For almost ten years, Kazuaki Kitamura was well known in the international tattoo community as "Washo." As Washo, he was at the forefront of a new breed of Japanese tattooer, challenging traditions and bringing the Western style to Japan. Now, Washo carries the name Horitomo and for the past several years has been an apprentice of Horiyoshi III. He made this move in order to further develop his art by studying the traditions of the past.
While his first recollections of tattoos, traditional style body suits seen on neighborhood people, go back to elementary school, it was the Western style that first led him into the world of tattooing. His interest in surfing exposed him to other surfers with "one-point" tattoos. He ended up getting tattooed by Sabado in the fall of 1992 after being introduced by a friend. From that point on, their relation quickly grew and he became Sabado's first apprentice. Eccentric Tattoo had just opened up in Nagoya, very close to his hometown. Kazuaki ended up staying at Eccentric for three and a half years, where he gained his foundation and entry into the tattoo world. Sabado also gave him the name Washo, a title he would use for almost ten years. Needless to say, Kazuaki was very fortunate to be taught by Sabado, a world renowned legend in modern Japanese tattooing.
Struck by wanderlust, Kazuaki traveled for the next year and a half. Convention work had introduced him to many foreign artists and he ended up working at Everlasting in San Francisco for three months. This was right before Aaron Cain left and he was able to work with him as well as Mike Davis, Patrick Conlon and Troy Denning. Following this he helped establish Scratch Addiction in Tokyo and then Three Tides Tattoo in Osaka. Both of these shops became channels for the many Western tattooers wanting to visit and work in Japan.