At age five, I was finally getting to the point where my straight lines were straight and my circles were no longer looking like amoeba. At this point, I had finally learned to color within the lines and my letters were still super shaky. If anyone asked me to draw, there was one go to image in my mind, the pointy mountains with a sun shining through, a river leading down the mountains and a house with a path headed nowhere. The sky would have V-shaped birds and the mountains would be snow-capped no matter what. Over the next year, nothing much had changed. At age six, I had finally started to read the big kid books. Playing in the park was my favorite hobby, and what I wanted to be when I grew up was a mall owner. A profession I was sure existed in its individuality. This was the extent of my creative direction, but now looking back, this holds nothing on one of the stars of the newest generation of tattoo artists, Noko Nishigaki.
While in most cases getting into tattooing is not the go-to choice for a future profession at such a young age or even the best way to get into the good books of your teachers, but she’s proved these stereotypes wrong. Noko has been able to not only choose this field to make her parents proud but also gain an international following of almost 30 thousand people on just Instagram. Following in the footsteps of the famous tattoo artist and her father, Gakkin, she started using a tattoo machine at age of eight and has been able to create some genre-defining art ever since.
Further, her tattoo journey started at age six, when she started creating pieces and practicing them on a variety of surfaces including paper, silicone, and even her dad’s skin. Her stencils have become quite popular at her dad’s studio, where she now works as an apprentice, in Amsterdam. Her favorite kinds of pieces usually include a cuter subject with color blocking. These combinations are not only far from traditional in the tattoo scene, but also seem to be a modern take on Japanese culture. Born in Japan, Noko’s work and inspiration still seem to come from those heritage-filled regions. Some of her recent pieces include a circle-themed cover-up tattoo, some wooden bird sketches, and a curled up cat. Now at tattoo client no. 21, something her parents have kept track of on Instagram, her favorite currently seems to be birds of different kinds.
Her first official piece is on her father. It’s a portrait of their pet java sparrow and is Gakkin’s favorite piece. Gakkin is definitely a proud dad in this situation. “Her drawings are so lovely. I really love them,” he explained in an interview. “[It was a] big surprise for me that she can do very well at such a young age. Especially [since] drawing and tattooing are totally different things. I’m very proud of her.” The aspect of being so young and doing something so different seemed to have sat well with Noko as well as this was one of the driving factors that pushed her into the art.
As for tattoos on her body, she thinks she’s too young for anything permanent. She’s not even sure if she will continue in this field of work. However, she does like to experiment with lots of temporary tattoos that follow the same flower/bird theme of the tattoos she draws. If she does get a tattoo at some point though, she would like it to be a bird, but again there is lots of time till that happens. Further, her parents don’t want her to feel the pressure. Growing up in the public eye can obviously have its pros and cons, but they believe in showcasing the journey more than anything else. Creative growth is a process at any age and from the outside, personally, it’s wonderful to see this happening. Further, while there will be haters, her parents are not concerned. They are firm believers that everyone is entitled to their own opinion and nothing, especially in terms of art, is right or wrong.
At the end of the day I think it’s important to remember that she is just a kid, outside of tattooing she loves hanging out with her friends, singing, dancing and hunting mushrooms. She is extremely eager to learn and I think it’s going to be a fun ride watching her grow with her art and what ultimately comes her way in life.
Follow her tattoo journey at: @noko_tattoo