Horiyoshi III, Kaname Ozuma, and the BME World Tour

Hi everyone, I know many of you have been wondering what’s been going on with all the World Tour footage, so I’d like to share some of it with you today, as well as introduce you to a pair of artists that are true masters of their art.

As you may have noticed, a few days ago I posted about a gallery showing of Horiyoshi III and Kaname Ozuma’s art at the Known Gallery in Los Angeles.  The show is a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the works of these artists in North America, as their works are normally displayed back home in Japan.

As many of you know, the world tour kicked off several months ago and the tour members have since returned.   Most of the tour was spent in Australia and New Zealand, with rescheduling occuring due to volcanic eruptions, political unrest in Thailand and Greece and ultimately a break had to happen because Rachel came down with pneumonia after recovering from a week long hospital stay in New Zealand. One she was given the OK to travel, she managed to hobble to Japan.  While there, the BME tour was fortunate enough to meet with Horiyoshi III and Kaname Ozuma.  This meeting resulted in individual interviews with both artists, but a joint interview was later filmed where they talk about their friendship as well as their inspirations for their art.  A special thank you goes out to Hiro Hara & Horiren for arranging the interview as well as filming and editing it, Kana Nozaki for translating and Will Carsola for adding the subtitles.


During the initial interview with Ozuma, Rachel had asked where Ozuma had shown his work. The last time Ozuma had a show in the US was back in the 70′s in San Francisco. She jokingly asked if he’d like to do a show in the states now and to her surprise,  he enthusiastically said yes! This meant she was going to bring an exhibit of Kaname Ozuma’s work to LA.  In support of his long time friend, Horiyoshi III contributed some of his work to be shown at the gallery.   The show will be running until September 18th, when sadly the art will be returning to Japan.  So if you do get a chance to go to LA, you won’t be disappointed. All of the work from Ozuma is available for sale. Ozuma has been painting tattoos on women longer than most tattooers have even been alive today. He is a traditionally trained Japanese portraiture artist and his work is absolutely stunning. He’s published several book over the past few decades. Any tattooer interested in Japanese style of tattooing may not know his name but they will definitely know his work. His books can generally be found on Ebay (as they’re fairly limited edition) although he does have a new book coming out soon. We’ll update you on the details for it when it is released.

Some people have asked if the models are all tattooed or if Ozuma uses his imagination but the answer is that it’s both and so much more. Sometimes a model comes in and she has no tattoos at all. He will then use his imagination and paint whatever he envisions on her. Sometimes she is fully tattooed (by Horiyoshi III) and he paints her as is. One of the popular things to do in Japan though is that a couple will come in and commission a painting, the man has a full suit and the woman has none, Ozuma will then paint the mans tattoos onto the woman.  As a thank you present to Rachel for curating the show, Ozuma painted a a portrait of her. He included her sleeves, hand and neck tattoos but as Rachel doesn’t have anything tattooed on her back yet, he painted a beautiful Japanese mermaid that goes from her shoulders to her back.


If you aren’t familiar with either artist, here’s a little background information on them.

Ozuma Kaname

Born in Niigata, Japan in 1939, Ozuma Kaname began studying traditional Japanese painting under his uncle, artist Sakai Soushi, from a young age.  Moving to Tokyo at the age of 18, he trained as an art dealer while working  at a printing company. Afterwards, he moved on to the publishing industry  where he illustrated tattoos. The majority of his work continues to be  tattoo-related along with other traditional Japanese themes; and often  serves as a source of inspiration for master tattooist Horiyoshi III, whose  clients in turn, are often depicted in Ozuma’s paintings.

Horiyoshi III

Born Yoshihito Nakano in 1946, Horiyoshi III is the second tattooist to be bestowed the honorific title—the tattooist affixation “Hori” means engrave—in a line started by his master, the legendary tattoo artist Yoshitsugu Muramatsu, or Shodai Horiyoshi of Yokohama (Muramatsu went on to dub his son Horiyoshi II, and later Nakano was named Horiyoshi III).

His images are classical Japanese woodblock print motifs such as the phoenix, dragon, snakes, tigers, samurai warriors, Buddhist gods to name a few as well as background images of waves, clouds and various flowers. Among Horiyoshi III’s published works are 36 Ghosts, 108 Heroes of the Suikoden, 100 Demons, and The Namakubi (severed heads), 100 Dragons and 58 Warriors. Horiyoshi?s artistic genius and generosity of spirit have had a defining impact on the world of tattooing, taking it to new levels in this new century.

Work is still ongoing for the rest of the tour videos, but we thought we should share with you some of the material that will be featured in the tour updates.  This particular video is unique from the rest of the videos, as this is just a recording of two old friends reminiscing.  Expect the rest of the videos to feature proper interviews.

3 thoughts on “Horiyoshi III, Kaname Ozuma, and the BME World Tour

  1. I happened along right after Rachel was given this gift and I don’t think I’ve ever seen her quite so flustered. It’s really beautiful and what an incredible gift to be given!

    I was sorry to leave LA before the opening of this show. I hope anyone in the area makes the effort to go see it!

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