Tattoo by Horikiku. (Photo by Kip Fulbeck)
Tattoo by Horikiku. (Photo by Kip Fulbeck)

“Perseverance: Japanese Tattoo Tradition in a Modern World” opens at the Japanese American National Museum on March 8 and runs through Sept. 14.

This photographic exhibition explores the artistry of traditional Japanese tattoos along with its rich history and influence on modern tattoo practices.

As Japanese tattoos have moved into the mainstream, the artistry and legacy of Japanese tattooing remain both enigmatic and misunderstood. Often copied by practitioners and aficionados in the West without regard to its rich history, symbolism, or tradition, the art form is commonly reduced to a visual or exotic caricature.

Conversely, mainstream Japanese culture still dismisses the subject itself as underground, associating it more with some of its clientele than with the artists practicing it. Both of these mindsets ignore the vast artistry and rich history of the practice.

Although tattooing is largely seen as an underground activity in Japan, Japanese tattoo artists have pursued their passions, applied their skills, and risen to become internationally acclaimed artists. Through the endurance and dedication of these tattoo artists, Japanese tattooing has also persevered and is now internationally renowned for its artistry, lineage, historical symbolism, and skill.

Curated by Takahiro Kitamura and photographed and designed by Kip Fulbeck, “Perseverance” is a groundbreaking exhibition and the first of its kind. It will explore Japanese tattooing as an art form by acknowledging its roots in ukiyo-e prints. This exhibition will also examine current practices and offshoots of Japanese tattooing in the U.S. and Japan.

“Perseverance” features the work of seven internationally acclaimed tattoo artists, Horitaka, Horitomo, Chris Horishiki Brand, Miyazo, Shige, Junii, and Yokohama Horiken, along with tattoo works by selected others. Through the display of a variety of photographs, including life-sized pictures of full body tattoos, these artists will cover a broad spectrum of the current world of Japanese tattooing.

Members are invited to join the artists for a special preview and reception on Friday, March 7, from 7 to 10 p.m.

Celebrate the official opening on Saturday, March 8. Featured artists from the exhibition will be tattooing live, up-close-and-personal, showcasing various forms of Japanese tattooing, including tebori, a traditional Japanese hand tattooing form.

Artists and contributors will talk about their work in the exhibition and the importance of the art of tattoo in their life.


• 1 p.m.: Dr. Greg Kimura, JANM president and CEO

• 1:30 p.m.: Kip Fulbeck, “Perseverance” designer and photographer

• 2 p.m.: Takahiro Horitaka Kitamura, “Perseverance” curator

• 2:30 p.m.: Tattoo model unveiling with Kitamura and Fulbeck

• 3 p.m.: Junko Junii Shimada

• 3:30 p.m.: Chris Horishiki Brand

• 4 p.m.: Jill Horiyuki Halpin

• 4:30 p.m.: Chaz Bojorquez

The event will conclude with a signing of the exhibition catalogue with all artists.

Regular admission is required for entry. Purchase admission at the front desk on event day. No pre-payment accepted. Last entrance will be at 4:30 p.m.

Lectures will take place in the Tateuchi Democracy Forum in the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy (glass building across the courtyard from main building). Admission required for entry. Seating will be on a first-come, first-served basis.

JANM is located at 100 N. Central Ave. (at First Street) in Little Tokyo. For more information, call (213) 625-0414, or visit Museum hours are Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Thursday from 12 to 8 p.m. Closed Mondays, 4th of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

Admission is $9 for adults; $5 for seniors, students and children; free for museum members and children under age five. Admission is free to everyone on Thursdays from 5 to 8:00 p.m. and every third Thursday of the month from 12 to 8 p.m.

Tattoo by Horitomo. (Photo by Kip Fulbeck)
Tattoo by Horitomo. (Photo by Kip Fulbeck)

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