40 Japanese Tattoos - Meanings, Photos and Designs

The history and significance of Japanese tattoos

Japanese tattoos surprise and fascinate with their deep meaning, colors and volumes. In the article we will describe the features of such paintings, express our point of view as to which tattoos are more suitable for girls and men. You can admire and pick up the original images by viewing our photo and thumbnail gallery.

How did the style originate?

It is believed that Japanese tattoos originated from Polynesian drawings. They were «brought» by the Ainus — the indigenous population of the Japanese islands, which lived next to the people of the rising sun. Initially, the native pictures were performed in the form of abstraction, but after the influence of Chinese culture, the contours of animals and fish gradually emerged. According to other sources, Japanese paintings came from China. The Japanese accepted Buddhism and painted on their bodies texts of prayers, an image of the Buddha and various guardian gods.

Japanese tattoos have changed in meaning and plot, because in every era the new ruler dictated his terms. Choosing the native picture in the Japanese style, it is better to consider that in the future its value can change.


Stages of development of Japanese tattoos

  • Ainas applied special talismans to the body to protect themselves from the attack of the fierce beast on the hunt.

  • Kofun Period (3rd century). The tattoo was applied to the face and body to accentuate its noble origin. During the archaeological excavations, heads of figurines (haniva) with remains of dyes on the forehead and cheeks were found.

  • Early Middle Ages (6th century). The inhabitants of Japan were divided into classes. With the help of a tattoo, they «marked» people who violated the law, as well as representatives of various professions. The butchers were pierced on the forearm of the line or the cross, and to traitors — on the forehead the hieroglyph «dog». To somehow arrange their lives, criminals dorisovyvali to the stigma of various elements. Perhaps, then the style of Japanese tattoo — irenzumi was born. The majority believes that today it is better not to put the ring on the wrists on the wrist, because their number tells how many crimes the owner has committed.

  • The appearance of samurai — soldiers from various aristocratic classes who served the feudal lord (from the 7th century). They stuffed protective symbols and various pictures to show their courage and determination in battle. Japanese Samurai tattoo is considered the most expensive and laborious picture. It has a diverse color spectrum and numerous elements, each has its own meaning and purpose. In general, it means strength of mind and unbending will.

  • Heian’s period of tranquility (794). Tattoos acquired a completely different direction — they became a symbol of love and devotion, and in parallel, the pictures became religious. On the bodies of the Japanese there were signs of light feelings, the Buddha and the goddess of mercy Canon. Perhaps during this period there was a romantic style of a Japanese tattoo — a haman. With his help demonstrated high human qualities, courage and determination. Later, the drawings began to be applied to girls.

  • The Edo Age (1603). Dictators came to power, established rules of behavior, based on the class. Forbade tattoos, but for the sake of protest, the Japanese began to fill the nude pictures exclusively on the contours of clothing. From the chest to the abdomen there was a strip of the body, so that the robe could easily be opened without showing a tattoo. It was forbidden to strip the torso, so the firemen also painted their body, because putting out the fire in simple clothes was dangerous.

Rescuers depicted protective signs and symbols of patrons of water elements. They were supported by fishermen and merchants, depicting on the body of marine inhabitants.

Perhaps the Japanese tattoo revived with geisha , as the girls had a fairly high status in the society. They put on the body patterns, imitating a festive kimono. Perhaps in this period there was another kind of Japanese tattoo for girls — kakusi-boro (invisible figure). The invisible picture is a «decorative» cut, a rice powder is rubbed into it. When the wounds heal, the tattoo is almost invisible, but only the capillaries will receive a flow of blood (after a hot bath, alcohol or intimacy), the pattern becomes distinct.


Popular Plots

Japanese paintings — the desire to express themselves, to show their power, strength and courage. What is the difference between Japanese style tattoos from other drawings?

