Japanese Tattoo – 300+ Picture Ideas

150 Traditional Japanese Tattoo Designs And Their Meanings

Tattoo art has won many a heart the world over, with some designs being more popular as compared to others. One of the most fascinating design options is Japanese tattoo designs, which have a rich legacy of history and tradition behind them. Most of the Japanese art tattoos are big in design and cover a large surface area and the designs are distinctive too. The artists from this country are very skillful and carry the most amazing skills, passed on from generation to generation. They have the ability to depict intricate details, even the shadows in their wonderful designs.

For you to know, Japanese art have been the favorites of many people all over the world when it comes to tattooing for quite a long time already. These are the popular choices of many in the past years and even up to these days when it comes to gorgeous body adornments. The truth is, it is never that hard to recognize a Japanese art since there are several things that will determine that it is a Japanese art. One is the fact that it is usually a huge body art. Yes, it simply means that this art will normally have huge gorgeous designs of tattoos. Because of this, this will also require you to have a wider body part where the tattoo will be engraved. Such tattoo also involves so much details, making it to be a challenge to your hired professional artist.

Japanese tattoo


Needless to say, Japanese art tattoos have their very own rich history. It is greatly being associated to the Japanese culture in the past years and even up to these days. Ancient Japanese people decided to wear these tattoos for spiritual and societal reasons. These tattoos were even widely used in determining the social status of a certain Japanese individual. The truth is, these people were incorporating their superstitious beliefs in creating a design for their tattoos. This was the main reason why the Japanese culture would be nothing without the existence of the ever gorgeous and meaningful Japanese art. Regarding the social status, Japanese people in the past were using these tattoos when it comes to slavery. Yes, it might be a sad thing to know, but slavery was very rampant in the past. These tattoos used to separate the slaves from their masters.

From the slaves and their masters, these tattoos were then passed on several other groups of Japanese people like the world renowned Japanese Mafia and the Yakuza. These groups of people had huge involvement in the severe crimes happened in the entire Japan in the past years. Their notoriousness had even reached some other parts of the world. This goes to show that Japanese art tattoos were being associated to both good and bad matters, as far as their history is concerned.

Japanese tattoo

Japanese Tattoos Meanings

Japanese arts are unique in the context that each and every tattoo in this culture has a meaning to depict, which makes these as popular outside the country as they are within it. The images and symbols reflect a particular meaning in this art form. The most important thing for the tattoo bearer is to make an in depth study of the meaning of tattoo design before actually having it etched, as he is going to invest a lot of money and time on it and the tattoo is probably going to be a part of him forever. The design elements included in Japanese art are termed as motifs, each one having its own meaning, which can be immediately associated with it as a person looks at it.

Symbols used in Japanese Art

  • Japanese Dragon Tattoo – In Japanese culture, a dragon stands for wisdom, strength and power and it is seen in a positive context, as opposed to the Western world. They are regarded as benevolent creatures which work for the good of the humanity. For this reason, along with its aesthetic value, Japanese dragon tattoos have found great popularity right from the early times. Some tattoos may also feature dragons along with the phoenix, which is considered its enemy in the Japanese tradition and legend. The mythological bird is used to represent justice and feminine force.
  • Japanese Koi Tattoo – Koi fish is another important design in Japanese art. The fish represents determination, courage and desire for success. The fish, which is a type of carp, is considered to have masculine attributes according to the Japanese folklore. It has the ability to swim against the current and is an epitome of patience and determination.
  • Japanese Tiger Tattoo – The tiger is regarded as a sacred animal in the Japanese culture, which imparts strength, courage and good luck. Accordingly, tiger tattoos occupy an important place in the Japanese art.
  • Japanese Lion Tattoo – Lions are bold, strong and courageous animals and these tattoos which feature the animal in them stand for bravery and heroism.
  • Japanese Skull Tattoo – Skull is another design element, which is as popular in Japanese culture as it is in Western culture. It can depict death as well as represent the cycle of life and death in a positive light.
  • Japanese Yakuza Tattoo – Yakuza stands for the Japanese mafia and most of the members of the community are tattooed. They bear these tattoos to depict their masculinity as well as devotion to the gang.
  • Japanese Kanji Tattoo – Another popular option is the Kanji design, which is the lettering used as a part of this language. These tattoos have an amazing aesthetic value as they incorporate intricate designs with flowers and petals.
  • Japanese Wave Tattoo – Japan is the home to the destructive tsunamis or tidal waves and the country has always shown great determination, coming back strong after each destructive event. Similarly, the wave tattoo stands for courage, strength and survival in the most adverse situation. Moreover, water stands for strength, life and fluidity, all of which are represented by wave designs.

