40+ Traditional Japanese Tattoo Style Designs with Meaning
Japanese tattoos are undoubtedly the most tattoo styles. The Japanese tattoo tradition has been around for thousands of years, but it is still shrouded in mystery and unknown to many of us.
Because Japanese tattoos are expressive and bold, they’ve become a popular style all around the world. These inkings are eye-catching and fascinating because of the brilliant colors and interesting shading. Common patterns include legendary figures, such as dragons and phoenixes, nature, animals, and the supernatural, and are typically used to respect folklore or tradition.
This approach, as remarkable as it is, is also fraught with criticism. The Yakuza gang is known for their tattoos, which cover their entire bodies to signify their dedication and strength. As a result, tattoos are frowned upon in Japan.
Traditional vs Modern Japanese Tattoo
Traditional Japanese tattoos involve the insertion of ink. To really appreciate irezumi, or traditional Japanese tattooing, one must first learn about its historical practices, such as tebori and themes. The classic Japanese style is Japanese. The present link between traditional Japanese tattoos and the criminal element. Modern designs can have a lighter appearance. The Japanese word for tattoo is irezumi, and Japanese tattooing has its own specific style.
The main difference is how the tattoo is applied to the flesh. Traditional Japanese tattooing is performed without the use of electricity and in the most traditional manner possible. On the other hand, modern Japanese tattooing employs the usage of a modern tattoo machine.
The majority of Japanese tattoos are a combination of black-and-gray and colors, while there are a few that are entirely black-and-gray. When it comes to Japanese tattoos, one thing remains constant: the subject matter is steeped in Japanese culture. Koi fish tattoos, geishas, dragons, and other traditional Japanese tattoo patterns are among the most popular.
Traditional Japanese Tattoos and their meanings
1. Koi Fish Tattoo
The koi fish is a symbol of masculinity in Japanese art. Every year on May 5, when a new boy is born into the family, fish flags are raised in the hopes that he will grow strong.
Every koi that swims up the Chinese Yellow River and passes through the “Dragon’s Gate” waterfalls is said to be turned from a fish to a mythological dragon in Japanese folklore. Many Irezumi depict Koi and dragons navigating stormy seas to represent toughness and endurance.
2. Japanese Dragon Tattoos
Dragons have long been associated with power, fury, and prosperity in Western cultures. They are a devastating force, but they are also seen as protectors. The Japanese, and the East in general, have a unique perspective on dragons.
Dragons in Japan represent a variety of attributes. The images are seen by some as symbols of strength, power, masculinity, or sexual passion. Others see the dragon as a symbol of longevity, good fortune, and wisdom.
3. Cat Tattoo
Cats are generally connected with prosperity and good fortune, making them ideal candidates for tattoos. There are many different methods to create your ink, and while some individuals prefer the more conventional approach, others may choose to highlight aspects of Japanese culture that they admire.
This might include everything from the food and clothing to the tattoo design. It’s critical not to offend anyone with your design, and holy and religious imagery should always be avoided.
4. Samurai Tattoos
Samurai warriors practiced Bushido and swore allegiance to moral concepts such as honor, courage, and respect. These were the guiding beliefs that kept them strong in times of upheaval, which is why samurai warriors remain a source of fascination that rivals the appeal and majesty of medieval knights.
5. Phoenix Tattoos
Like many other Japanese tattoos, this one has a common history with various cultures. The fable of the Phoenix, a bird that is destroyed by fire and then rises from its ashes, is well-known to most of us.
Many people are unaware that the story may be found in a variety of cultures and periods of history, including Greek and Roman mythology, Middle Eastern folklore, and even the Americas.
The origins of the Japanese phoenix narrative can be traced back to a Chinese folktale. Phoenix tattoos, regardless of their origin, are meant to represent rebirth and triumph, as well as rejuvenation and rebuilding of one’s self.
6. Cherry Blossom Tattoo
Cherry blossoms are one of the most beautiful flowers, and their soft pink hue makes them a welcome addition to any garden. However, they do not live for very long, making the bloom a metaphor for life and its transience.
Because of its beauty and meaning, the blossom is also associated with power and endurance, and it is a common picture used in Irezumi. The cherry blossom season in Japan is when the blossoms bloom and is a time of celebration, therefore it is also associated with joy.
7. Geisha Tattoo
Geishas were frequently well-educated women. Many had had formal training in calligraphy, painting, tea service, and Ikebana, as well as musical instrument proficiency. The painted face of the courtesan has come to represent grace, beauty, and femininity in the realm of modern geisha tattoos, all while providing the tattooist with a motif that can be used in a broad range of unique styles, ideas, and concepts.
8. Tiger Tattoos
The Japanese tiger tattoo embodies the same qualities that we associate with the natural animal–strength, courage, and longevity. The tiger tattoo is also thought to protect against evil spirits, bad luck, and disease. The tiger is a symbol of both the north and autumn and one of the four sacred animals. They are thought to regulate the wind and are one of the four sacred animals.
9. Cloud Tattoo
If you want a lovely, ornamental tattoo, the Japanese cloud motif can be for you. Kumo is a set of bold wisps that can be inked alone or with other graphics. The clouds signify important ideas such as masculinity, impermanence, and change, as well as a reverence for the natural world. They create a strong impression and look best when kept dark.
10. Japanese Snake Tattoo
The snake has a variety of meanings in traditional Japanese tattoos and has a variety of roles. Protection from illness, tragedy, and bad luck is one of its numerous benefits.
Snake tattoos also symbolize knowledge and protection, especially against the consequences of poor choices. As it was respected in Japanese culture concerning medicinal rites and remedies, the snake can also represent regeneration, healing, and medicine. It was also supposed to promote good health as a symbol of good luck.
11. Godzilla Tattoos
The concept of the city-wrecking monster is inherently filled with Eastern sensibilities. Of course, this scaly monster isn’t the only bloodthirsty creature in the series. There are dozens of different “kaiju” tattoos that can be used in this type of tattoo. If you enjoy cinematic Japanese art or throwback action, a Godzilla tattoo will be just up your alley.
12. Crane Tattoo
In Japan, the crane is revered and seen as a symbol of peace and optimism. It is also thought to be an extraterrestrial species that is revered and admired, as well as the topic of intriguing folklore. The bird can bring good fortune and prosperity, but it also symbolizes longevity and wisdom. The design is usually intricate, and it may include other elements such as the sun or flowers.
13. Japanese Wave Tattoos
Japanese wave tattoos are often associated with strength, fluidity, and movement, and can represent life’s ever-changing nature. Like water and the ocean, life can be peaceful and breezy when things are going well and chaotic when things are going badly. Some Japanese artworks, such as Katsushika Hokusai’s iconic “Great Wave,” have been transformed into tattoos.
14. Oni/ Oni Mask/ Demon Mask Tattoo
The Oni Mask tattoo is quite frequent in Japanese tattoos, and it refers to the belief in a spirit world where demons punish the unjust and evil and transmit sickness. While some Oni is known for being bad, others are viewed as protectors.
15. Foo Dog Tattoo
If you want a tattoo that symbolizes protection and good fortune, a foo dog is a way to go. The fabled monster, which resembles a lion, is revered in Japan. It’s a type of architectural adornment used to protect major structures and shrines. They are an excellent choice for a tattoo since they represent prosperity, good fortune, and protection.