Japanese Tattoo Style Meanings

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Japanese tattoo styles are one of the most popular types of decorations you can get tattooed. Why is this so? There are many reasons, but notably Japanese tattooing is inspired by their printmaking traditions, the history of samurai who painted their bodies, and their rich culture which many meaningful symbols that are were celebrating.

It also isn’t just Japanese people who are supporting a Japanese tattoo, it’s just as popular all around the world! Today we will explore these tattoo styles and provide their meanings to help you find that perfect tattoo or come to appreciate this style of tattooing.

    What is a Japanese Tattoo Style?

    Apart from this style of tattooing being from Japan, there are several elements that make it stand out from others. The first is that Japanese tattoos are often brightly colored with hues that vary from blue to red.

    They are also very unambiguous about what they depict so in order to achieve this they have strong defined lines, a clear contrast between the subject and background, and colors that work to enhance the presentation.

    Many people from Japan get these tattoos to connect with their cultural heritage, while everyone else gets them for their unique appearance and/or the appreciation of the deep meaning that certain symbols and images convey.

    Popular Japanese Tattoos and Their Meanings

    Knowing the importance of tattoos in Japanese culture is essential for all that choose to get Japanese tattoo styles. This is so all are aware of their meanings even if the wearer isn’t Japanese. Finding out the meaning of a tattoo is also a good way to select the perfect Japanese tattoo that best suits your tastes. So here you can see some of these popular Japanese tattoos and their meanings.

    Dragon Tattoo

    The dragon is an ancient symbol in Asian mythologies that holds personal meaning to the wearer. In Japan, a dragon protects and oversees the home and family, making it not just a regal serpent to have on your arm or back! They are also said to spread happiness, freedom and give good luck. 

    Koi Tattoo

    The Japanese Koi fish is a common symbol that appears in their tattoo designs. This is because the Koi hold many significant meanings in their culture related to their lore in folklore. It is said that the Koi are fish of real strength through their ability to swim upstream in rivers, their ability to overcome obstacles, and their resilience and determination. 

    Oni Tattoo

    An Oni is a dangerous creature in Japanese folklore that is said to bring misfortune to all that walk in its path. So, many choose to get an Oni mask tattoo to ward off the negative influences these spirits can have on their lives. This mask is a talisman that protects wearers from evil and harm. 

    Japanese Great Wave Tattoo

    Also known as The Great Wave Off Kanagawa, this tattoo is inspired by the 1831 woodblock print by ukiyo-e artist Hokusai. The great wave symbolizes the ocean surrounding Japan, the long exposure of their islands to tsunamis, and the spiritual power of natural forces. It represents nature’s beauty but also warns of its dangers. 

    Samurai Tattoo

    The symbol of the Samurai in Japanese tattooing represents not just the proud history of their skilled warriors and the lasting impact on their culture. Those that choose to get a Samurai mask or warrior on their body will be infused with the courage to face life without fear and the conviction to push through regardless of how difficult it gets. 

    Geisha Tattoo

    One of the most distinct Japanese tattoo designs is the Geisha, the beauty of the traditionally dressed Japanese woman who hides behind a fan staring unblinkingly at the viewer. These women were artists who sang or had key roles in important ceremonies. Today Geisha tattoos are very popular because they symbolize femininity, artistry, mystery, and perfectionism. These are ideals that the wearer may want to embody in their life.

    Kappa Tattoo

    Hidden in the murky waters of swamps in Japanese mythologies is the Kappa creature, a grotesque green being those who relish in mischievous nature. When worn as a tattoo the wearer takes on some of this mischief to not live life so seriously, while others may see them as a symbol of wealth and prosperity. Kappa symbols have many meanings, so it will come down to the wearer.

    Lotus Tattoo

    The lotus is a pink flower that flowers during spring in Japan, bringing color to the landscape. It has become a symbol of purity, enlightenment, and rebirth in tattoo designs, which makes sense with how it comes alive out of the dreary waters coming out of winter. 

    Cherry Blossom Tattoo

    The most famous flower to come out of Japan is the gorgeous cherry blossom, an important symbol of Japanese culture. A cherry blossom tattoo represents love, beauty, and new beginnings bringing good vibes to the wearer to that their life may be filled with positivity. Many may even get this tattoo in memory of the passing of a loved one.

    Yōkai Tattoo

    The Yōkai are the ghosts or spirits in Japanese folklore who are representative not just of those that have died, but also demons, sprites, and in other cases dragons. Yōkai are supernatural beings in tattoos that come in many shapes and sizes, inspired by specific folklore tales or famous Yōkai figures. Certain Yōkai can give good luck, while others may bring misery. 

    Final Thoughts

    Japanese tattoo styles have many designs and meanings showing the rich cultural history of Japan. This article only touched the tip of the iceberg of the types of styles and their associated meanings; however, I hope that you have been inspired or have now gained a greater appreciation of Japanese tattoos. 

    If you are thinking about getting a tattoo yourself or are wanting to start your own business our Yilong® Tattoo Supply is the perfect resource to get started. We offer more resources like this as well as a great range of products related to tattoos. 


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