This week hosts Koji Steven Sakai and M. Martin Mapoma brought out friend and Bay area tattoo artist Takahiro Kitamura (https://www.instagram.com/stateofgracetaki/) to talk about his best or worst day.
(please excuse the audio, we were having some mic issues and didn’t realize until the end.)
Martin Mapoma 0:02
Koji Sakai 0:02
is the best or worst podcast.And now here are your hosts Koji Steven Sekai, and M Martin Mapoma. Welcome, welcome. Welcome. This is the
best or worst podcast and I am Koji
Martin Mapoma 0:18
I am Martin.
Koji Sakai 0:20
What’s up? What’s up? And this is episode number three, zero. This is a big three zero. Big Three. Oh, so this is exciting podcast and
Martin Mapoma 0:28
looking forward to this one.
Koji Sakai 0:29
Yeah, I’m really looking forward to this one too. This is this is one of my this is one of my favorite people. Or we’ll talk about that in a second. But how are you?
Martin Mapoma 0:36
Me? Yeah. Oh, I’m good. I’m good. Good. You know, it’s been a
few houses time but you know, I’m good. You know, we just went we did a sort of a quick run to the store. Yeah. All got all got all, you know, maskedd up and everything else. But now we’re back. So
Koji Sakai 0:55
Yeah, yeah, we’re just still we’re running all the time. We’re doing our thing and I’m not sure Shaving and cutting my nails or anything and it’s driving. Oh, you
Martin Mapoma 1:04
brought it up dude, what the hell was fingernails man? put onto the camera.
Koji Sakai 1:12
well, let’s let’s let’s talk to our guests. Our guests
here do so obviously this is Taki Tamara or Taki Hiroki tomorrow, sorry. He’s a I met him. I met him when I was working at the Japanese American National Museum. And I, I’m not I’m not just saying this because you’re on But out of all the shows I ever did. It was it was the best the show that I was most proud of, for sure, because it really pushed kind of the museum in directions that I thought we needed to go. So I was really excited about that. And I was really proud of kind of how you guys made it come out and know something that that I’ve been, you know, really excited about and also you know, and, and obviously, Taki he’s a world famous tattoo artist. I don’t have a tattoo from you yet, but I’m gonna I still have to get a tattoo from you.
Martin Mapoma 1:18
So I’m gonna do that man. Your stuff is awesome. Thank you. Thank you. Wow.
Koji Sakai 2:04
And he has a store in San Jose is Japan town called state of grace tattoo, right? Which is really exciting. And every time I’ve come by, I’ve been there a couple times. You haven’t been there, but that’s okay. Because they’ve been randomly, like, on a Sunday afternoon or something. So that’s all good. But, but Taki, how
Taki Kitamura 2:20
are you? I’m good. You know, I think like everyone, like sort of just dealing with this new situation we’re in and I’m hoping for a quick resolution. And, you know, I think, I think that’s kind of probably been the topic that everyone’s really sick of, but everyone’s still talking about the whole COVID pandemic, but and I think like, but, you know, it’s, it is what it is, like, you know, like, I can’t really complain. There’s a lot of people that have it a lot worse than me. And so, you know, I’m grateful that at this stage, like yeah, it’s you know, I think the times like this make you think about You’re lucky about what you what’s going good for you rather than
Martin Mapoma 2:20
Oh, yeah, so true. So true. So true.
Taki Kitamura 2:58
But yeah, and it’s funny you mentioned state grant. Cuz, you know, we closed our doors on March 16. And I go there once a week to pick up mail and it’s really sad. It’s like, you know, I kind of just look around, it’s like, oh, like, um, my wife started a group text thread with everyone that we work with. And, and it’s like, you know, while we actually all miss each other. We’re social animals, like, even my dogs, like, you know, they missed the dog park. And, you know, when they see another dog, they’re like, Oh, we want to say hi to the dog. So, you know, I think like, um, and I think also too, as a person, like, it’s funny, cuz the way you introduced me it’s like, as a tattooer. But I do believe that I think a lot of us in you know, American society and probably in the world are our career define their identity. And I see this like, you know, just talking to other friends and through social media to where I think everyone’s a little bit like, ah, like, you know, like, this whole entity that I devoted my life to that was my everything is now put on hold. And you know, like, you can paint and draw and do all these projects. You can but I think we all want to get back to work.
Martin Mapoma 3:57
Yeah, we do.
Taki Kitamura 3:59
At the same time, we all want To do that safely, so you know, it is what it is.