  1. Symbolism. Each element has a deep meaning. Its meaning depends on the location and additional elements, so each image is carefully thought through by the master.
  2. Large sizes of paintings. The master stuffs them into several stages, which can last for several years.
  3. The visible areas of the body are not covered: hands, feet, a strip for an «unfrozen dressing gown», a neck.
  4. Brightness and color of the color scheme, play in contrast.
  5. Asymmetry of figures. The meaning of the Japanese tattoo depends on the location on the body.
  6. Neck. The possessor is the bearer of the secret or demonstrates his own special qualities, inherent only to him.
  7. Arm. The possessor knows what he wants from himself and others, he is resolute, with a strong character and spirit.
  8. Breast tattoos are a challenge to others.
  9. Figure on the back — inner protection and dominance. The owner seeks to show his capabilities and potential.
  10. The image on the leg — movement and the desire to achieve the set goals, is sometimes interpreted as a search for a support.
  11. The forearm is chosen by courageous and strong men.
  12. More details about the symbolism

    Japanese hieroglyphs. According to legend, Emperor Jimma conquered the Queen Senoyatatar with his native drawings and pinned the name of his beloved, adding the hieroglyph «life». After many couples began to follow his example, to perpetuate their feelings, to prove their devotion and love for the rest of their lives. It is necessary to accurately put the signs, because individually they have one symbol, and in the sentence — completely different.

    Of particular importance are tattoos yakuza or irendzumi. Mostly they are painted with red and black pigments. The plot is dominated by religious motives, gambling, everyday situations and figures in motion. It is believed that it was the criminal yakuza clan that brought into fashion huge Japanese tattoos for men. They denote power and courage. These are zigzagging serpents and dragons, realistically traced fish scales.

    Girls and men often see Japanese dragon tattoos, which means strength, loyalty, nobility. For firemen, the fairy-tale character became a protector from the fire, for emperors was a symbol of power. Often stuffed in Western style: without shading, contours are filled with a homogeneous color and without transitions. The dragon is often portrayed with the body of a snake, horns or ears of a bull, then its symbolism becomes wider. If a monster wraps its sword and looks forward with red eyes, tattoo means power and strength, in the clouds — determination for the sake of freedom.

    The Japanese carp tattoo is popular, it is performed in orange and red colors, mostly along with the waves. It differs ornamentality and dynamism, it means courage, cold-bloodedness before an inevitable fate. Businessmen, travelers and sportsmen fill this figure in a golden hue to a sign of luck, financial well-being.

    Of particular importance is the picture of the redskin child Kintoro. It symbolizes courage and strength, and with a blue belt — thinking. He is often depicted naked and struggling with carp.

    Flower motifs — another feature of Japanese tattoos. Men use them as an additional element in their own composition. Often there is a peony with a lion — a balance of power and beauty. The samurai put on their bodies sakura branches with chrysanthemum to show the enemy fearlessness and willingness to die in battle. For girls, cherry blossoms are a symbol of beauty and fleetingness, in some cases a sign of sadness. Beautiful ladies stuff a tiger (perseverance and power), a phoenix (rebirth and celebration), a dragon with a snake body, a Koi carp. Japanese girls are interested in tattooing masks, especially Chania. According to legend, one monarch rejected the Japanese, but the beauty decided to take revenge and turned into a demon. Such a mask indicates the insidiousness of an offended woman.

    Girls often choose the image of demons, monsters and werewolves of small sizes to fit on the shoulder blade, forearm and thigh. Such pictures protect from evil and deceit, symbolize faith in the spiritual world and act as punishment for injustice.

    Men put on a demon mask. They’re with a weapon that looks like a metal spear with spikes. It means strength and vitality. Often there are images of soldiers, landscapes, the rising sun, battles of samurai with demons, mythical creatures.

    Japanese tattoos, despite the plot, are always aesthetic and attractive.

    Japanese Tattoo Pictures

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    Japanese masks




    On the back


    On shoulders


    On the legs




    On the neck




    Japanese warrior




    Hannya masks


    Peony in Japanese style




    Sketches and designs in Japanese style

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