Shige is one of the most inspirational tattoo artists of this generation. Few tatooists have built a name for themselves like he has. With a room full of trophies from tattoo conventions, museum appearences and countless magazine articles, he has become one of the most renowned and also most talented tattoo artists in the field of traditional Japanese tattooing. It is very obvious that Shigenori “Shige” Iwasaki has worked practically day and night for many years to perfect his style and skill.
Iwasaki noted that, not only has he worked very hard to hone the skill level he wields now, but also takes great pride in all his work. Traditional Japanese tattoo artists through many ages have always taken more pride in their work than other style tattoo artists would as the traditional art-form has been forced underground for a very long time. “I think that pride and craftsmanship is very important”, said Shige when asked what he finds important when going into the industry.
Before getting into the tattoo industry, he started off by making a living as a guitar teacher is Hiroshima, where he was born and raised. All his life he has wanted to be a musician and have a music career until he moved to Yokohama to become a motorcycle mechanic for Harley Davidson. It was then, as a motorbike mechanic, where he got to meet a lot of bikers and see their tattoos up close. Eventually he became completely fascinated by the art of tattooing and found his calling as a tattoo artist.
Shige started off tattooing his friends at night after work as a hobby and a way to practice the techniques. Completely self-taught, he only started getting serious about the art-form after getting his first tattoo from French tattoo icon, Philip Leu, in 2000. Using the Leu family as main inspiration for his work and overall tattooing style, he went to Switzerland for three months and had a complete body suit done by Leu. According to Shige, this was as a big learning experience for him in many ways.
Not only is he currently a world renowned tattoo artist in the line of Traditional Japanese tattooing, but he is also heavily into spiritualism and owns his own tattoo studio in Yokohama by the name of Yellow Blaze. His wife, Chisato, and Shige both run the tattoo studio together. Shige faced many obstacles when opening Yellow Blaze in the year
of 2000. He did not have as much knowledge of traditional tattooing as he should have had by that time. Not long after starting his career as a tattooist at Yellow Blaze, he started receiving letters denouncing him. However, soon after he started winning over more fans and earning various awards at tattoo conventions that he attended. Keeping a strong belief in himself and his work, he got through all the obstacles in his way without even the lightest thought of giving up.
By 2009 Shige had further explored the boundaries of his work and of the art-form itself. He exhibited paintings done by him as an artist away from the tattoo industry and he had also subsequently published a self-titled book on many different art-forms, in tattooing as well as non-tattoo mediums.