Koji Sakai 4:02
Yeah, yeah. Well, you know, we’ll definitely
tell me about you know, I think I’ve heard all your stories, obviously, I know I know a lot about you, but why don’t you tell us a little bit about you know, when did you When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
Taki Kitamura 4:14
Well, you know, um, if you go back to when I was a child like and I have the drawings to prove it, I was definitely the kid with the crayons or the paint or whatever clays arm my parents encouraged art when I was a kid, like even to the point of like, you know, making me take classes not making me rather but you know, those parts of the extra curricular, um, where I’d say like, around sixth or seventh grade, getting into skate boards and then starting to get interested in tattoos which were, you know, still very like off limits at the time. They’re very taboo. But I got introduced to somebody at Hardee’s tattoo time books, and I just like I was like, and that is the coolest. And I think there was also an added layer for me being a Japanese American. I was actually born in Japan. I lived in the United States since I was five, so I can identify more as an American. But you know, I speak Japanese and like, culturally, there’s some things that I’m in tune with. And, you know, I remember seeing things like tattoos and just thinking like, Wow, that’s so cool. And I think there’s that added layer. I think, a lot of people, you know, like, I love Americans, you know, this is my home, this is my country, but at the same time, there’s that part of me that like, wants to connect with that larger culture that you’re from. And for me, the tattoo was like, the coolest way to do it. And I think you know, which and then I’m not alone in this. I mean, there’s like, you know, Japanese tattooing is probably the most exported Japanese art form or craft ever. Like, you know, you can go to any city in any country, you know, I don’t care where you go, you will find somebody of any race, culture, ethnicity, doing Japanese tattoos very seriously like devoting their life to it. Like it’s definitely become like, a worldwide phenomenon, whereas like, you know, if you went somewhere, you wouldn’t find like a woodblock printer or kimono maker or something like that. So, you know, I think it was very easy for me to identify with that. But But you know, interesting enough my entry into tattooing is more from like punk rock and things like that skateboarding.
Martin Mapoma 6:07
Oh, that’s Yeah, you know, I was looking at some of your stuff. I don’t know how you guys do it. Do you use a needle? Ooh, it looks like the end of a harpoon. I like to spear fish so look at that thing and I’m thinking how does not catching the skin? Has no Barb’s or doesn’t but that’s
Taki Kitamura 6:25
I mean ideally, right like
Koji Sakai 6:30
when we did when we did the live demonstration at the museum,
I had gone through so much to get that
Unknown Speaker 6:36
alive that that was the issue for people like the health people there.
Martin Mapoma 6:41
But you had been everyone has everyone had to be wanting to like volunteer
Koji Sakai 6:46
the voluntary parts of the issue it’s the it’s that I was like people they did they understand it Really? Like
Martin Mapoma 6:53
Wait, what is that?
Taki Kitamura 6:56
No Koji He really went through a lot because I mean, Kip invited me into the Because the director then Greg Kimora was like, let’s do a show on tattooing. And he asked him and Kips like, Well, you know, my friend Taki curate it So he really got the ball rolling and then Koji had to deal with. And I think, um, you know, I think what’s true in most communities, like you sort of have, like, new generations. And we even had at that point, I believed, like, a certain generation of people signed a petition against the show. I remember those same people, by the end of the opening, were the biggest fans. So, you know, you want to talk about like, like,
Martin Mapoma 7:33
what were they expecting?
Taki Kitamura 7:34
It just, you know, there’s like, so many stigmas and and I feel like sometimes, like, you know, like, the sometimes the worst critic like the worst critics for the Japanese tattooing, you know, community. It comes from Japan, like, the country itself hates tattooing, you know, it’s like so, and I think that stigma even with Japanese Americans, even though we’re here, and we’ve been here for like, five, six generations now. Sure. You know, I think there’s that like sort of like stigma that this is criminal. This is taboo. And then you know, ironically, though, with younger Japanese Americans, like we, we get a lot of people come in, they want their family crest, they want to get something like, identify with that culture. I think special
Unknown Speaker 8:12
has always been that way in Japan though, is because I feel like I don’t know, I again, I’m probably showing my ignorance but I thought, you know, you know, even back in the in the samurai days weren’t tattoos considered like a badge of you know, a badge of honor or a sign of sign of experience. Am I way off on that?
