The term “Japanese tattoos” are different styles which all originated from the islands of Japan. The styles are distinctive and recognizable for their vibrant colors, dynamic imagery, and symbolism. Nowadays, there is more tolerance for people with tattoos, however, there was a time that tattoos were banned. Until recently, the majority of Japanese with tattoos were known Yakuza members. There are some places in Japan where those with tattoos are not entertained, most notably the public bath houses.
Japanese tattoos are filled with Buddhist, Shinto, and Zen symbolisms. To wear these types of tattoos warrant a level of respect for the symbols. Nature is an inspiration for most of the symbols used in tattoos. These include common animals like koi, turtles, frogs, wolf, crane and cats. Other animals that are not local to Japan, as well as mythical creatures are also common themes. These include dragons, lions, tigers, and the phoenix. Unlike in other cultures, flowers are common tattoo themes for men. These include the cherry blossom, peony, and lotus. Other tattoo images from nature includes clouds, the sun, and waves.
The following listing are some examples of Japanese yakuza style tattoos which are common inside and outside of Japan.
1. Koi Fish Tattoo
If you are interested in a tattoo that represents success, strength, determination, accomplishment and various other positivities, choose the Koi Fish tattoo. It is the perfect design idea if you are after popular Japanese art that is associated with importance and meaning. You can also achieve different meanings using different colors with the Koi Fish tattoo. Some examples are love and power for red and adversity and strength for black.
2. Cat Tattoo
Cats are popular creatures in Japan. They are associated with good luck and wealth, and this makes them an ideal design for getting a Japanese tattoo. Cats are naturally beautiful, so it is easy to combine them with other elements that are also meaningful in the Japanese culture. It can go well with colorful dresses, food or fish elements. In choosing your design, make sure that you avoid religious and sacred images so as not to offend the culture it comes from.
3. Samurai Tattoo
A samurai tattoo design is a classic piece of body art that represents admiration, service, integrity, devotion and valor. For centuries, Samurai warriors have protected the citizens of the country against attackers. Traditionally, they are portrayed in battle scenes fighting a dragon and other Japanese elements. This design works well with a rich color palette and well-defined outlines.
4. Words Tattoo
There is nothing more meaningful than getting a Japanese word tattoo. Choose a Japanese poem, verse or quote that inspires you and have it inked using the Kanji. You may also include other elements such as the cherry blossoms or the Koi fish to make it more unique.
5. Crane Tattoo
The crane is considered as an otherworldly bird in the Japanese culture. It is a symbol of hope and peace, thus, it is deeply admired and respected. Cranes have always been a subject of interesting legends as they are thought to bring good fortune, luck, wisdom and longevity. Irezumi designs showcasing cranes are often detailed and bold. It may also include images of the sun and flowers. Ideal spots for placement of this design are the thigh and arms for a bold and colorful artwork.
6. Demon Oni Mask Tattoo
Demon tattoos are not an appealing design for everyone. However, it holds an interesting meaning in the Japanese folklore. The image of Oni, which is a type of Ogre, represents balance between good and evil. This design can be a great reminder that harmful actions will not go unpunished. Choosing this tattoo design can also intimidate others with their body art and give the impressions that they are not to be messed with. Oni tattoos are often made exceptionally detailed and combined with other Japanese elements of importance such as snakes and cherry blossoms.
7. Foo Dog Tattoo
Would you like a tattoo that works as a charm and protection? Then the Japanese Foo Dog tattoo is an excellent choice for you. This mythical creature is an architectural ornament for designing important structures, shrines or buildings. It is associated with prosperity, protection and good fortune. It looks like a lion and the things that it represents make it an interesting beast for body art.
8. Tiger Tattoo
Japanese tiger tattoos are viewed as a talisman that wards off evil spirits, negative energy, diseases and sickness. These fearsome and honored predators symbolizes power, protection and strength. They might be depicted as intimidating and ferocious beasts, but they are full of meaning and beauty. Make it your next tattoo design for an impressive and striking body art.
