Japanese Tattoo Designs: Popular Motifs, Symbols and Meanings

Japanese tattoo designs are renowned for their rich symbolism that is hard – if not impossible – to find in western tattoos.

In Japan, body art was used for centuries to talk about bravery, spiritual richness, power, or honor.

Cultural meaning aside, Japanese tattoos are utterly fascinating. It’s hard not to want one, but before engraving the design onto your skin, you should learn what these motifs mean and what’s the symbolism behind them.

Japanese Tattoos Symbols and Meanings

The history of tattoos in Japan goes back to around 10,000 BC when local civilizations started to ink their skin for spiritual or decorative purposes. Over the years, each element in a Japanese design has gained cultural significance and various meanings.

One of the most popular symbols in Japanese tattoos is the carp, also known as koi fish. It is a symbol of determination and strength, representing self-improvement and persistence in reaching your goals.

Floral motifs are also common in Japanese body art. Different kinds of flowers have various meanings, such as eternal love, unavoidable death, or gentleness.

Water is another central element in Japanese culture. Therefore it couldn’t have missed from tattoos. A wave is a commonly depicted image in the Japanese tattoo designs, representing life, strength, and fluidity.

Dragons and snakes are usually a symbol of protection, wisdom, and good luck, having an opposite meaning than their western counterparts.

Why Get a Japanese Tattoo

Japanese tattoos have become popular throughout the world thanks to their beautiful, colorful representation of symbolic elements. These designs are pure forms of art that use your body as a canvas.

From discreet motifs, such as small cherry blossoms, to full-sleeve tattoos and designs that cover a wide area of your skin, tattoos from the Japanese culture, give you the flexibility to choose any size you might like.

You can also choose from colorful artworks or black and white motifs so that you can match the design with your personality.

Popular Japanese Tattoos for Men

  • Japanese Cherry Blossom Tattoo: Cherry blossoms represent the ephemeral nature of life, and are one of the most popular motifs in the Japanese tattoo designs. They are usually tattooed on shoulders and arms, although it’s common to see them almost anywhere on the body.
  • Japanese Warrior Sleeve Tattoo: A warrior sleeve that covers the entire arm is much more than an extraordinary It symbolizes strength, courage, and a desire to focus on aspirations.

Popular Japanese Tattoos for Women

  • Japanese Lotus Tattoo: This flower present in many tattoo designs for women is closely tied to the Buddhist religion, depicting the struggle to reach the full potential in life and spiritual awakening.
  • Geisha Tattoo: Is usually placed on the arm or the leg. Geishas represent the hidden power, intrigue, and mystery of women.
  • Japanese Phoenix Tattoo: Like all phoenix tattoos, it represents rebirth and triumph. Larger designs are commonly placed on the back, but it’s not unusual to see phoenixes on any part of the body.
  • Japanese Dragon Tattoo: In the Japanese culture, dragons are benefactors of mankind and portray protection, bravery, wisdom, and strength. They are usually included in sleeves.

Japanese Tattoo Designs and Ideas

Now, to have you entertained with some incredible, inspiring and interesting tattoo designs and ideas coming from the Japanese culture, we have collected a few samples just for you to look at.

Japanese Tattoo Designs

Sleeve Tattoo - Japanese Warrior

Leg Tattoo - Japanese Devil

Full arm tattoo - Japanese Tiger (Tora)

Full arm design - Japanese floral

Koi fish tattoo design

Koi fish and flower Japanese tattoo

Full arm Koi fish

Ryu Japanese dragon

Geisha forearm Japanese tattoo

Japanese floral design

Japanese Tattoo Sleeve Ideas

Black and gray Lion Karashishi sleeve tattoo

Tora tiger tattoo

Realistic Minca Japanese idea

Sleeve red Koi fish

Japanese devil idea

Two full arms with Japanese tattoo designs

Sleeve koi fish Japanese

Japanese tattoo meditation
This Japanese tattoo is one of the most beautiful designs seeing ever. Meditation is a very important part of the Japanese culture and as you can see, this habit evolves and mix with nature, giving power. It is all about focusing on one thing and find the right answers.

Snake sleeve Japanese tattoo

Japanese tattoo work

Geisha tattoo idea

Japanese tiger tattoo

Japanese dragon chest tattoo

Devil sleeve tattoo idea

Forearm devil japanese tattoo

Warrior full back japanese tattoo idea

Hand Japanese ideas - warrior tattoo

Full skull devil Japanese tattoo

Dragon claws tattoo idea

Full body tattooed with japanese designs

Dragon and fox forearm tattoo design

Both sleeves tattoo Japanese sumo wrestler

Black dragon Full body Japanaese idea

Sumo fighters Tattoos

Black Japanese devil design

Japanese hand devil tattoo idea

The devil against green dragon full back tattoo

Japanese sumo wrestlers with tattoos

Black and red koi fish forearm tattoo

Black dragon tattoo design

Traditional Japanese Tattoo house

Wrap Up

Japanese symbolism is often the opposite of the western interpretation of things, and perhaps that’s what makes Japanese tattoo designs fascinating. Whether you’re getting it for the meaning or just for its decorative side, a Japanese tattoo is undoubtedly a great choice for everyone.


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