This month we sat down with Ei Omiya for a convo on his journey to become one of the most sought after Japanese tattoo artists in San Diego. His understanding of the cultural meaning and iconography of Japanese tattoos is rooted in this upbringing in Japan. 

Every artist has gone on a journey to get to this moment in time. Can you briefly walk us through yours?

I was an apprentice at a shop in LA under the Japanese tattooer name “HIRO” back in 2010. I apprenticed there for awhile and then eventually came back to San Diego and found an opportunity at Funhouse Tattoo. I apprenticed here for awhile and am stoked to have my chair now. Everything fell into place and call SD my home. 

What tattoo styles are you specialized in? What attracted to them in the first place?

I specialize in Japanese Tattoo. Plain and simple. Growing up in Japan I was exposed to all types of Japanese designs, styles, cultural ideals, and concepts. This was the driving force for my specialization in this culturally rich and iconic style.

What anime or manga series has had the biggest influence on your work? 

‘Fist of the North Star’ and ‘Golgo13’.

How do you think social media platforms such as Pinterest and Reddit have affected the direction of the tattoo industry? Do you think people use them too much or could use them more? 

We see Pinterest as the new flash sheets of the 2010’s. People bring their favorite design on their phones and we use it as a basis for a design. With Pinterest and other platforms on their phones, people can have a better idea of the tattoo they are looking for.

Growing from an apprentice at Funhouse Tattoo to a coveted resident artist, what do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of working in this community opposed to other shops you have worked at?

I feel accomplished of course! This is what I had been wanting to do when I was an apprentice for awhile. And now I am doing it as my career at an awesome shop. Sometimes I look back and feel proud and happy about what I have been through and achieved. Funhouse Tattoo is where I started, so everything has come full circle for me. Other shops I worked at do things slightly different, which is not right or wrong, but I feel more comfortable being back here to sick pieces.

Having a fusion of Japanese and American cultural influences in your life, how would you say you use them to your advantage to make meaningful tattoos for your clients?

Most of Japanese tattoos have specific cultural themes, meaning, and message behind it. The majority of people don’t know about them. So I explain to my clients what each tattoo means and try to fit it to their needs. People like when they find out the symbolism and meaning about their tattoo designs. I make sure to consult with my clients on the unique iconography of Japanese tattoos to make sure my clients and I ended up with an awesome tattoo with a story behind it.

What is your favorite spot to get food at in San Diego and what do you get?

Depends on what kinda food you are talking about. I have too many to list.

What is your favorite about working with new clients and collaborating with them?

That I can do something new with clients and challenge myself a bit to the next level. Each client is an opportunity to create something new and better than I ever have before.

Being a professional artist comes with a fair amount of challenges. How do you balance your career as a tattoo artist and all the other aspects of your life?

I’m trying to stay healthy. I eat good food, sleep a healthy amount, and try to exercise frequently. I go to the gym about 3 times per week and Jiu Jitsu 3 times per week as well. Exercising is refreshing and clears my mind. I do that, so I can keep working and keep challenging myself.

Where can people learn more about your artwork and what is the best way to get in touch with you?

Instagram has my up-dated tattoo work as well as my portfolio page on the Fun. @ei_horimiyatattoo and