Eli Ferguson has quickly developed a reputation as one of the leading practitioners of clean, precise, and culturally respectful tattooing in Australia and Japan. Initially bringing his skills as a traditional hands-on craftsman to the table, he honed his artistic talents under the highly disciplined and diverse collective at Seventh Circle Studio in Brisbane, Australia.
His fine art and tattooing have gravitated towards emulating the works of the great Japanese masters of Irezumi whilst also studying closely beneath Japanese-style tattoo heavy weight, Brendan O’Connor in Australia.
Since early 2016, Eli has been working and honing his skills under invitation in Japan, working alongside world-renowned Master Ichi Hatano of Ichi Tattoo, Tokyo.
The comfortable space and friendly atmosphere of the Tokyo based studio allows Eli to make precise, hygienic and memorable tattoos in all styles, for not only Tokyo locals, but tourists and travelers from all corners of the world.
Japan has a complex history when it comes to tattooing, and some of the most striking subject matter and reference material in the world. From the country’s distinct landscapes and seasonal attributes to kabuki theatre, mythical creatures and kanji calligraphy, it’s an art lover’s paradise, so it’s no surprise a lot of travelers’ head home with a lifelong souvenir.
We caught up with Eli to discuss his career and how to go about getting tattooed in Japan!
Hailing from Brisbane, Australia, how did you get into tattooing and specialising in a Japanese style?
My tattoo career and love for Japan began somewhat simultaneously actually. I spent years building a portfolio of drawings and chasing a tattoo apprenticeship, then on my first trip to Japan fate aligned and I found myself on the same flight as the crew from one of Brisbane’s best tattoo studios. Long story short I had the opportunity on this trip to hang out with and get to know my future boss Loz Hocking and colleagues, Brendan O’Connor and Ryan Parsons, and essentially got my foot in the door.
That trip cemented many things for me as a young artist, I returned home with a love for Japan, and a ton of new reference material that I still draw inspiration from to this day.
Back in Brisbane a month or so later I had tossed my career as an electrician and was spending my days at Seventh Circle Studio learning the basics. Traditionally a tattoo apprenticeship is unpaid, so during this time I spent my nights stacking boxes to make some coin until I was tattooing.
Fast forward to now, how did you make the jump to working in Japan?
I’d always planned on taking my career overseas and after many return trips and my work gravitating towards a Japanese style it felt like a natural progression to live here and be surrounded by so many aspects of what is Japanese tattooing. So many things I used to have to open a book or google for reference I now see on a daily basis.
How would you describe your work environment now?
Ichi Tattoo is a private studio situated in a peaceful neighborhood of Yōga a 12-minute ride from Shibuya and the bustle of central Tokyo. It is unique in that it still holds a lot of traditional Japanese aesthetics yet we are tailored very much to a western clientele that could otherwise find it daunting to negotiate getting a tattoo in Japan. We provide an experience that I’m very proud of and we apply lasting mementos for many travelers visiting this amazing country.
Any recommendations for anyone reading this that may be thinking about getting tattooed in Tokyo?
Definitely visit our websites – both are very informative with all the info surrounding our booking procedure, pricing and location.
We do our best to cater to every request and you don’t have to be getting a Japanese design to visit us.
What about someone that isn’t after the full Japanese body suit and just wants something little?
Yes of course, our clientele is somewhat split down the middle with half just getting a small memento and the other half being clients that return regularly to Japan to work on large ongoing pieces. I actually quite often apply people’s first tattoos and am always happy to do so.
Eli will return to Australia at the end of 2017 – he also regularly travels. Keep an eye on his website for his current location.
Interested in taking home a permanent souvenir? Contact Eli today:
Or follow him on Instagram @eli.tattoo
Learn about the history of Japanese Tattoo here
Images provided by Eli Ferguson.