What's this Challenge about?
▼Greetings from the Artist
Hello! My name is Ron, from the Shiryudoh tattoo studio in Tokyo. Originally I began my career in the field of archaeology, but in 2004 I started my career as an tattoo artist, after traveling around the world.
I was naturally influenced by both the traditional culture of "Irezumi" in Japan and tattoo styles from abroad, but I wanted to find my own independent style unbound to the genres, and created the tattoo studio "Shiryudoh" as a place where I could share my work and designs.
This studio is where I developed my unique style called "Saiten". The kanjis in this word combine to mean "to wear colors" on your body. This is where I now spend my time working and designing tattoos in Tokyo.
This studio has received over 3000 clients from countries across the globe, thanks to all the people who say they'd love to display on their bodies the unique worldview that my work expresses.
However, my studio is now in danger.
I've received messages from athletes and guests coming to Tokyo next year for the 2020 Olympic Games and many other people who live far away but have reached out to me requesting appointments during this rare chance to visit Tokyo. And of course, many people request appointments during their travels and upcoming visits to Japan from abroad. However, at this rate there may no longer be a studio available to greet them when they arrive.
It's at this troubling time that I made the decision to reach out for help via crowdfunding.
Although it may take a moment of your time, please allow me to explain my story.
▼How did Ron move from Archaeology into becoming a Tattoo Artist?
In my brief introduction above, I wrote that my original profession was working in the field of Archaeology. My interest in the history and roots of different cultures around the world started from that time. I started feeling the desire to travel around the world, and actually visited a great number of countries in my travels. While I was traveling through Asia I ended up in Indonesia where I was introduced to "tattoo culture" for the first time.
Indonesia shares a lot in common with Japan, including the very old tattoo culture of places like Borneo Island.
Indeed, tattoo is an ornament that people could adorn themselves at the deepest level.
Exactly what kind of meanings do tattoos truly hold?
And, how much significance do people place on them?
What meanings do tattoos have now in modern society?
I had such a passionate curiosity towards finding those answers, so I began my research on those questions right there in Indonesia. At the same time I began to draw and make designs based on my experiences and discoveries in my travel, trying out ideas and asking questions like "How about this kind of design?" along the way.
The new world I found myself living in was so different from the life I'd lived until then, so I was unsure if I could ever become a tattoo artist myself, and never actually tried with actual procedures on someone's skin.
However, the day came quickly to take the bold steps forward to create my own path. Because of the style of design I had imagined and created in my mind was so unique from day one, someone in the studio where I was staying at the time encouraged me, saying "It’s better you give it a try yourself".
After that, when I eventually came back to Japan, I created the studio you now know as Shiryudoh. In the beginning I received some criticism such as "This is just line art, not a tattoo," but soon many copied and similar works appeared thanks to the power of internet, and have now even grown to a genre called “oriental”. Thanks to the generous support of so many clients who still chose my work for their life-long ornament, I am still pursuing my own style.
Also, another characteristic of Shiryudoh is that many of the clients choose my work as their first tattoo. Many had never visited a tattoo studio at all before coming here.
I also started from a totally unrelated world, not knowing what awaits me in this new world of tattoo, so I feel that these clients were also venturing into a new world with me as pioneers.
▼What is happening now
However, now I am facing the greatest challenges that I have never gone through.
Four years ago, when Shiryudoh studio was at Jiyugaoka, one of my clients insisted passionately that I should move the studio to his property at Kakinoki-zaka. After many thoughts, I accepted this invitation, so my client became my landlord.
One day, the landlord became unreachable. He was not responding to anybody’s call or email. Then when I looked back, there were many signs implying that something strange is going on.
And suddenly, a man appeared claiming that this place is his property. I said, “the landlord is my friend, and it is his property here.” The man insisted, “He has nothing to do with this any more. It’s now mine.”
Our contract is till August 2020. Yet I received a letter at the beginning of August this year, which said “3,000,000 yen is required by the end of this month in order to renew the contract from September onwards, and the monthly rent is to be raised by 105,000 yen to meet the area’s standard rate, plus the apartment management fee to be raised by 25,000 yen”.
And anyway the original rent was not cheap either. If this was going to be the case, I would definitely not have moved the studios taking such a great risk.
Though the letter says that the raising of apartment management fee is necessary, there was no way to agree with it.
This studio had problems from the beginning. My computer was once broken due to the rain leakage, and it took more than a year before the leaking was fixed. The air conditioner is over thirty years old and leaking, so the ceiling and the wall got rotten and fell off before we moved in. And I was the one who bore all those expenses. The basement gets flooded with typhoons. The unreliable auto-lock was never fixed despite many requests, saying that “machines have good times and bad times”.
Now the light at the gate has gone out for many months. The bicycle parking area that used to be bright is now only with a small bulb, hardly lighting the space.
And now the apartment management fee is rising, but what they are doing is sweeping and splashing water around the studio after 9pm in the night (when the weather forecast tells it will rain).
Recently, the new owner came to me after 8pm, and told me directly, “You have some complaints, hah? Just move out if you don’t like it! Leave this property if you don’t like it!”
Mind you, this is actually a residential building, and there are also families living here. Under this condition of continuous threats, a family with small child has moved out, to ensure the safety of the child. Another person told me, “The new owner is not somebody of proper occupation, you should watch out.”
Some people are still fighting, but most residents have left.
And in the two buildings here, I am the only one who is still trying to stay.
But my condition has also gone beyond limitation, I am going to hospital regularly and somehow surviving taking medicines.
It’s not that I did nothing to solve this situation.