Taki Kitamura 8:30
Unknown Speaker 8:35
Like I mean, obviously, like I have, you know, I didn’t live in those days but I’ve done a damn you Tom Cruise movies, but I think like, like what the samurai class because like, you know, everyone thinks of Samurai like these brave gallant warriors and whatnot. And there’s a certain degree of truth to that. But also they were there in classic Japan for many years. And yeah, there are individual cases of Samurai that had tattoos. In fact, you know, there was a TV show that I used to watch where the magistrate of The end of the show before he whips like 10 people whips off his Kimono and shows this tattoo that’s actually based on a real person. Um, so there’s, there’s a few random, like, you know, cases, I guess of a tattoo, but ironically, when the country, I don’t want to get too much into, like the long history lesson here, but when the country went into peacetime in the shadow period, also, the samurai had nothing to do so in a lot of ways, they became like the oppressors of the people there, you know, top of the class chain, so they could do whatever they wanted. And then so, from the sort of the, the people came, like this class of warriors that fought against them, and these guys were like, you know, very flamboyant, had tattoos, and kind of mocked the samurai, and those are striking, that’s
Martin Mapoma 9:42
what I was thinking of
Taki Kitamura 9:43
people’s hero. So, I think, um, but, you know, I think it’s a very complicated history. I think a lot of it stems from the fact that the government used to use tattoos to mark criminals. So you know, rather do it. Yeah, the word era zoomy comes from that. And so there’s even tattooers that still won’t use it. word because of the connotations from hundreds of years ago. Um, interestingly enough, when Japan opened to the west in the Meiji period, and this is kind of funny because Japan being an island nation, and sort of secluded, it did get to develop this really interesting culture, you know, obviously variations of Indian culture, Chinese culture, you know, everything that kind of migrated was like, adopted in, but at the same time, like when they opened to the west, they didn’t want to look barbaric to the Westerners. So they made it illegal for Japanese have tattoos. And then like, you know, like, ironically, like they had, like, you know, the Crown Prince of Russia, European noble nobility, they all came over, like, Hey, we want to get tattooed. So then the government shifted focus and said, Okay, well, we’ll let you know tattooers in Yokohama tattoo the Westerners at the port kind of thing. So they made it legal for the non Japanese so it’s just like, I mean, it’s very governmental. Just do whatever suits you best, and none of it makes sense. But
Koji Sakai 10:54
there’s no stigma though. In Japan, right? I mean, a lot of places. Yeah. But you can’t go to like the you can’t go to the baths and stuff. Sometimes. Right.
Taki Kitamura 11:01
like they’ve actually arrested tattooers although, you know, if it’s just for tapping who knows it’s technically illegal right now. So that’s crazy. Yeah, it’s just, it’s, it’s a different world.
Koji Sakai 11:13
Which is, which is ironic because, you know, so many of the people want Japanese tattoos, I think right there.
Taki Kitamura 11:19
Then, you know, like, you know, I mean, this is the the irony like, you know, going to Samoa, and you know, talking to the head of state talking to the Prime Minister, and he was just like, I love your tattoos. And I was like, Whoa, like, this place is great.
Cultures see things differently. You know, like, as far as Japan goes, like, it’s it’s pretty tough to still.
Koji Sakai 11:40
Well, in America, it’s opened up a lot in the last like, 2020 years right
Martin Mapoma 11:43
now. Oh my god, everybody loves tattoos.
Koji Sakai 11:45
Martin Mapoma 11:48
So I have to ask you, so you know, when you guys open back up, typically what was a way to get a tattoo from you in particular back, you know, before it closed.
Taki Kitamura 11:57
Um, you know, it kind of
Martin Mapoma 12:01
Cuz I’m just assuming you couldn’t just walk in and say,
Taki Kitamura 12:03
and part of that’s like the I do try to keep a waiting list. But part of it’s also just because the style of of work I do, like, yeah, like, this is not the kind of thing I can just pull off the wall and throw on somebody really quickly. Oh, sure, absolutely. consultation, you know, like so. And most of the people in our shop work in this type of manner. So we’re kind of more of an appointment shop, like, I’m usually like six months to a year ish or so. But I also do have, like, specific things that I do and don’t do, you know, I think, and, you know, after 22 years of doing this, I feel like, you know, it’s, it’s my right to choose what I want to do. Also, of course, there’s different schools of thought, like some tattooers feel like you should be able to do anything, whatever they do, you know, walk, walk through the door, and that’s fine. But for me, I’ve always felt like you know, from the start, I want to do Japanese tattooing. And if I try to get too diluted, then I won’t be able to focus on that, you know, and there’s even times when like, I feel like doing stuff like and I like you know, like with Koji for example. I know Koji has, like a lot of different types of things he does. And like, for me sometimes I feel like if I’m curating a museum show, or writing a book, or whatever, maybe it’s taking time away from my tattoo art, and it’s making me less of a tattooer. But then on the other hand, it’s like, it’s also making me more like a better rounded person. And, and I also think that inspiration, especially artistic inspiration, isn’t like, it’s not just like a visual, like, there’s so many different ways you can be inspired. So yeah, like, that’s part of, you know, like working with janome like, it was actually Koji, you know, I’m not just saying it’s like, he was like, one of the really, it was a pleasure to work with you. Um, you know, and it just so I think when you meet people that are doing stuff and like active and it’s that’s the kind of thing that gets me going,
Koji Sakai 13:42
and the only reason Martin asked that question is you want he wants a butterfly on the bottom, his lower back.
Taki Kitamura 13:47
Martin Mapoma 13:53
I want one to match my name below Koji’s navel
Koji Sakai 14:01
Martin Mapoma 14:02
Martin, you know, cuz I’m sorry, I wanted to bring up one last thing we got a really good point, really talky? Um, we talked about Japanese art, having, you know, tattoos having permeated and, you know, everywhere. And it’s so true. And I say that because there are so many people out there that want to get their first tattoo and its was always a Japanese symbol of some kind.
Taki Kitamura 14:20
Sure, sure, sure.
