Tattoos are such a personal subject because, truly, it’s going to be ingrained on your skin (quite literally) forever once you get it inked on your body. My second tattoo is one I’ve had for a few years now but I love it as much now as the day I got it and, to me, it’s the best travel tattoo around.
I originally blogged this on my wedding website, mikkelpaige.com, but since it’s been some time and I wanted to post here as well with some updates. It’s also a very regularly pinned tattoo from what I’ve found – and it’s most definitely MY arm! 🙂 So I’m certainly the authority on my custom calligraphy “explore” tattoo.
My Travel Tattoo Idea
The way this came about was actually a dream. Cliche, perhaps, but it’s the truth. Just one week before I departed for Japan, on a trip for my 30th birthday, I awoke from a dream with a clear vision: the word “explore” on my back in an arc, right underneath my neck. I was anxious and excited to make this dream a reality. It just felt RIGHT. Whereas my first tattoo (the word “love” on my foot) took me months to decide on and commit to, this was almost instantaneous. I looked on my original tattoo Pinterest board to see what tattoos I had pinned and found the calligrapher, Neither Snow, had a style I really adored. I contacted her immediately knowing time was a factor.
She replied back saying she has a private area of her website for tattoo artwork (yay!). And she understood I was on a time crunch and was willing to work with me. (Whew! Truly, Mara, who is Neither Snow, was so incredibly wonderful to work with and I’m forever grateful.) She sent me about 10 ways she had written the word – I was FLOORED. I loved it SO much I upgraded its location on my body. Instead of my back, where I wouldn’t really be able to admire the calligraphy work or the word, I moved it to a straight line on my inner forearm.
Getting a Tattoo in Japan: Osaka Tattoo Shop
Simultaneously I feverishly looked for a great tattoo shop in Osaka, Japan. “Tattoo shop” or parlour seemed like a bit of a dirty word in Japan; tattoos and body art are most often associated with the Yakuza, or what’s more commonly known as the Japanese mafia. I kid you not. But times are a changin’ and they couldn’t be the only ones in Japan with tattoos, right?
I reached out to a shop called Hyperspace Tattoo. They told me they were able to do the design (I had emailed them a copy of the word once it was solidified). Yay! I admit there seemed to be a bit of a language barrier in emails but I don’t speak Japanese so they certainly spoke more of my language than I did theirs! And I was able to see their work online and I approved! (The most challenging thing with calligraphy tattoos is the fine line-work involved. Often the simpler the design the more apparent mistakes can be.)
When I reached Osaka and the day had arrived for me to get my tattoo I was so incredibly excited I nixed anything else on my itinerary that day in favor of heading directly to the shop. I remember it was a Friday and I couldn’t wait to get there. I got a little lost, needed to ask several people if they knew where it was and as the time passed and location remained a mystery I grew more anxious.
Finally a Japanese woman, who spoke wonderful English (which is rare in Japan – most people do not speak English) was able to help. I found it! It was several floors up in a building not too far from where she helped me. (It’s common for restaurants, stores, bars, etc. to be in a high rise in Japan too!)
I went into the shop and spoke to them about the email I had sent. Unfortunately the person I wanted to do the tattoo wasn’t available, I was told. Yet a different artist could do it. I agreed after seeing her portfolio. (In hindsight I wouldn’t have agreed to that again – it’s a permanent tattoo and I do wish certain things about it were more precise after it healed but hindsight is 20/20 as they say! And you couldn’t see it’s imperfections right after she tattooed me in the photo below. It was only in the weeks after it healed.)
I absolutely love this tattoo, even more than the day I got it. I can truly say I’ve never tired of it, not even a little bit. I get a lot of compliments on it and it’s been pinned and repinned and blogged on popular sites – so it’s evident others love it too and find it inspiring! And no matter all of the above the most important thing is it’s MINE and 100% original. Everything about this piece truly fell into place – so much so I can only come to the conclusion it was meant to be. And it’s a constant reminder of how much I adore traveling and to always be aware of wander and EXPLORE.
I truly believe there are few art forms that emulate the sexy, sinuous, graceful lines of a language and alphabet than calligraphy. When it was coupled with a word I highly value the result was perfect matrimony.
Heading to Japan? Also check out:
- 20 Surprising Things to Love about Japan
- What It’s Like to Stay in 9 Hours Pod Hotel
- 12 Must-See Inspiring Photos of Kyoto