Tattooist Bobo Chen looks to Japanese culture for inspiration

AFP, TAIPEI

Sat, Sep 01, 2018 - Page 3

In a small workshop down a narrow alleyway in Taipei’s Ximending (西門町) area, tattoo artist Bobo Chen is refreshing a scene from a Japanese epic with new ink on a client’s back.

The vivid image depicts a fictional Japanese hero fighting a tiger and dragon, symbolic of strength and protection.

A former graffiti artist, Chen, 35, switched to tattooing five years ago after learning the craft in Thailand.

On the walls of his studio are pictures of historical Japanese drawings, which he takes as inspiration for his body art.

Taiwan was ruled by Japan for 50 years until 1945 and the nation’s design aesthetic often still reflects Japanese style.

“I like Japanese culture and traditions,” Chen said. “I take inspiration from them for my work, because I’d like to play a small part in handing them down.”

It also pays the bills — Chen does mostly large-scale tattoos and charges more than NT$3,000 per hour. A large tattoo costs as much as NT$300,000.

He does not advertise, but said he has plenty of clients through word of mouth.

Chen said that the trend of having larger-scale tattoos has grown more popular in Taiwan in recent years as people become less conservative about they way they look.

He talks through the process with clients before going ahead, he said, adding that they often decide to have tattoos when they are suffering “frustration or disappointment” in life.

Micky Peng, 30, who sports the epic back design Chen is touching up, as well as a tiger pattern on his chest, said receiving tattoos had been cathartic for him.

He first started when his father fell ill 10 years ago and it was a way to release emotional stress, Peng said.

“I feel like I am being protected by the hero tattoo on my body,” said Peng, who runs a tofu dessert shop in Taichung. “I think I’m addicted to it. Getting new tattoos makes me happier and feel that I am more unique.”