For Horimitsu, the sound of needles painting skin is a soft, rhythmic scratching, like a solitary cricket – “sha, sha, sha”. For 30 years he has tattooed by hand in Ikebukuro, Tokyo, needing nothing but ink and a needle-tipped stick. By that hand, gods and monsters spring to life on the backs of bankers and band members. Koi carp leap over limbs. And today, a jade-green dragon – a symbol of protection from flames – will flare on the arm of a young firefighter who flew thousands of miles to be here. Kyle Seeley, 23, lies quietly on his back as the artist works, skewering his tricep with perfectly regular jabs. He’s being inked from shoulder to wrist; a full sleeve with the great lizard set among peonies – the flower of good fortune and nobility. There are tattooists back home in Grande Prairie, Canada. But they don’t have what he’s looking for: the centuries-old Japanese art of tebori, or traditional “hand-carved” tattoos. In the West, a longstanding fascination with this style has become a full-blown trend. Hipsters seek it out for the story: “I went to Japan to be hand-tattooed.” For others, it’...