9. Flower Tattoo
Flowers and floral tattoos are not limited to women who want to have dainty ink designs. When done through a Japanese tattoo art, men can have bold images of a sole or group of blooms for a masculine design. It can form part of a scenery or combined with other elements like a koi fish, phoenix or dragon. There are several flowers that are symbolic in the Japanese culture. You can choose to have the cherry blossoms, lotus or peony. Typically, these designs are associated with beauty and life. Make a bold statement with floral Japanese style ink filled with bright colors and amazing details.
10. Frog Tattoo
The Japanese frog tattoos are not your typical ink design. These are made bright, bold, multicolored and fierce! Some designs include gold coins and carry rich symbolism. It is associated with luck, success, prosperity and good fortune. You can have yours portrayed as a frog or toad and combined with other interesting elements.
11. Japanese Women Tattoo
A geisha or a Japanese woman tattoo is an awesome design that both men and women can have. Geishas play an important role in the history of Japan. These women are associated with attractiveness and they represent respect, perfection and beauty. Most of these tattoos are designed with fantastic details and in large formats. The most popular placement is the back for ample space. Other traditional images such as the cherry blossom or lanterns can be included in this design.
12. Cloud Tattoo
The Japanese cloud tattoo design is a stunning decorative inking that you might consider for your next project. Cloud tattoo symbolizes one’s adoration of nature. It also represents masculinity, ideas, change and impermanence. Japanese cloud tattoos can be designed with the bold wisps of the Kumo as the sole element or use it as filles for rich imagery. The Kumo looks great and makes a statement when they are kept dark and bold.
13. Letter Tattoo
The Japanese lettering Kanji has beautiful strokes that you can use for your letter tattoo. It is ideal for people who want to use foreign characters or words for their body art. The strokes are graceful and the letters of the Kanji are rich in symbolism. On the other hand, it is crucial that you research your words carefully to ensure that you get the proper characters for what you really mean.
14. Lion Tattoo
Lions have various representations around the world, but typically they are associated with strength, courage, power and royalty. In Japanese tattoos, lions are depicted with mythical appearance. They have pointed ears and wispy maine with an intimidating appearance. These images are also seen on significant buildings or structures for protection and to ward off evil. You can have a body for the same purpose – to keep you safe and guide you on the right path.
15. Severed Head Tattoo
Another popular Irezumi design is the Namakubi or the severed head image. This tattoo symbolizes many things like respect, courage, warning or no fear. Despite being a brutal image, it is only an element that showcases the circle of life. This image is often combined with other elements such as the snake and some sakura blooms.
16. Turtle Tattoos
Minogame tattoo designs represent durability, resilience, wisdom, security and fortune. In the Japanese culture, turtles signify wisdom over longevity. It is more important to live an enlightened life, than a long life. Make this unique body art into your own by adding elements such as blooms and Kanji letterings.
17. Sun Tattoo
Japan’s red, bold, rising sun is a symbol of the country’s courage, divinity and life. It is used in flags of various designs and when you see it, you will automatically associate it with the Japanese culture. When tattooed, it can be combined with other important elements such as warriors, waves and temples. Still, this can be a controversial image and it may be offensive for some people. Exercise caution when choosing your design especially with a Japanese sun tattoo.
18. Lotus Tattoo
The lotus flower holds a high significance in the Japanese culture. It is valued for what they symbolize, thus, they make popular designs for a body art. You can see this flower inked with water, or some koi fish. The lotus represents spiritual awakening, enlightenment, purity and strength. Both men and women are inspired by these symbolism and it serves as a reminder of life struggles and the beauty therein.
19. Mask Tattoo
The Japanese are also known for using masks for theatrical purposes, festivals and other religious events. These masks are also ideal tattoo elements to showcase the Japanese culture. One of the most popular ones is the Hannya mask, which initially looks intimidating and scary. But it is associated with good luck and used to ward off evil. It may also represent passion and love based on other interpretations.
20. Phoenix Tattoo
The phoenix tattoo is not only popular in Western cultures. It is also an ideal design in Irezumi and is referred to as the Hou-ou. The Japanese phoenix is associated with birth, death and rebirth. It represents fire, power and justice. You can see this mythical creature as an ornament in homes and those living therein are loyal and honest people. Have this beautiful bird etched in your skin for your next inking.