Martin Mapoma 14:21
I mean, every, you know, every turn, someone’s got a Japanese symbol in the back of their neck. Sure, you know, at the base of their, you know, spine. It’s, you know, even though you know,
Koji Sakai 14:30
sometimes our Chinese writing
Martin Mapoma 14:32
Chinese the best way point but they almost say is Japanese, they never say it’s Chinese, or
Koji Sakai 14:36
Japanese writing comes from the kanji. It’s,
Martin Mapoma 14:39
but you know, but you know what I’m saying? I mean, I’m talking to people, you know, lay people who don’t know any better. Um, they just say, Oh, you know, anyway,
Taki Kitamura 14:46
no, no, yeah. Yeah, I do. And it’s something that like, you know, like, obviously, like, you know, it’s funny because I, there was a, we had a run of different shows in the Bay Area. And so I know being on panels at the contemporary Jewish Museum, the Asian museum and then and then again at Asian art museum and three different times that I spoke about questions of cultural appropriation came up and you know, that’s like such a huge topic like I’m not even trying to get into it, but
Martin Mapoma 15:13
that’s Koji’s wheelhouse.
Taki Kitamura 15:15
But I think like there’s a certain point to where like, um, you know, and we discuss these things about who has the right to do what and who has the right to get what and I think you know, our a lot of the Japanese position has been it’s like, you know, you want to get it cool now like I think there’s not really too much within Japanese setting that I feel like we need to hold back from other people like it’s like you know, I for me, it’s more like I look at intent like is the person respectfully getting this order just ripping it to throw on some clothing design and make much money and not even care what it means
Koji Sakai 15:45
kind of thing you know, or that I don’t even try to like understand like, actually cuz I have Arabic writing to you. And all the all the Muslim people who read it are like impressed because from the Quran, they’re like, and I knew, I mean, obviously I know where to come from, and I know the meaning of it, and But it is interesting because I did the first time I remember someone who’s not who is Muslim saw it. I was, I was kind of freaking out because I was like thinking that it’s gonna be the same thing when I see like people with Asian writing.
Taki Kitamura 16:12
Wrong. Find you’re gonna find someone that’s gonna be offended. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, you know, I think that’s, that’s, and this is I guess the point I was gonna make about this is like every time I get asked that question though, it’s almost like someone just wants a pass like, well, what I’m doing is cool, right? Yeah. And it’s like, nothing’s that simple. Yeah. I mean, like, I’m just one member of one larger community, like, I don’t see. Yeah. And I think that’s true of a lot of things.
Koji Sakai 16:37
What I love about you know, people always try to, because they don’t think I know what it means. Or, you know, it’s almost like why would I put this on my body? If I didn’t know if I didn’t know what it meant, or like i didnt know where it comes from, or the meaning behind it. It’s not just a random words I put together that’s my big issue with the Asian writing on a kanji or they’re the Chinese is that it’s like,
Martin Mapoma 16:56
oh, note to self . I’ll never put anything on my body that this you know, that Koji doesnt approve. No, no, but
Koji Sakai 17:00
it’s like, a lot of times it’s just like I want to be like happy guy they just put the kanji for happy and guy. And it’s like, that’s not how it works. That’s not
Taki Kitamura 17:08
like we put different symbols together changes how you read it.
Koji Sakai 17:12
Yeah, exactly. So it’s like, it’s not the way like that, to me is like come on, you have to try a little harder to like get the get the right thing you know,
Taki Kitamura 17:20
but but I mean, that goes both ways. So like, I remember I saw a tattoo in Japan and it was the heart and the banner said truth love. So clearly the person just typed in essentially, what would be closer to the American equivalent of true love and, and that’s the other problem too, is that there’s not the exact phrase in Japanese. Like I when I asked my mom like, Hey, can you write this for me? She’s like, no Japanese would ever say that. Google Translate is like yeah, might kind of be right. Oh, you know, might like culturally and you know, cuz there’s no two cultures that translate exactly the same like you have kind of sort of like that and and you do your best and but I think that’s why too, like when you You know, you I think sometimes there’s, I’m not saying you have to be from a certain culture to do a certain tattoo, but you should at least have some forms of study or know what you’re talking about, I think. I think with us, we can confidently say, you know, like, we are shocked to we have two native Japanese that we’ve got green cards for that work with us too. So it’s like, you know, like, half the shop speaks Japanese but we actually have to, like, you know, because I, like I said, identify more as an American Japanese. But, you know, like, having them there kind of like reinforces that and, you know, kind of it’s easy for me to ask for advice and whatnot.
Koji Sakai 18:34
Okay, were at that point of the show where we ask our guests whether we want to hear the best or worst moment what what’s your what’s your thought on this?