Japanese tattoo Japanese tattoo Japanese tattoo Japanese tattoo Japanese tattoo
Japanese tattoo

Japanese tattoos have a glorious history which dates back to 10000 BC. The legend goes that tattoos were first used by the Ainu tribe, where women had them etched on their upper lip. The motive behind this was that they made them resemble goddesses, which would ward off demons and disease. The small tattoos would be made at an early age and would increase in size as the bearer grew up. Later on, tattoos played an important role in social and religious ceremonies and they also indicated social status and standing of a person. Then, after 300 AD, a practice called bokkei started in Japan, whereby criminals were marked with tattoos and the practice continues till 1870. The criminals who already had such tattoos took them as a symbol of shame and used decorative tattoos to camouflage these designs. This was the period, after the end of World War II, when this art was banned by the Japanese authorities and it became associated with the country’s mafia, known by the name of Yakuza. The art made a comeback in 1945, but somewhere along the way, they still bear a relationship with crime and criminals. Though these designs are popular among the Western tattoo lovers, there are some places in Japan where they are not considered preferable, such as fitness centers, to ensure that the yakuza do not get access to the place. There is a sort of cultural code in the country, which forbids use of tattoos by the common people, who have nothing to do with crime and criminals. Currently, tattoos are a rage among the youth in the country, though they are more inclined towards modern Western designs rather than the traditional Japanese ones.

The tribal designs and old school tattoos are particularly popular among the youth, as they consider them to be style icons. The way devised by the youth to present this fashion statement, yet not invite the wrath of their cultural leaders, is to opt for temporary tattoos such as henna rather than permanent ones. The Japanese culture has been revered for its quality of patience and dedication, which also manifests itself in all forms of art of this culture, including tattoo art. This is the reason why most of the Japanese tattoo designs are considered as pieces of art, with abundant beauty and charm.

Japanese tattoo Japanese tattoo

Japanese tattoo Japanese tattoo 20c08001ea47e3c640cdf0a4a48d3f6dJapanese tattoo Japanese tattoo Japanese tattoo Japanese tattoo Japanese tattoo Japanese tattoo Japanese tattoo Japanese tattoo Japanese tattoo (2)Japanese tattoo (1)

Popular Designs And Their Meanings

Just like the other tattoos available to be engraved on your body these days, the Japanese tattoos can also offer you a lot of things when it comes to designs. You might be surprised how beautiful these designs are. Even so, these designs usually require a lot of work and expertise from the professional tattoo artists that you will hire. With his or her expertise, you can be sure that you will have the tattoos that you really want the most. Here are some of the popular gorgeous designs for these tattoos that you will definitely like to have on your own body:

