Kazuaki Horitomo Kitamura (Contemporary, Japanese-American) born in Mie, Japan, first became interested in tattoos from the Japanese surfing community. After completing an apprenticeship in Yokohama with Horiyoshi III in 2001, Kitamura took on the name Horitomo. Since tattooing is not very popular in Japan, Kitamura relocated to San Jose, California where he now works at a tattoo shop, State of Grace. During his 20 years of perfecting his art, Kitamura has exhibited at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco and at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles.
Kitamura combines his love of art with his love of cats. In the early 90’s his wife brought home a stray cat, and he fell in love with her. Ginnan, named after the Ginko nut, became the inspiration for his works. His symbolic use of cats is based on Buddhist motifs and Japanese legends. Kitamura believes that by drawing, painting and tattooing cats, he has access to their spiritual powers. Kitamura is also inspired by the 19th century Japanese artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi who also painted cats and loved them.
The term for these tattoos is Monmon which is a Japanese slang term for tattoo.