Martin Mapoma 18:41
Oh, man, you know what Taki for me? I guess it’s gotta be the best because here’s the thing. I mean, this whole COVID-19 been going on and you know, Ahmad, Aubrey and everything else. It’s like, I don’t need any more anything more dreary. I need some pick me ups. I seriously do. And this end is you know, as I was gonna say, as corny as that sounds fuck it, I yeah, I wanna hear something good. Yeah, I feel like this podcast going for hours. Taki. You’re really fascinating dude, man.
Koji Sakai 19:09
Martin Mapoma 19:11
And I say that because, you know, I studied architecture in college. I started up as an art major. So, yeah, anyway, I want to hear the good.
The best moment Do we agree?
Koji Sakai 19:21
Yeah, we agree.
Taki Kitamura 19:23
You know, the best moment was
Martin Mapoma 19:25
that navel tattoo
Taki Kitamura 19:27
won’t be 100% when I married my beautiful wife. Ah,
Koji Sakai 19:33
actually, what right before he said that we were about to say we’re about to say the one thing that that we ask people is not to choose something that’s like, obviously it’s when you’re gonna get when you got married or when you had a kid
or when your parents got sick or something, you know, those are all the things that are easy to blame,
Taki Kitamura 19:51
or maybe the joke failed.
Martin Mapoma 19:53
I got it. She is sitting right there?. I don’t
Taki Kitamura 19:58
know because I don’t know how to operate control. Like she had to sign me in to the Zoom thing like I’m like complete tech idiot. I like the iPad. How do I do this again? Like, you know, I’m like used to like, I’m a dinosaur, but that’s me.
Martin Mapoma 20:11
That’s me every single day. My kid today was playing video game on his iPad and watching Phineas and Ferb at the same time. I’m like, ah, how did you do that? He’s like, he’s looking me like,
Did you ask? It was like automatic for him and I was like, no
Taki Kitamura 20:29
kids, just like everything anyway, you know, like, I feel like I’m just I’ve reached that age, like, you know that my parents reached a certain point that I reached a certain point where I just can’t process new information. So I actually did you know, like, when you guys invited me on this, I thought about that, like best and worst days, and what I realized is that it’s all very fleeting. Um, I think like, you know, like, when when you’re a kid, it might be like, Oh, my God, the first time I you know, learn how to ollie. The first time I got laid the first time I graduated this the first thing like, you know, there was a time when I would have told you, like, maybe the janome show was my best day or speaking here was, you know, or getting married or like certain things like that. And I think, um, the whole point of this is like we’re not leaving leaving stagnant lives, right? So yeah, those best days keep changing. But one thing you know, I’m 46 years old now, so, and there’s times when I think about, like, what are the kind of things that make me happy? Um, you know, and I think one of the things like, you know, obviously, like, it’s, weirdly enough, my, you know, I have, like, a love hate relationship with my work, because it gives me a sense of purpose and pride and accomplishment and, you know, pays my bills. Well, not right now. But normally, um, but you know, like, and then there’s trying to get away from that. And what I realized is that a lot of my best memories, um, strangely or maybe not strangely, involve water. And I’ll tell you a few of them. You know, like, one is a small boat sailing, you know, this is a fun fact, cuz you’ll like this one. I’m actually an Eagle Scout. But you know, I know right? Yeah. And, you know,
Martin Mapoma 21:54
I’m a den leader. My son’s Cub Scout group,
Taki Kitamura 21:58
Like I feel like the scouting has gotten such a bad rap because yeah, there’s been a few like cases of these like, you know, pedophiles and you know I mean we’re not gonna get rid of the whole Catholic religion either right like, I mean,
Martin Mapoma 22:16
Taki Kitamura 22:19
the Vatican’s gorgeous though i mean but but I’m just saying like for me though like scouting was like
Martin Mapoma 22:24
Taki Kitamura 22:25
earning like making campfires, like, you know, like shooting guns, shooting bows and arrows, being the overachieving Asian kid that had merit badges and got his Eagle Scout really early,
Martin Mapoma 22:33
but you hear that you hear that Koji?
