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Japanese artist's beautiful macabre tattoos

Gakkin Image copyright Gakkin
Image caption Japanese artist Gakkin favours dark erotic styles for his tattoos

Black cherry blossoms, ravens, severed heads and war demons - Japanese tattoo artist Gakkin isn't afraid to incorporate macabre elements into his tattoos, turning them into delicate and beautiful works of art.

In fact he's known for it - combining eroticism with beauty.

"I'm not a painter but a tattoo artist," he told BBC News from his studio in Kyoto city.

"Everything around me inspires me, especially nature; wind, rain and forest."

Image copyright Gakkin
Image caption Gakkin incorporates splashes of red but largely uses black ink
Image copyright Gakkin
Image caption Soft designs like these robins and cherry blossoms are also featured in his work

Red and black ink often features prominently in his work.

"Skin isn't paper and black is the best colour to work with for tattoos - many cultures like the Maoris and Polynesians also consider it as such," he said.

"Red is a favourite colour of mine and it makes a good contrast with black ink."

Image copyright Gakkin
Image caption He is known for his freehand approach to tattooing, a style he says differs from conventional tattoos

To his loyal clients and large following on Instagram, Gakkin's freehand style is a large part of the appeal.

"Tattooing freehand is a totally different process from conventional tattoos," he explained.

He does not own stencil machines, commonly used by most in the industry. Instead, he relies on a ballpoint pen for drawing on skin.

"There are infinite possibilities for my tattoos and working freehand means that my pieces will look beautiful on your body from any direction," he said.

Image copyright GAKKIN
Image caption A Japanese owl designed by Mr Gakkin

Like choosing between children, Gakkin told the BBC that it was difficult for him to choose a favourite tattoo.

But he admitted he was happiest working on big pieces.

"Full body suits, I've done many. Most of my clients are able to endure three to five days in a row for such a session."

Reporting by the BBC's Heather Chen.

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