Traditional Japanese Tattoo Meanings


What are the traditional Japanese tattoo meanings? In the world of tattoos, Japanese tattoos have always been quite popular as they are unique, artistic and have a rich history.


Rules for Japanese Tattoos

So, lets start from the basic concepts. In order to understand the concept of “traditional”, it is important to have a clear idea of three very important rules:

Rule 1: The Japanese tattoos have to have a unique bright, clean colors, rich in detail and usually be quite big (like covering all your chest, back or any part of the body you like).

Traditional Japanese Tattoo Meanings - tebori

Rule 2: The Japanese tattoo has to have themes and symbols traditional to the culture.

Traditional Japanese Tattoo Meanings - tebori

Rule 3 (and most important):  The tattoo artists has to do it by hand. This technique is called “tebori”.

Traditional Japanese Tattoo Meanings - tebori

 

Their rules are simple, but many may not know the real meaning behind these beautiful tattoos. So, what are traditional Japanese tattoo meanings? And what is their history and importance?


History behind the Traditional Japanese Tattoos

Japanese tattoos first appeared 10000 years BC. At first, women wore them on their upper lips. These first Japanese tattoos were used to chase away diseases and demons. Later in history, traditional Japanese tattoos showed people’s social status. Afterwards, for centuries, these tattoos were linked to criminals and were illegal, having a great impact on society as they were wore by the Yakuza mafia.

Traditional Japanese Tattoo Meanings - Yakuza

After 1945, everything changed and tattoos became legal again. Today, young people all over Japan, but also in the West, love to wear traditional Japanese tattoos. They do so because they enjoy their rich symbolism and deep meanings.


Traditional Japanese Tattoo Meanings

There are a few meanings to the traditional Japanese tattoo and also, many forms of art. This art is called “Irezumi”.

Traditional Japanese Tattoo Meanings - Irezumi

The most popular designs are tribal designs and classic tattoos. The most popular symbols include the tiger, the Koi fish, the lion, the skull and mythical animals such as dragons. Each has its own special meaning, which is the reason why they are so beloved.

RYU (Dragons):

The Japanese dragon means wisdom, power and great strength. The Japanese view dragons as kind creatures, ones that help and protect them. The color of the dragon tattoo also plays a role in its meaning. Black dragons mean wisdom and experience. Green dragons are linked with nature. Gold dragons stand for value and virtue.

Traditional Japanese Tattoo Meanings - black dragon

Traditional Japanese Tattoo Meanings - red dragon

Traditional Japanese Tattoo Meanings - red & green dragon

Tora (Tiger):

The tattoo of the Japanese tiger is meant to bring strength, courage and good luck. This tattoo is also meant to chase away evil spirits and diseases.

Traditional Japanese Tattoo Meanings - tora

Traditional Japanese Tattoo Meanings - tora

Traditional Japanese Tattoo Meanings - tora

Koi (Carp):

The Japanese Koi is meant to bring success and bravery to the one who wears it. The red Koi tattoo is extra unique, as it means love.

Traditional Japanese Tattoo Meanings - Koi

Traditional Japanese Tattoo Meanings - Koi

Traditional Japanese Tattoo Meanings - Koi

Karashishi (Lion):

The tattoo of the Japanese lion is meant to bring courage and strength. This tattoo also protects the person wearing it.

Traditional Japanese Tattoo Meanings - Karashishi

Traditional Japanese Tattoo Meanings - Karashishi Traditional Japanese Tattoo Meanings - Karashishi

Zugaikotsu (Skull):

The skull tattoo represents death, but in fact, it represent a natural part of life, a celebration of a great life. Usually used when someone pass away and there is a need to show respect for that person.

Traditional Japanese Tattoo Meanings - Skull

Traditional Japanese Tattoo Meanings - Skull

Traditional Japanese Tattoo Meanings - Skull

 


Final Thoughts

Traditional Japanese tattoos are one of the most favorite types of tattoos today. They are bold, bright, artistic, with a rich history. They were always important in Japanese culture and history. These tattoos usually present tigers, dragons, skulls, lions, the traditional Japanese Koi, and popular Japanese culture themes.

Each of these symbols has traditional Japanese tattoo meanings, which are usually strength, wisdom, power and courage. They are also usually meant to bring success or good luck, to protect, and chase away diseases. The color of the tattoo also has its own meaning. All in all, traditional Japanese tattoos are always a great choice for a tattoo full of meanings.

The Japanese say you have three faces:

The first face, you show the world; the second face, you show to you close friends and family and the third face, you never show anyone. The truest reflection of who you are!