Taki Kitamura 22:37
When you say like, for me, like, like, I remember summer camps, two persons small boats sailing, you know, on crystal blue lake in California, and just like, you know, going full speed and then purposely turning it over because you had to do that. And I mean, stuff like it was just so carefree and amazing. And then, like another moment that we had, like, maybe my wife was working on her cookbook, um, we were interviewing. Teddy in Hawaii. I think we were in a lanikat. I can’t remember the name of the city, but we’re at his aunt’s house. And it was like, you know, like, right on the beach. And I was like on a second floor balcony overlooking the ocean, and I just fell asleep there smelling the sea air. And I was just like, I was like one of those moments where you’re like, relax. And content. Yeah. And then I was just thinking about this too. Like, last year, we, for my mother’s 70th birthday, we went to Pacific Grove. And you know, it was like one of those moments like the house we were staying, I was like, right by the beach. So when we walk down to the beach, to watch the sunset, on the way for deer came up, you know, we watched them for a while, then we went down. And so I think, you know that, but that best day thing is it’s fleeting. Like you know, like, I think like, like right now like, like, my wife and I were talking about this, like, we can’t wait to just go and sit in a restaurant, you know? I mean, we’re not gonna go protest about it. But you know, like, like, it just wants to work. You know, I mean, and like I said, like, I’m not I’m being You know, I’m making jokes here because like I said, like, I’m not, you know, for me, like, I don’t want to make light of a situation where people are dying. Like, I’m very fortunate so far nobody I know has gotten sick. You know, like I’ve but by separation, I you know, there’s been a handful of people that have passed on that are friends of friends or relatives or friends and, you know, so I, you know, I’m not trying to be like the funny guy here, inappropriate time, but I just think like your best days. It’s very fleeting, and I think what is important to you, and what is best changes, like for example, like I bet you if you ask Koji you would have said it’s one of the fun was born, and then maybe it’d be when his son gets a certain belt doing Jiu Jitsu, and then maybe it’d be when his son scores the winning Stanley Cup goal for the San Jose Sharks against the LA kings or something like that. You know, like
yeah, I plan that one. Yeah, no,
Martin Mapoma 24:47
that was good.
taking the hits today, man.
Ever ask Koji about his Cub Scout story?
Taki Kitamura 24:54
Whoa, is it is it Can you hear it? I mean, is this
Martin Mapoma 24:59
it’s just Pretty. I swear to god man Koji has so many stories
Koji Sakai 25:03
boy scout leader when I was when I was when I was a kid, my boy scout leader and I had a had a thing, a
Taki Kitamura 25:08
problem with each other.
Koji Sakai 25:10
And in one of the fights I had with him, I said, What are you doing here? Why are you here? You have no there’s no reason for you to be here because you have no kids. You have no friends. You have nobody here. And then, and then I obviously got kicked out and then it turned out a couple years later that he was molesting kids.
Taki Kitamura 25:23
Oh, good eye
Koji Sakai 25:24
yeah. Cuz I was like, it didn’t make it didn’t make sense for him to be there. I just, it was like, I was like, it’s like, you know, people ask me to coach a basketball team. And I’m like, wait, my son’s out on this basketball team. Why would I want to coach this team? I have no
Unknown Speaker 25:37
interest in winning.
Taki Kitamura 25:39
I get that way. Like um, sometimes you’ll see people the dog park that don’t have dogs. Now. That’s where you feel like okay, maybe this person just wants something like are you trying to steal someone’s dog? It’s like what song comes up? Yeah, those dogs are worth this much. I’m like, Whoa,
Martin Mapoma 25:51
yeah. No, that’s, that’s that’s happened to me. And when I was in Chicago and I had my dog we have you know, and you know, dog owners are clicky you know, They’re real clicky and someone shows up and you’re standing there let a dog leave actually go, Dude, what’s up? It’s like, why are you? Yeah,
Koji Sakai 26:06
no, it makes sense. I mean, that’s one of the signs of a child predator is for them to put themselves in positions to be with children without without a reason to be there. Yeah, yeah, I mean for getting hired or something, then obviously, that’s like something else. But if it’s like, you know, you’re just volunteering. I have no interest in playing with kids. Unless it’s like my kid, you know.
Taki Kitamura 26:24
And I see rocks. Scout masters are the fathers of the scout. Yeah,
Koji Sakai 26:29
yeah, that makes sense, right? Because you’re like, for me, like coaching my son’s basketball team. It’s like, I’m gonna be there anyway. Right like so
have you ever met koji’s kid?
. No I don’t think he’s ever met on
Martin Mapoma 26:40
cooloset kid on the planet, man.
Koji Sakai 26:43
So you know, I’m really I love I loved your I loved your best day. I mean, best best moments, because, I mean, what do you think it is about the water? I mean, is there something about water that that
Taki Kitamura 26:53
you could get psychological about it like Oh, the womb and
right like you do? I’m right
Martin Mapoma 27:00
there with you, man we go to we go to Hawaii every year and I love to fish and I swim and scuba scuba and snorkel. You’re right. And by the way, I think you’re saying my Lahaina Yeah, to my teddy Teddy’s restaurant.
Taki Kitamura 27:13
No, no, it’s a friend of ours that his name is just happens to be Teddy, but there’s a restaurant on the beach. They’re like, you know, yeah. But, ya know, like, we go to Santa Cruz LA, like, I think there’s a few things about the water one, I think the the movement of it is very calming. And I think, you know, I think there’s a certain like, not to go off on like, a whole like cosmic trip here. But you know, like, there’s a certain like, vibration of the earth that you’re more in tune with. But the other thing too, that I think is important with the ocean, it’s like, you kind of realize how insignificant you are. It’s sort of like looking up at the stars, you realize that you’re just a speck of nothing. When and for that matter, if you’re ever in the water and you get tossed around. It really reminds you of how weak you are. You know? Yeah, perhaps swimmer, you know, but I’m just saying like, you know, I think there’s a certain grounding thing there where it’s it’s weird because it’s like humbling and the way like it’s not like someone’s like sitting here like making you feel like really bad about yourself but rather you’re being reminded that you’re just like this little speck in this larger thing. And just try not to be an asshole, you know?