I have sold my house that I grew up in, and purchased another house that could operate also as a studio. It was such a big decision to sell a house, which was my last resort even when my work was facing many problems. But if the work disappears, what to do with the house? So I decided. However, even this new house turned out to have many problems, and I was refrained from not only having a studio but living there.
For many, buying a house would be once-a-lifetime event, and my challenge for this failed. This was such a great shock for me.
I started to sleep at a small corner in the studio.
When did I have a holiday last? Definitely not once a week. Over the past half a year, I have fought with the huge stress and worked to solve it. I have not had any private time for so long.
Day by day, I had to face the increasing danger creeping into my life.
And of course the new owner would not consider my condition. I have requested many times to please communicate through my lawyer, but he comes to me directly, saying “I didn’t hire a lawyer. How does it matter to me?”
In this threatening condition, still I did not give up my hope, and kept working on. And miraculously, I could get another house that I could live in. I thought I used up all my energy by this point. And then what happened?
It turned out that the house needed repair on all plumbings, which of course requires great amount of money and time.
So I still had to wait for some more time while bearing the repair cost, before having a proper place to sleep and rest.
I was in deep disappointment and near depression. I have always been very cautious and done many simulations before taking any actions. Still all these happened. Was life meant to be so difficult? Even just to live normally?
It was that time when the suggestion of crowd funding came.
To be honest, I was resisting to this idea of crowd funding for a long time; if it was my own dream, I wanted to make it come true with my own resource. But this time, I had to simply accept this reality that I cannot do anything further on my own; and here I am.
70-80% of Shiryudoh clients are from overseas, and 20-30 % are from Japan. And Japanese people come from all over the country, from Hokkaido in the north to Okinawa the southern islands.
All of them have come for my unique style.
I feel so sorry and sad that I am making many of them worry, and I could not welcome them in full bright smile.
I have consulted the police, city offices and national offices. And the lawyer too.
But now I am seeing that this crowd funding is the only way that can bring me to the future.
Now I will write what I envision through crowd funding.
▼Why do I still continue to tattoo?
As I wrote in the beginning, I am both a tattoo artist and a traveller. Since I was a student, till recently before the studio became so much in crisis, I always travelled in Asia. Many lesser known islands and tribes, rare faunas and floras were my destinations.
The theme of my tattoo work has always been “travel”. I get inspiration in the travels, that finds form in the work. Thus work and traveling are as one for me as inhaling and exhaling.
I once got involved in warfare while I was travelling. I lost many of my friends in front of me then. That time, we promised to each other, “whoever survives after this should fulfil his dream, not wasting the life of the died ones”.
Shiryudoh is that dream that I promised with them. I must keep fulfilling my dream, so to fulfil also the lives of my friends who passed away.
The situation surrounding tattoo in Japan in the recent years is not at all easy. But as long as there is someone who needs my work, I believe there are reasons that I must keep on. I must not stop here, for all those who come for and support my work, and the friends who passed away in the war.
Many have helped me in this challenging time, which touches me a lot and has been my great support. I want to grow Shiryudoh into a place where all these friends and travellers from across the globe can come together. This is my new dream.
The current studio too has a space where people can gather. In my travel, I came to believe that any religions and races are able to come together as one. That is why my studio has many artifacts from various regions in the world; Africa, Europe, Middle East, Asia, America, Latin America, Oceania... I wanted to convey through the design of my studio that the world can become one, not split and scattered.
I often tell the clients from overseas my recommendations of Tokyo. I also ask them about their countries. Sometimes people who happened to be here at the same time become friends and leave together. Persons all the way away from their home sometimes meet neighbors here. Or, they make friends with someone from another country. I have also been taken care of by people who had come to Shiryudoh, by traveling.
The kind of connections that sprout here, regardless of nationality or race, has a lot of potential for good future, I feel. If this could continue, and if it could happen even more naturally than now, it will be such a wonderful space.
But first of all, for this kind of future to come, Shiryudoh must survive.
And I request sincerely for your support for this future.
▼The necessary expenses and its usage
As I wrote above, I am currently living at a small corner of Shiryudoh studio. The owner is insisting that even if I am leaving this place, I must pay extra money to them.
So, the requirements are;
- The budget to protect the current studio (lawyer, court case…etc)
- The budget to keep the studio (rent, electricity, water etc)
- The budget required for eventually opening a new studio and and keeping it.
Most things are still only plans, and I cannot predict what the owner might do next. So it’s actually very difficult to figure out the necessary amount.
However, I have calculated and decided the least necessary amount according to my experiences of running a studio over 15 years.
Regarding the plans for the new studio,
As said, 70 % of our clients are from overseas, and we are expecting Tokyo Olympic next year.
So it should be somewhere easier to access from Tokyo.
However, as someone who grew up in Tokyo, I want to introduce more local areas in Tokyo to travelers, not just the illuminated areas known to tourists. It does not have to be a rich property or rich area. Just somewhere that can prove “Tokyo also has these homely aspects”, which would be comfortable both for foreigners and Japanese clients.
I have made a calculation based on such ideas.
All the designs of the Shiryudoh studios so far have been made by me. I decided the theme, collected the materials, and set up, created the space.
But I am thinking, that the new studio should be a place we make together. I wish to invite those who want to participate in the setting up process. And it will be great if I can receive people from all over the world to the new studio that we make as a collective effort, where the global citizens gather and meet each other.
I have received so many kind words of support from so many people. Each of them really helped me that I am truly grateful to. That is why I thought I want to make the new studio not for myself but as a place of meeting and communication.
This was the only hope I found at the end corner of this troubling moment.
And I feel crowd funding is the right path to this dream.
I hope you will participate in this dream.