When Jaime and I met in a downtown Starbucks, he was still working at the now-closed Ginza Sushi Restaurant on the ground floor of the now-closed Tokyo Hotel. Where by “now closed” I mean, it closed in October of last year—I’m catching up on my backlog of interviews! He had just gotten his Chicago flag tattoo and it was still healing.
Jaime: I wanted the flag, but I wanted to make it a little bit different, and I thought black looks better on me. My favorite color is black, in terms of my clothing. It was a pretty hard debate between the skyline or the flag or something else, but the skyline is even more common than the flag is. I just think the flag is so much more unique, because it actually symbolizes Chicago, with the lines and the stars and everything. Everything has a meaning with it. So I decided to go with this one rather than the skyline.
This is my first tattoo that I’ve ever got, as you could probably tell. I’ve lived in Chicago my entire life. I lived in the suburbs for a little bit when I was in high school, but I moved back over to the city a couple years ago, because it’s just so much better over here. First tattoo, I told myself it’s going to be something that kind of represents my life, and nothing comes to my mind more than home. So here it is.
CFT: And since it’s your first one, you’ve got plenty of room. If you do decide you need a skyline…
Jaime: Probably not. I might get the word “Chicago” in Japanese, me being Japanese, kind of a Japanese-American thing. I might get that somewhere on me a little bit later, when this heals up, but I don’t think I’m going to go with the skyline anymore, now that I’ve got this.
CFT: What’s so great about Chicago?
Jaime: Everything. The atmosphere, the people, the culture. I’ve lived in Chicago my whole life, but I’ve visited a lot of the bigger cities. I’ve been to New York, I’ve been to L.A., I’ve been to Houston. Each one of those cities, of course, have their own unique things about them, but there’s nothing like home. With the combination of food and just the people—and the cleanliness, too. That’s the one thing I’ve noticed the most about Chicago compared to other cities, is how much more clean and taken care of—well, at least for the most part—than some of these other big cities. And sports is a huge thing in my life.
I don’t know. Maybe I’m being a little biased because I’ve lived there my whole life, of course, but to me, there’s nothing better. The only city, the only other place that I’ve ever been to that took my breath away as much as Chicago was Tokyo in Japan. But that’s a little bit different. Even though I’m Japanese, it’s hard to really call that my home, so Chicago it is.
CFT: The other question I ask that’s going to be interesting over time, so you know, get back to me—is whether people who see it on you know what it is.
Jaime: It’s funny you say that, because I’ve already been asked once if it’s a Jewish flag. [laughs] At the same time, other people have noticed that it’s a Chicago flag and questioned me why it’s black, too. I think people that know will know, and the people that don’t know what it is, if they care enough to ask me what it is, I’ll be more than happy to answer them what it is.
At the end of the day, a tattoo is about what you want and what you like and something about yourself, not really necessarily what everybody else thinks. So it might be a little hard to realize what it is on first glance for some people, especially people that are not from Chicago.
CFT: So a friend did that at home?
Jaime: Not at home. I saw this guy online. I’ve noticed a lot of work that he’s done in the past, and I was very, very impressed by it. I got some great reviews on him from friends, so I decided to give him a try, and I tried it. The only problem is, when it was done, it didn’t turn out as good as everybody’s. In all fairness, you can see that the stars are a little bit misaligned or whatever you want to say. The lines—it wasn’t completely filled like the star was. But it isn’t completely symmetrical. So I need to get that fixed when this heals up, I’m guessing. I don’t know if I’m going to go back to the same guy or actually maybe just go to a shop this time.
CFT: I’ve got a little scarring, too. But as some people have said, “Eh, my life in Chicago hasn’t been perfect either.”
Jaime: I know this sounds a little cheesy, but I chose a black because it’s like the dark side of Chicago. My life has not been easy, to say the least, and maybe not as colorful as the actual flag is. I’ve had some dark moments living in Chicago. So that’s one of the reasons I made it black, so I don’t forget that part of my youth and some of the tough upbringing that I had. So that’s why it’s black. It’s not just about the blue and red - it’s not just about it being colorful. Like I said, it represents a part of my life.
And actually, I was talking to my girlfriend; I’ve considered one of my future tattoos also is like - I’m not sure exactly how I’m going to portray it, but the point of the tattoo will be different points of my life. I think this is the best start to it, I guess. Who knows what the future holds and who knows how many tattoos I’ll end up with. But I hope that each of them will mean something to me, like this tattoo.