21. Skull Tattoo
Choosing a skull for your next tattoo design may seem like a morbid choice because it is a recognizable symbol of death. On the other hand, Japanese Skull tattoos represent change, and with other elements, it can be made more meaningful. Some images that go well with this body art are flowers, bright colors and others.
22. Snake Tattoo
One of the most popular designs you can see using the Japanese technique is a snake tattoo. This body art symbolizes protection from illnesses, change and prevention of bad luck. A serpent tattoo may seem intimidating especially with depicted coiled and ready to strike. But in Japan, this creature is believed to bring good luck and strength to its wearer.
23. Wolf Tattoo
Wolf tattoos are excellent designs to honor the culture and the ancient Japanese traditions. These canines are associated with the Shinto Gods. They are said to be messengers in the spiritual world. Wolves are strong and powerful protectors. Japanese Wolf tattoos have evolved over the years, but the animal’s intimidating appearance still remains to be a popular design.
24. Dragon Tattoo
Dragons are very interesting and symbolic mythical creatures. They hold great significance in the Japanese culture, thus they are one of the most popular designs for body art. Dragon tattoos can represent wisdom, bravery and strength. This is a stark comparison to the western representation of dragons as evil creatures. This Japanese tattoo design is best inked on arms or legs because it will look like the creature is wrapped around the limbs. Likewise, there are several colors that you can choose from to represent different meanings. Black is for wisdom, yellow is for nobility and green for nature.
25. Temple Tattoo
Japanese temples are considered as architectural masterpieces. Some of them were built centuries ago. Temples are places of growth and spiritual awakening. It connects life and the afterlife. If you want to honor your faith or show your respect for the culture, a temple tattoo is an appealing choice for you. However, do some research to avoid being offensive to other people when choosing a religious image such as temples for your next tattoo.
26. Wave Tattoo
Waves are associated with life and strength. They create fantastic images of peace and calm. Waves also represent change because the water provides a coming and going pattern. It is a clear reminder of manning up and being resilient on the changes that life brings. A Japanese wave tattoo can be inked beautifully in black, blue and grey.
27. Japanese Bamboo Tattoo
If you prefer a more minimalistic Japanese tattoo design, you can opt for the Bamboo tattoo. This plant is held in high regard in the Japanese culture. It symbolizes strength, durability and ability to overcome struggles. Your tattoo can be designed simply and classy with subtle shading to achieve a calm and serene design.
28. Cherry Blossom Tattoo
In Japanese Irezumi, cherry blossom flowers are a popular design for both men and women. These magnificent pink flowers are very beautiful, but they do not live very long. Cherry blossom trees instantly brighten up a landscape when they are in bloom. When used as an element in tattoo designs, these flowers are representative of perseverance, strength and beauty. They are also symbolic of life, and a time of joy and celebration.
29. Japanese Lantern Tattoo
This tattoo design is not as popular as the others, but it is rich in positive symbolism and meaning. It represents festivity, happiness and victory of good over evil. A yokai or lantern is used to drive away ghosts and bad spirits in the Japanese folklore. Make this soothing design come to life with butterflies and other elements such as sakura blooms, masks or dragons.
30. Peony Tattoo
This beautiful bloom is also a popular Japanese tattoo design that is characterized by various bright colors. The peony is a symbol of prosperity and good fortune. Some also associate it with honor, bravery, perseverance and life in general. You can opt for a sole bloom, series or combined with other elements like a crane or a geisha for a unique body art.
Japanese tattoos are a distinctive style of tattoos which started in Japan. These are usually large patches of imagery, with emphasis on dramatic and emotional images. The style makes use of bold colors, dynamic poses, with plenty of nature imagery.
The most common characteristics of a Japanese tattoo is the size of the tattoo. These are relatively large tattoos with filled background, dramatic imagery, and traditional styles of drawings. Japanese tattoos also borrow heavily from nature, religious and mythical symbols.