CONTRIBUTED BY STACI HAWLEY
If you want to appear really scary and formidable, give a flash of your tattoo the next time you take your kids to a Japanese pool. In doing so, you may earn the honor of being associated with an organized gang (Yakuza). Your ability to endure the colored needle shows your loyalty to the gang- and more importantly the fact that you can tolerate excruciating pain. Or not. Tattoos (irezumi) have a strange history here in Japan- but nonetheless they used to be associated with the yakuza (Japanese mafia)- and it still persists. If you travel throughout Japan, you will notice resorts, onsens and water parks require you to cover up your art- or you’ll be banned altogether.
It’s pretty common to see an American’s bulging bicep adorned with cherry blossoms, a large koi swimming the downstream current of the latismis dorsi and least we forget a script of Kanji close to that ankle bone. Even though Japanese symbols make an appropriate “souvenir”- most Japanese locals still don’t become a needle slave. Isn’t that a tattoo shop on 35?
A lovely reader, Diane Isla was willing to showcase her tattoo adorned with her three kiddos names. I asked her a few questions about her experiences at Needle Slave, a local tattoo parlor. So give her the much needed adoration that all good tattoos deserve. Thanks, Diane!
1. Why did you choose Needle slave?
I opted for Needleslave because it was close by where I lived, for one, the other reason being that once I popped in for an impromptu visit I was happy with the cleanliness, the tattoo artist’s knowledge, and the overall vibe of the parlor.
2. Did you create your own tattoo? How? Did they have a lot to choose from?
I arrived at the shop with a general idea of what I wanted…my kids’ names in conjunction with a star of some kind. Dan Dan the Tattoo Man (that is what I named him…his name is just Dan) hooked me up with this computer to browse different designs. All the designs had the ability to be altered if I requested. There were about 50 pages of stars for me to look at. I chose one and told him about my kids’ names and he gave me a few suggestions as far as font type, but ultimately I made the choices. He was really helpful, yet wanted the decision to be up to the customer.
3. Did they speak English?
Dan was American and his other co-worker at the time I was in there was also American. So no worries on a language barrier.
4. Did you make an appointment?
When I had initially walked in to check out the place, next thing I knew I was picking my design and making an appointment to get inked that same visit. There was a $40 deposit (for most all tattoos) and the rest paid at the time of the appt. which was about two weeks down the road (by my request). He could have done it sooner than that.
5. What was the approximate cost? How long did it take to finish your tattoo?
My tattoo cost a total of $65, which was awesome!! I thought the price was easily comparable to the states…maybe even cheaper! My appt time was for 7:00pm and I was done before 8:00pm. I’m glad he was a diligent worker.
6. Any other information that you think a reader should know before getting a tattoo:
First I would like to say that if you are planning on checking out Needleslave, the shop moved recently. It is located on Hwy 58 south of Foster between the Commissary gate and the 58 bypass on the right hand side. There is a sign with SHOP 58 on it, parking nearby and it is upstairs I believe. The hours are Weekdays 5pm-12am and Weekends 1pm-12am. They are closed every Tuesday. The phone number is 090 3790 3604. The webpage is:
Now that the particulars are out there, my personal tidbit of info you should consider before getting a tattoo is the obvious of making sure it is what you want on your body for the rest of your life. Also, it might be wise to consider whether or not you plan on giving blood on There are rules forbidding people with recent ink to give blood. You can call the Blood Donor Center for more specifics on the time frame. Other than that…have fun and be creative!!
So, dear readers, have you had a tattoo done while stationed in Okinawa?
What art did you have done? Why?
Where did yo go? How was the experience?