Tattoos, War, and Growth

Editorial by Jason M.A. Walter for 434 Tattoo

The other night I went to a dinner with my girlfriend’s family.  It was the first time ever that I was with the entire extended family.

Throughout my Life here in Hawaii, I have been challenged by the color of my skin.  It must sound weird for someone who is half-white to say such a thing but that’s been my experience so I’m just sharing my Truth.  There is deep-rooted historical hatred that has been passed down through generations that is still shaking its dust away from our collective experience here in the melting pot that is Honolulu.

A few years back, I was in my hometown of Hilo, and decided to get a tattoo, my first.  I’d waited for many years in part because I was indecisive and in part because I was uncertain of what to expect.  I grew up hearing my Dad regret his own homemade tattoos so I didn’t realize the depth of artistry until I walked into a shop.

Getting my first tattoo back home meant alot, I’d get another in New Orleans before making a stop at 434 Tattoo and meeting Tattoo Adam, who’d give me a shot at writing on this blog.  It was an opportunity to learn about a new craft while honing my own trade.

Over the years, I’ve written hundreds of blogs on here, I’ve shot numerous “guerrilla” marketing style of videos, and worked on some other pieces of writing for the crew.  I’ve also been blessed to get more ink and makes some great friendships with many of the faces who have walked in and out of these doors.

So to look at me today is to see a different man than the one who just a few short years ago wore no ink.  Tattoos have become a great part of my Life and something that for better or for worse have helped me to feel more at peace in my skin.

As we sat at the dinner table,  my girlfriend’s Grand-Dad told me he worked as a Tattoo Artist before…

I have seen a small piece he wore on his own arm and he has mentioned the story in passing before.  It is fascinating to hear each time because he tells a little more whenever he gets into it.

There are beautiful pearls contained within the experience of those who have walked along this longer than we each have.

Grand-Dad got into it because his father was a tattoo artist and at the age of 14 he learned himself how to practice the art form himself.  To think that 70 years ago, he was doing what I’ve only just been learning more and more about over the last 4 years and at best, collect, illustrates the point that there is much to learn from those who have been here for a much longer period of time.

He would live his Life and be drafted into Army, where he was sent first to Yokohama, then Korea.  When asked what he could do or what he had done, he shared that he was a Tattoo Artist.  From there, he got to put his tattoo skills to work serving the country.

During that time, there were people who were forced to serve the Communists, and in the process, they were given tattooed markings that identified them.  When they were captured or defected, they had the opportunity to help the US, and as a result needed something to cover the identifying mark they once bore. Grand-Dad shared that he did many roses, flying eagles, and more, images that grace tattoo flash around the world and…

he knew Sailor Jerry, who is a legendary tattoo artist, and was based here in Honolulu, in essence one of the first great Hawaii Tattoo Artists.

It was interesting to hear of tattooing serving the country in such a way because tattoos have certainly been a service in my healing and growth as a Human Being.  It also made for a great conversation in a new situation, one that helped me to grow further and just like tattoos, a step into the unknown that I rather quite enjoyed.

I have met some of realest people in tattoo shops, their jobs are in creating art that you will carry as long as you live, and consider their work to be a bit of spiritual medicine.  Art and Love are what we fight to preserve in times of conflict.  What’s so cool about tattoos is to me, they embody a whole lot of both.

Every piece tells a story, every memory etched as a beautiful scar.  Just in a few short years, I’ve changed and can recall where I was when something joined my experience.  Maybe it always lived there in the Ether, but the Love it takes to keep stepping through this at times cold world, has brought them into my physical experience and I love every bit of where they take me.

Thank you to Adam and thank you to all the tattoo artists out there hustling and do what they do.  Your work heals and if no one else says it, I will because I see it speaking any time I see a tattoo.

Get your ink ladies and gentlemen because you never know where it will lead you!

434 Tattoo is located in Hawaii’s famous Waikiki and for years has been voted Honolulu’s Best Custom Tattooing Studio.




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