Emma Holland


I got my first tattoo (Hokusai’s “The Great Wave” on the inner left forearm) as soon as I was 18, much to the dissapointment of my Japanese mother. Coming from a culture where tattoos are still considered taboo and have a strong connection to the Yakuza, the reaction was understandable. From that point on, I started building a sleeve from that first piece. My left arm was done over a course of many years by Chris David at Government Street Tattoos. With cherry blossoms all along my lower arm and a girl in a kimono on my upper, this piece represents the pride I have in the Japanese half of me.

Without meaning to, I seem to have a theme of family-related tattoos. On my right inner forearm, I have a pair of binoculars that belonged to my paternal Grandfather, who was a sea captain and the harbour master of Vancouver. Our family motto, “Never less alone than when alone”, frames the binoculars in a banner. I got this done in Berlin as my one souvenir from a long backpacking trip.

Government Street Tattoos is the shop that has done almost all of my work. The bicycle on the back of my right arm is for my maternal Grandfather (Ojiichan), who til his very last days went on long bike rides along the river by his house. I got this one from Bryan Turnbull. The 2 red hearts with “mama” and “papa” in japanese on the back of my neck were done by Chris David, and the parade of elephants along my collar bone were done by D-Boy. The elephants were modelled off a little ceramic elephant that my Ojiichan had given me, and there are 5 of them to represent the 5 people in my immediate family.

The script on my back is a lyric from the Beatles “Across the Universe”. Coming from a very artistic family, my earliest memories are filled with sing-a-longs and music. My father is an amazing guitar player, and the Beatles were a staple soundtrack that he played for us and taught us as children.