For the last 14 years, just about half of my life, I have thought of getting a tattoo. I know it is a permanent thing, so I certainly never felt the need to rush it. Yet, I knew when the time was right I would get a permanent mark, and it would be something that would mean a great deal to me.
For the last 4 years I have been dedicated to introducing tenkara outside of Japan. As I turn 30 (today), I feel that I have accomplished some important milestones in my life. And, I have also reached some very significant milestones for Tenkara USA. These milestones have been made even clearer over the last few weekends attending Fly Fishing Shows, where I have been reminded that tenkara has actually meant a lot to so many people. Just watch this video, and this other to get a glimpse. So much in fact that two folks got tenkara tattoos before I did.
As I anxiously anticipated my thirtieth birthday, I decided it was time to just do it. As the year turned, I started to constantly think about the design and placement of my tattoo. I thought of getting a drawing of Boulder’s Flatirons to mark moving here and getting a new home. I thought of getting the Tenkara USA logo done. And I have thought of a bunch of other things. It should be noted here, too, that my very first design concept came when I was 16 years old and I personally drew a rainbow trout that I wanted done on my back – so even the theme didn’t deviate a whole lot.
As of yesterday evening I still didn’t have a clear idea of what it would be. I had resigned to the fact that it wouldn’t be on my birthday.
Then, this morning I woke up with a very clear idea. It would be a “sakasa kebari”, the iconic tenkara fly that is simple to tie, pulsates when you twitch it, and to me also symbolizes how tenkara went in the opposite direction of the rest of the industry. And, I knew exactly which fly to do, it would be Mr. Yoshikazu Fujioka’s illustration for the cover magazine of Fishing Cafe, a Japanese magazine in which I appeared.
As the day wore on, and I tried to meet some important deadlines, it was becoming less and less likely that it would happen on my 30th birthday. But, I figure, I’ll at least go meet the artists and see what they say. As I’m leaving home, at 5:15pm, I tell my wife, Margaret, “I’m stepping out for a bit…er..gonna get a tattoo.”
“REALLY?” – Yes, as of this afternoon she didn’t know whether I’d finally get it done or not. “Oh, I have made plans for us at 7pm. Can you be back by then?
“Oh…sure. I’m probably just going to make an appointment for tomorrow.”
I arrive at the very nice tattoo shop (Rising Tide, in Boulder, actually the classiest and coolest tattoo place I have seen), and tell them I’d love to get this done today, but understand if they can’t. And, to my surprise they had one guy available (Adrian Holcomb), who could do it and really liked the idea.
Ah, and the placement, it would be on my forearm. One reason I had been hesitating about getting a tattoo is that most hot-springs in Japan do not allow guests with a visible tattoo to enter. I absolutely love the onsen, and did not want to give up on them. A tattoo on the forearm would be pretty easy to conceal.
Plus, there was another, more important reason for this placement. I wanted my tenkara fly to pulsate, like the real thing. I had first thought of having the fly drawn right at the bend of the elbow. But, as I talked to the artist I realized that would be (a) super painful, and (b) it would not hold up well. As we played with the design and exact placement, it became clear that we could accomplish the exact same motion by placing the tattoo right below the elbow. And, it worked. So, I give you a moving tattoo:
How do I feel about it? I love it. Love that it was a small, simple yet meaningful fly. Love that it marks some important milestones achieved. And, love how there is a great, and quite long, story to tell from this one little drawing.
Was it painful? A tiny bit.