Master Horiyoshi III Nakano Yoshihito was born on the 9th of March 1946 in Japan.
Tattooing traditional Japanese Irezumi including drawing and painting for over 40 years one can say that he has reached a more than impressive level in his craft and as an artist today. He is probably the most famous Japanese tattooist worldwide and has tattooed renowned movie- and rock-stars in his career.
Over the decades he became known as the ambassador of Japanese traditional Irezumi tattooing. Befriending now famous people like Mr. Don Ed Hardy in the early 1980ies he made extensive travels to the west showing his skills and artwork, which was always in high demand.
Horiyoshi III is a very versatile, enigmatic, humorous and pretty unique character who even has his own Museum. The ‘Yokohama Tattoo Museum’ founded by him in the year 2000 displays his vast collection of artwork and traditional Tattoo artefacts from all over the world and is frequently visited by national and international visitors.
After all these years Horiyoshi III has only 2 active apprentices left. One is his son Souryou Kazuyoshi, the other is German born Alex Kofuu Reinke Horikitsune. He mentioned to never take on any other apprentices again. There are no other active family members anywhere.
The book publications and national and international press articles connected to master Horiyoshi III are countless. His productivity is so immense that his senior apprentice Alex Kofuu Reinke Horikitsune and Horiyoshi III family friend Matti Senju Sedholm Horimatsu founded the ‘Kofuu-Senju Publications Limited’ company in 2009 in Horiyoshi III’s name. Their goal is to produce legendary, quality books on the subjects of Irezumi, Zen and Japanese Culture in general under chairmanship of Horiyoshi III.
Mayor international TV stations like the German ZDF who were already there in the 1980ies or American TV stations like the History channel or the Discovery channel have filmed the master at work numerous times. He worked for lots of movies in Japan as well – painting on tattoos on actors skin. He was even in front of the camera for Leni Riefenstahl in the early 1980ies for a film on body modifications.
He is frequently invited for seminars and press interviews in prestigious country clubs, conventions or by the foreign correspondence club of Japan to explain and perform his art of irezumi.
With incredible success and ceaseless effort the master is recently concentrating on the production of traditional Japanese silkscreen paintings, which are being mounted on the traditional silk scrolls called Kakejiku. He has received a lot of guidance concerning technique by his unfortunately now deceased former best friend, Ozuma Kaname-sensei who was a very famous silkscreen painter in Japan.
Horiyoshi III takes pride in being the one in whom the spirit of Ozuma-sensei can live on.
He had numerous exhibitions both in Japan and Overseas and he has donated some of his art to Buddhist Zen temples across Japan and even one in London.
One of the artwork was donated to help Gyokuryuji temple in Gifu Prefecture which was partly destroyed by fire. Charity plays an important role in the master’s life. After the catastrophic Tohoku disaster in 2011 he immediately produced artwork for sale to collect funds for the badly affected children of the Tsunami and radiation struck area in north-east Japan.
These mostly solo exhibitions include:
Tokyo Ginza Galleries like the Vanilla Gallery 2008 and 2010.
Los Angeles Canvas L.A. Art Gallery in 2009 and 2010.
Somerset House London U.K. 21st March till 1st of July 2012.
Tokyo Harajuku Gallery 2013 joint exhibition with Ozuma Kaname.
Tokyo Harajuku Gallery 2014 joint exhibition with famous artist Hajime Sorayama.
Horiyoshi III also had exhibitions in the National East-Asian Museum of Stockholm, Sweden, two times, one in 1986 and the other in 2005. The latest one became a wandering exhibition and was shown in the Bildmuseet Umea Sweden in 2006 and it was organized by Matti Senju Sedholm Horimatsu and Alex Kofuu Reinke Horikitsune.
The Somerset House exhibition in 2012 showed master Horiyoshi III’s latest works, which are the Kakejiku hanging silk scrolls. They are painted with black Japanese sumi ink and traditional Japanese mineral colors painted on silk or Japanese rice paper. The designs are strictly traditional Japanese based on the folk tales and religion of the master’s native country as well as calligraphy.
In 2015, which can be described as one of the highlights in his career, he will have a solo exhibition in one of New York City’s greatest galleries.
Note: Due to his total kidney failure in 2007 and his weekly hospital visits he is not able to attend any events apart the ones in the greater Tokyo area.
Horiyoshi III is looking forward taking part in the new documentary project conducted by his student Alex Horikitsune Reinke, Lars Walkling and his friends in 2015.