Koji Sakai 28:10
Yeah, that’s it that’s a way better answer than a psycho like a psychological reason why water I mean, that’s, that’s really powerful I think I mean, that’s why I don’t know if you know, but my, my company is called Little nalu pictures and little nalu means little wave and Hawaiian. And it’s the idea that a little wave could, you know, we shape continents right little wave shaped continents, well waves can make like over time over a course of centuries and millennia they could they break down rocks and they do all that stuff. Right. So I do think that I think that’s really really a powerful
Taki Kitamura 28:44
question. I should ask Martin like so. Because Koji does have this edge to him and you know this right like, he has no sit there quietly, whatever, but he’s got his his snarky edge and also like real quick does have that edge and on but it would have been 442 or no No boy do you think?
You know? I don’t know if you know do you know? No?
Okay, so during intermission there was these.
Martin Mapoma 29:10
No no, no no. Koji i read your book dude.
Koji Sakai 29:15
Taki Kitamura 29:16
wasn’t just being polite Koji. He actually read it here and the
Martin Mapoma 29:19
man hurts me dude.
Koji Sakai 29:22
I don’t know. I assume people don’t know. That’s why
Martin Mapoma 29:25
how many times did I tell you how awesome that thing was? Dude, I learned so much.
I loved that book. Millions of
No, I think I think Koji you would have been? I don’t know. It’s kind of interesting.
Koji Sakai 29:43
I don’t the answer to that.
Martin Mapoma 29:44
Maybe Maybe, uh, no, no, boy.
Taki Kitamura 29:46
That’s what I was thinking
Martin Mapoma 29:48
about the I think you’d have been a no no boy.
Koji Sakai 29:49
There’s no way I would have been a no no way.
Really? I mean, like my grandfather was a no no. And my so my whole family was no no’s, but I definitely I know myself. well enough. I would have been a, I would have been a 442 a lot. And a lot of the reasons that I knew my brother would, would have been a No, no. Because he would have been a no no, then I think I would have felt a lot more obligated to be
Martin Mapoma 30:12
to be given that would have been your state of mind then though, because hindsight is 2020
Koji Sakai 30:17
now because I was like, I was all military when I was kid. I was really, yeah, I was like in ROTC, and I was like, I was like, I was all I mean, like, I’m super I was like, I thought I was gonna have a career in the military kind of thing.
Martin Mapoma 30:34
If i had known that maybe but
Koji plays everything close to the chest and to make assumptions to me like bam,
Taki Kitamura 30:41
but But the thing is, the thing
Koji Sakai 30:42
is that I I respect the fourth floor, I respect the no no boys, and I really respect what they did. And I think that, you know, in my heart, like, I know that they were actually the right ones. But I think in my heart, I know like what I would have probably had done you know, if that makes any sense, like
Taki Kitamura 30:59
there’s not a right answer. No Course not. Yeah,
Martin Mapoma 31:00
my answer I would have been talking
Taki Kitamura 31:04
on this is my honest answer. I’m not trying to bullshit here. Had I been in that situation, I wish I would hope that I would have the courage to be either one. Because I think they’re both brave in different ways. It’s kind of like, the difference between like, you know, Martin Luther King versus Black Panther. It’s like, they’re both trying to go the same way with different routes. And both require extreme amounts of courage and, and also to like, one thing, I will say, like, you know, just and I don’t know, in some ways, it’s like, I don’t know, 442. A lot of them didn’t make it back. And then the No, we didn’t we did like shit afterwards. So, you know, I don’t know, I’d like to. I would hope that I’d be brave enough to be one of them. Well, and Senator No.
Koji Sakai 31:40
He said that right. He said the best thing that you know, because he was a veteran, right? He was a medal of honor winner, sir. And he said that a lot of people think the veterans were the brave ones. But in reality, the No, no boys were really the brave ones because they, they families hated them. The communities hated them. And they went to jail. And they didn’t know what was gonna happen to them. They could have decided All right. So for a lot of us crazy, because as a hero as a soldier, it’s easy to be like you’re a hero. Right? Like, because you fought for I mean, come back you fight your hero because it’s like, it’s that’s that’s almost like it.
Martin Mapoma 32:11
Yeah, but but where they really treated it like heroes though?
Koji Sakai 32:15
no, no but but it’s within the community not within the community. They weren’t treated. I mean, they’re still treated as heroes but
Martin Mapoma 32:20
I have never understood that but but you know, Taki you made a good point. So you talked about Martin Luther King and Black Panthers. My analogy would have been Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. And I would have been a Malcolm X guy, I can tell you that right now. I’ve I’ve studied them both extensively. And, you know, the way my mother raised me, Malcolm X would have definitely been my guy. And especially since and because he was so intelligent in the fact that he really realized for his death and changed and that’s what got him killed. You know, by his own politics, I would have been a Malcolm X.