  • Dragon Japanese Design – The dragon is a mythical creature that plays a very important role in the Japanese culture, especially when it comes to Japanese art tattoo. A lot of people are afraid of the dragons since they are known to spit some fire that is enough to melt an entire city. They are also very huge creatures that are known for their ferocity and strength. This is the main reason why many people have this belief that messing with the dragons or getting near to them will put your lives at risk. Even so, did you know that dragons are considered to be the protectors of mankind in the Japanese culture? This is the main reason why a dragon tattoo design is very popular among those men and women tattoo lovers in the entire world. If you want to tell the world that you have a good heart and you are a very brave type of a person, then having this design of a Japanese art would be perfect for you.
  • Japanese Koi Fish Tattoos – Koi fish is a Japanese carp that is very cute and can also be eaten like some other edible fishes on earth that is the reason Koi fish tattoos are one of those extremely famous animal tattoos in the world these days.
  • Phoenix Japanese Design – In the Japanese culture, the phoenix has a very strong connection to the dragon since they are both popular mythical creatures. This is the main reason why the phoenix tattoo design came into existence. Even though they have huge connections to each other, they still have different meanings. Just in case you do not know, phoenix was actually a regular bird at first. But after it was consumed by a huge fire, the bird was transformed into a phoenix and became extremely powerful. This is the main reason why this design is known to represent survival and triumph. If you are also like the phoenix who has overcome something big in life, then choosing the phoenix tattoo design is the best thing that you can do.
  • Snake Japanese Art – There are a lot of people in the world who strongly believe that snake is a symbol of Satan. This animal is known to represent evilness and betrayal. Even so, did you know that a snake is a sacred animal to the ancient Japanese people? This is the main reason why the snake art design is extremely famous these days. These people believe that it is signifying good luck. Many people wear a snake tattoo because they believe that it can help them save themselves from the horror of bad fortune. This is also one of the reasons why many people in the world are feeding the snakes that they have captured and made as pets because they believe that these animals can help them achieve a good fortune in life. This belief has of course, started in the ancient Japanese people.
  • Japanese Tiger Tattoo – Tiger tattoos occupy an important place in the Japanese art as tiger is considered as sacred animal in their culture.
  • Japanese Skull Tattoo – Skull has its own importance in their culture as Skull represent death as well as the cycle of life and death in a positive light.
  • Samurai Tattoo Designs – Such body adornment has a very important role in the Japanese culture, especially during the ancient times. Samurai was the general term used for those warriors in Japan during the Medieval times.
  • Japanese Yakuza Tattoo Designs – Yakuza stands for the Japanese mafia or gang and most of the members of the community are tattooed. They bear these tattoos to represent their masculinity as well as devotion to the gang the belong.
  • Fu-Dog Japanese Design – Fu-Dog is another creature that is very popular in the Japanese culture. It is made to be a very gorgeous design that will surely stir the interest within you. Actually, fu-dog is not only famous in the Japanese culture, but in the Chinese culture as well. For you to know, the fu-dog is an image of a lion and a dog. Isn’t that very unique? This image is even displayed in the entrances of the holy Japanese and Chinese shrines. Some people have this belief that this tattoo is very helpful in warding off evil spirits. This will also mean that you are not afraid to protect what is yours.
  • Japanese Kanji Tattoo – Another popular option is the Kanji design, which is the lettering used as a part of this language.
  • Japanese Wave Tattoo – Japan has always shown great determination, coming back strong after each destructive event such as destructive tsunamis or tidal waves. Similarly, the wave tattoo stands for courage, strength and survival in the most adverse situation.

Final Words

They are definitely very gorgeous when engraved on someone’s body. Aside from that, they are also extremely meaningful, depending on the design. Thus, it is no longer surprising why these tattoos are the popular choices of many when it comes to body adornments. If you want to have these tattoos, there are a lot of designs that you can consider such as the snake art, the phoenix tattoo design, the dragon tattoo design, and the Fu-Dog tattoo design. In choosing a design however, you have to take into account your physical appearance as well as your main purpose of having the tattoo. Always keep in mind that you also need to consider your own unique personality in choosing a design. Make sure that it complements your own personality.

Japanese tattoos have a unique value to them as they immediately stand apart from other designs. The tattoos are standing ovation to the great history and legend of the country, with elements such as koi fish, tiger, waves, kanji and dragon making an integral part of the tattoo art. These tattoos also have a long standing association with the Japanese mafia or the Yakuza.