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The Skin Trade: Six Tattoo Artists Share Their Stories 1
- Jul 07, 2018 -

Nestled in a monolith of a building on East Coast Road is Horikawa Tattoos, owned by industry veteran Baldwin Horikawa. Unlike the building’s dull and grey exterior, this tattoo shop’s interior is refined and resembles a modern Japanese art gallery. There is certainly no mistaking the style of tattoo Horikawa specialises in.


Interestingly though, he never intended to become a tattoo artist. Earlier on, he was more fascinated with body modifications. By 16 he’d split his tongue and had more piercings than you could possibly name. After bussing at a restaurant for a while, Horikawa landed a job as a piercer at the now-defunct Ink on Skin in Orchard Towers. Unfortunately, business was slow and soon after he joined, his female boss at the time strong-armed him into tattooing.


To say Horikawa was thrown into the deep end would be putting it mildly. He’d only spent a short time working on his illustrations when the American Navy rolled into town. With sailors flooding the shop every day, the business experienced a temporary boom, so he had to pick up a machine and get to work. Technically, he never had a formal apprenticeship, but he was mentored by Elson of ThINK Tattoo. As time passed, Horikawa’s passion for tattooing increased and he soon dedicated all his time to the artform.


After 14 years of honing his craft, he ranks among the best in Singapore, earning the honorary title Horiin his name when his mentor Augustine deemed he was ready. Still, he never forgets the struggle he endured when he first started.


His parents, both pious Christians, were heartbroken when he first began getting tattoos. Things obviously didn’t get better when they learnt about his ambitions. “I used to think they were ashamed of being seen in public with me, when in fact they were just hurt when people would stare at me like an exhibit,” he shares. Family has always been Horikawa’s cornerstone, so he suffered greatly when his folks disagreed with his lifestyle. It was only through constant communication that they softened up and accepted his career choice. “My dad is proud of my work but will still remind me to not get any more tattoos. But what difference will it make?” he laughs.