo Ink. This shop is relatively new having only been in operation for a couple years, but the artists working here have decades of experience behind them. The artists are adept at creating original traditional designs as well as smaller pieces, cover-ups and tribal works. 56 Tattoo Studio is particular known for its beautiful, large, traditional Japanese tattoos.
Check out the website to take a look at some of the artists’ previous work—you’re bound to be impressed. If Tokyo Ink looks like the studio for you, you should call in and make an appointment in advance. The store is roughly equidistant from Harajuku Station and Shibuya Station both.
Website: Tokyo Ink Official Homepage Social Media: Tokyo Ink Twitter / Tokyo Ink Facebook Address: Mifune Building 602, 1-5-14 Jinnan, Shibuya, Tokyo Access: Meiji Jingumae Station Phone Number: 03-6455-0067 Email: email@example.com
3. Tattoo Studio Seek, Shinjuku Kabukicho
“Is your style Shinjuku, Roppongi or Ikebukuro?” — This is the question posed by Tattoo Studio Seek in reference to their three Tokyo locations. All three feature talented and experienced artists, though each has its own unique style and selling points. The Roppongi store, for example, has English-speaking staff, the Shinjuku store has breadth and range on its side, while the Ikebukuro store is an irezumi specialist.
The large traditional irezumi usually take many hours and multiple sessions and you must make an appointment with Horisho, the lead artist, ahead of time. Walk ins are welcome at the Shinjuku and Roppongi locations. At each, if you’re unsure of what you want, the skilled artists will be happy to help you out with input and ideas.
Opening Hours: Fri-Wed 12:00 - 20:00 (Closed on Thursday) Walk-in: OK! Website: Tattoo Seek Address: B1F, 1-10-11 Kabukicho, Shinjuku, Tokyo Access: Seibu Shinjuku Station Phone Number: 080-9411-1777 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
4. Scratch Addiction Tattoo Studio Harajuku
Another Harajuku tattoo studio, this time Scratch Addiction Tattoo Studio, a veteran of the scene. The shop is small with an interior covered in art, paintings and posters, an intimate environment which has in the past hosted some of the best tattoo artists in the world. Clients are welcome to pop in and discuss ideas with the artists or choose a pre-existing design with the largely English speaking staff.
If you’re looking for top-notch tattoos, you can’t go wrong with this studio. Walk-ins are welcome but reservations are preferred. Prices, inevitably, vary depending on size but any price is worth getting inked by one of the greatest studios in Japan.
Opening Hours: Sun-Sat 13:00 - 20:00 Website: Scratch Addiction Address: 1F, 3-27-14 Jinguumae, Shibuya, Tokyo Access: Harajuku Station Phone Number: 03-5411-1228 Email: email@example.com
5. Red Bunny Tattoo
Another place to get high-quality custom ink is Red Bunny Tattoo, located in the western Tokyo suburb of Kichijoji. The interior is clean and bright, filled with books, paintings and artwork. There are private rooms for each of the four resident artists to work. Between them, all styles are covered, including irezumi. Only one of these artists is an English-speaker, however, so you may want to call ahead if you require English service. If not though, walk-ins are always welcome.
It’s a great studio for your first tattoo or your fiftieth. All tattoos are custom but the artists will happily work with your ideas and come up with something great. They also offer cover-ups and touch-ups.
Opening Hours: Sun-Sat 13:00 - 20:00 Walk-in: OK! Website: Red Bunny Address: 3F, 2-8-1 Kichijoji Honcho, Musashino, Tokyo Access: Kichijoji Phone Number: 0422-21-2515 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
6. Ichi Tattoo Tokyo
Featuring artists from all over the world, Ichi Tattoo Tokyo is another of Tokyo’s top English-speaking tattoo studios. Walk in and the fresh, modern feel of the place is striking, something also evident in the tattoos created here. The work—although rooted in traditional Japanese art—is a blend of different cultures and styles, reflective of the diverse backgrounds of the artists working here. If you want to book an appointment, the only way is through their website, where you’ll need to fill out a contact form with your personal information and give an indication of what kind of tattoo you’d like.
