Tougen is a piercing studio tucked away in the middle of Hondori shopping avenue above a souvenir shop. It’s a great place for a foreigner looking to have some body art done without having to go to a hospital. The atmosphere of the place is very unique and the owner is friendly and approaches the art with a confident, no-nonsense attitude.
It’s no news to most that Japan is very strict when it comes to body art. Most onsen hot springs won’t allow patrons with tattoos, and many jobs require that employees remove piercings. In addition, if you want to get a piercing done in Japan, you usually have no choice but to go to a hospital, as private businesses are not allowed to do piercing. This can be a lot of hassle if you want to get new piercing but aren’t confident enough to do it yourself with a piercing gun.
This is why Tougen is such a unique place. A curio shop below, on the second floor is a fully outfitted piercing studio where the owner Susumu-san can consult with you about your piercing needs. Because of Japan’s strict laws, piercing is his hobby, not his actual business. But because of his expertise, he’s happy to set up appointments on a person-to-person basis. As he got his piercing license at a conference in the States, he speaks a bit of English, and he’s quite happy to work with non-Japanese people.
From the outside, the shop is pretty easy to miss, even though the kanji 桃源 is written above the entrance. You might end up walking past it a few times. If you have trouble finding the place, enter Hondori near the Andersen Bakery, and Tougen is next to a ‘Wants’ drug store, across from a women’s clothing store.
Downstairs is a souvenir shop with two cluttered aisles. Most of the stuff is pretty kitchy, but there is a section of various piercings, so you can get an idea of what color and style you want. Ask for a piercing appointment at the register in the back.
When you come for your appointment, you’ll be taken up the narrow back stairs, and the studio is right there on the left. The atmosphere is weirdly reminiscent of downtown Berkeley. You’ll find 60s style posters and a friendly skeleton who sits next to the tray of instruments. There’s a couch where you can sit and negotiate what kind of style you want, and an examining table where you can sit (or lie down) when you’re actually having the piercing done.
The procedure only takes ten minutes, but a full explanation in Japanese takes over an hour – so be sure to have a block of time free. Susumu-san is meticulous about sterilization, and as he uses needles as opposed to a piercing gun, there’s very little pain. He also marks the area before proceeding so you can confirm in a mirror that the piercing will be where you want. The customer has a chance to give input every step of the way.
For a regular ear piercing the price is about ¥8000. However, it’s cheaper if you bring your own studs instead of buying them at the shop. If your piercing becomes infected or the hole closes up, Susumu-san is always happy to check in with you and provide follow up care free of charge.
Tougen offers a good blend of quality care and interesting experience. Recommended for anyone looking for a clean instruments, a steady hand, and a sharp needle.
Address in romaji: 8-27 Hondori, Naka-ku, Hiroshima-shi 730-0035
Address in Japanese: 〒730-0035 広島市中区本通８－２７