10-year-old Noko Nishigaki. while she appears to be your average Japanese cute 10-year-old (or maybe not, since her attire is exceptionally hip for her age), she is unlike many others her age in a distinct way—she is amongst some of the youngest working tattoo artists in the world.
Tattooing is still widely stigmatized and associated with yakuza in Japan, and they are turned away from public spaces like swimming pools and hot springs. But Noko, who is aware that back in Japan, tattoos are considered as taboo, is not letting society’s expectations nor her age detract her from what she loves to do. “I don’t have any tattoos, but I kind of want some. Not so many though, since I like going to hot springs and pools, and in Japan, people with tattoos can’t get in. I wonder why,” she mused, according to VICE. “I hope by the time I grow up, people with tattoos can enjoy hot springs and pools in Japan too.”
Noko is currently based in Amsterdam where her family resides. Having moved from Osaka in 2016, she has been tattooing since she was six years old. She has found her passion of tattooing after her dad, world-renowned Japanese tattoo artist Gakkin, gave her a silicon piece of skin to practice drawing on.
Her parents have been supportive of their daughter’s choice and Gakkin himself has brushed off negative views on tattooing, according to VICE.
“I only drew birds and cats. We had a Java sparrow named Komajiro when we lived in Japan, and so I began drawing Komajiro,” she told VICE. “My first tattoo was Komajiro.”
The lucky person who got her first tattoo was naturally her dad, so she “didn’t get very nervous at all.” This piece naturally became Gakkin’s favourite tattoo.
Initially, Noko liked drawing lavender, pinks, and pale yellows that she saw on Pretty Cure, but today, she likes black—likely from her father’s bold black ink tattoo style seeping through her work.
Her genre-defying work often combines cutesy subjects, such as cats with flowering tails and heart-shaped penguins, with bold lines and color-blocking. Her pieces often reference nature, much like her father’s. She cites the birds drawn by 1800s ornithologist and painter John James Audubon as an inspiration.
With over 54,000 followers on Instagram, she has clients from across Europe, and was fully booked at her first tattoo convention in Singapore.
“When I first started drawing cats, somebody asked if I could tattoo the cat drawing. Then people started wanting my cats, and that’s when it really started becoming fun for me to draw them,” Noko told VICE.
Meet the 10-Year-Old Japanese Artist Leaving Her Mark in the Tattoo Industry
MEET NOKO, JAPAN’S 10-YEAR-OLD TATTOO ARTIST
Noko’s Official Instagram