Opening Hours: Tue-Sun 10:30 - 19:00 (Closed on Monday) Walk-in: Appointment only Website: Ichi Tattoo Address: 102, 4-30-14 Yoga, Setagaya, Tokyo Access: Yoga Station Phone Number: 050-1564-0412
7. Black Eyes Tattoo Shop
Black Eyes Tattoo is in international studio with four locations: Kanagawa, Yokosuka, Tokyo and North Hollywood, California. The Tokyo location is about five minutes from Ikejiri-ohashi Station, hidden behind a relatively nondescript storefront. Within, the artists, Horinagi and Aiko, create beutiful original tattoos every day of the week. Horinagi is your man for irezumi while Aiko specialises in non-traditional pieces, in the past including Simpsons characters, Ghibli-influenced pieces, Marvel heroes and tribal designs.
As usual, it’s better to schedule an appointment in advance. The price range is around the norm for Tokyo: a small coin-sized piece coming in at around 10,000 yen and more elaborate designs charged hourly.
Opening Hours: Sun-Sat 13:00 - 21:00 Website: Black Eyes Address: 2-33-13 Ikejiri, Setagaya, Tokyo Access: Ikejiri Ohashi Station Phone Number: 03-3413-1955 Email: email@example.com
8. InkRat Tattoo
Located close to Koenji Station, this tattoo shop blends traditional Japanese styles with vintage 50s and 60s Americana. The exterior isn’t much to look at, but the wonderfully decorated interior is brilliantly retro, with art-deco furnishings, a tiled floor and neon signs.
The irezumi offered here are unique, most featuring bold lines, bright colors and careful shading. Whether it’s a small piece or a full back piece, InkRat Tattoo is a quality, English-friendly location that won’t disappoint.
Opening Hours: Fri-Wed 12:00 - 20:00 (Closed on Thursday) Website: InkRat Tattoo Address: 2F, 2-51-9 Koenji Minami, Suginami, Tokyo Access: Koenji Station Phone Number: 03-3317-0252 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
9. Swallow Art Tattoo Shop
This appointment-only shop is located in Okachimachi, roughly five minutes on foot from Naka-Okachimachi Station. It’s a fairly small studio with only one artist, a man named Horien. His reputation proceeds him so get in touch via the website to try and book a slot. His irezumi range from detailed anime characters, cats and Pokemon to traditional Japanese imagery, such as fish and octopus. He can cater to any colour and style you want, from a black feathered bird to an extremely bright and colorful woman or dragon. Horien is friendly, talented, speaks English and —judging by his Instagram—has a great love for cats.
Opening Hours: Sun-Sat 12:00 - 21:00 Walk-in: Appointment only Website: Swallow Art Tattoo Address: Okachimachi, Dai 2 Building 5F, 5-18-2 Ueno, Taito, Tokyo Access: Naka Okachimachi Station Phone Number: 03-6338-6696
10. Shi Ryu Doh Tattoo Studio
The philosophy of the artists at Shi Ryu Doh Tattoo Studio is that “great ideas can be born from a quiet environment.” This explains the out of the way location and the laid-back, relaxed atmosphere in the studio itself. The shop is made from wood gathered from all over Japan and contains artefacts, souvenirs and gifts reflective of its global outlook and international clientele.
There are two very skilled tattoo artists working here, both specialising in custom irezumi. The price for a smaller custom piece is slightly above average, though for the quality there can be no complaints. They do not offer all styles of tattoos and will not do other people’s designs, only unique designs they can proudly call their own.
Opening Hours: Thu-Tue 11:00 - 20:00 (Closed on Wednesday and every other Thursday) Website: Shi Ryu Doh Address: 1-9-3 Kakinokizaka, Meguro, Tokyo Access: Toritsu Daigaku Station Phone Number: 03-3717-9272 Email: email@example.com