Taki Kitamura 32:54
Funny side note, Malcolm X is actually one of the few people that recognizes interment like you. There’s a section in his book Yeah. Yeah, when are we talking about? Like how like the Japanese Americans, there’s a photo in there too.
Koji Sakai 33:04
And you know, you’re encroaching on right? You know about Yuri. Oh, yeah. She was the one that was holding his head when when he passed away. But that story started when she was working in Brooklyn, I’m sure work in Harlem. When I went what Yuri Kochiyama I was holding his head when he died. There were friends. Yuri kochiyama was this Japanese American woman. And when it started because Yuri came to Malcolm came to her house, and then Malcolm and then she said, I don’t I don’t like what you say. And then they had this debate there. Because she was like, She’s like a She’s like a activist if they had this debate, and I think they just really respected like, she wasn’t, she wasn’t gonna be like, your God or something. And she’s like, No, no, like, let’s talk. And they had this really great talk. And they became really, really close friends. And then when when he died, she was there, and she’s the one that held his head.
Martin Mapoma 33:46
So she’s still around?
Koji Sakai 33:48
No She passed away a couple years ago, but she’s like,
Martin Mapoma 33:50
someone got her story. Someone’s got to tell her story
Koji Sakai 33:52
she’s famous. She’s really famous.
So she’s a really famous activist.
Martin Mapoma 33:58
But I knew that
Koji Sakai 33:59
Taki Tell us tell us how people can follow you. Where can people get to? Where can people see some of your work?
Taki Kitamura 34:04
I mean, I guess, you know, it’s funny because I come from the when I first started tattooing, like, it was all about tattoo magazines, and you had your portfolio. And people would even steal portfolios at conventions, because, you know, like, those photos, and now it’s like, who has the time, like, people come to our shop, and I’m like, we have portfolios, but they’re all like, at least a couple years old, just go to Instagram. So that’d be like, you know, my Instagram is at state of grace taki T.A.K.I. The shop is state of grace tattoo, but that’s like the quickest, you know, instantaneous, like, it’s really, it’s almost like that platform was made for tattooers. It’s such a quick visual thing and like people can, you know, Yeah, that’d be the easiest way for people to follow what I’m doing here.
Unknown Speaker 34:43
Martin Mapoma 34:44
Jimmy, do you have a YouTube page or a YouTube channel?
Taki Kitamura 34:48
No, I just just just Instagram and yeah, that’s about it.
Martin Mapoma 34:51
Real quickly, you mentioned that you mentioned a cookbook that your wife was doing. Is it done?Is it out already?.
Taki Kitamura 34:57
It’s called knives and needles. Um, you know, my My wife is a well she tattoos now, but she was a professional chef for like over 15 years. And there’s definitely a correlation between like, you know, chefs and a lot of famous chefs are really heavily tattooed. And I think her analogy was really good. They’re both kind of professions that at one point were looked down upon. And then I think through like pop culture and reality TV now, it’s like, you know, chefs are kinda like these superstars like yours are.
Martin Mapoma 35:25
That’s a great analogy. Because chefs are like, rockstars now, and you know, and I’ll
Taki Kitamura 35:31
be honest, like, there’s been times when like, Oh, we want to go to this restaurant, but wait, let’s call someone so because he tattooed the owner and see if he can get us in. They always get it right. They always do. Yeah. So and a lot of them are tattooed. And we’ve definitely been very fortunate. And you know, through the course of her career in life, she’s met a lot of really interesting chefs and tattooers. So what she did was, you know, did interviews and photo profiles and recipes, and then put it together, put it on a ship for publishing. It’s called knives and needles. And
Martin Mapoma 35:59
I’m an aspiring chef.
Taki Kitamura 36:03
Oh, there you go.
Martin Mapoma 36:04
Yeah, my Instagram is Braai dash beast if you ever want to see, what are
Unknown Speaker 36:12
Martin Mapoma 36:15
About? Here’s the thing.
Every time I leave, I feel like a horrible dad. And I feel like I don’t know shit about life.
Koji Sakai 36:23
Well, you’re, you know, when you when you live 90 years, it’s Oh, you get a lot of you get a lot of wisdom I
Martin Mapoma 36:30
close, but I’m not 90.
Koji Sakai 36:31
You look great. You look great for 100. But anyway, thank you
Taki Kitamura 36:36
very much. It’s been a fun time.
Koji Sakai 36:38
And yeah, this has been great, Taki. And thank you, Martin, and thank you everybody for listening. Please rate review, subscribe to our podcast, please praise and please let us know what you think of the show. And please come to our our social media. So it’s best or worst pod on all the different platforms and say hi to us and let us know if you want to come on the show. Let us know we’d
Unknown Speaker 36:56
love to talk to you about your best or worst day. Thank you guys. Bye Guys thanks guys.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai