10 Best Japanese Dragon Tattoo Ideas You Have to See to Believe!

by Mark
Japanese Dragon Tattoos

Ever wondered what does a Japanese dragon tattoo symbolize? Or what does Japanese dragon tattoo mean? Find answers to these questions and much more right here.

Japanese Dragon Tattoo
@black_fox_tattoo via Instagram

Dragons are mythical creatures whose stories have been a part of Japanese mythology and have played an integral role in Japanese art and literature.

Japan has a rich history of tattooing and the Japanese dragons have been a part of this history as traditional Japanese tattoo designs come in various shapes and sizes that cater to the needs of everyone. However, it is said that prior to the Edo period, tattoos in Japan were inked on criminals, which is why even to this day, the Yakuza and other gangs sport the different coloured dragons like the yellow dragons, blue dragons, green dragons, black dragons, and gold dragons.

Since dragons have been a part of Japanese folklore, they are used as the symbol for good luck, freedom, balance, and success. In total there are six dragons in Japanese mythology, the Hai-Ryu is the largest dragon in the world and has stripes on its body. The Kai-Ryu is red in colour and is smaller than the other dragons. The Sue-Ryu is considered to be the dragon king who controls the rain. The Ri-Ryu is not well known to the world. The Hai-Ryu is known as a dragon bird and is the inspiration behind the popular phoenix tattoo designs. Fuku-Ryu is known as the symbol of good luck. Dragons are parts of different cultures too, as the Chinese dragon is the symbol of good luck, strength, and power.

The Japanese tattooing industry has seen Japanese traditional tattoos take on several different forms from traditional images and are often combined with other creatures like the snake and the tiger with which the dragon comes together to form the Yin-Yang concept.

Outline Traditional Japanese Dragon Tattoo Design

Outline Traditional Japanese Dragon Tattoo Design
@hwido_tattooer via Instagram

Outline tattoos have gained popularity over the years due to their stylistic look of being based solely on bold lines with no inked filled inside the tattoo.

This simple dragon tattoo is the perfect example of the outline art style that pays the perfect tribute to the ferocity of the mythical creature with its fierce approach. The dragon in the tattoo is drawn to perfection with all the scales and body features designed intricately to form the perfect interpretation of the Japanese dragon.

Tattoo ideas like this art can be a great leg tattoo but the size gives you a few other options as well, as you can get this inked on your shoulder, chest, or back of the body. You can also get your tattoo artist to mixed in other styles to the design or add creative writing to the tattoo’s body to add different meanings to the tattoo to make yours different than the usual popular tattoo choice.

Traditional Arm Sleeve Dragon And Tiger Tattoo Design

Traditional Arm Sleeve Dragon And Tiger Tattoo Design
@hwido_tattooer via Instagram

The style behind traditional Japanese tattoo ideas can be very exquisite in nature as the dragon tattoo can be combined with other mythical creatures like the snake and the tiger.

The symbolism and meanings behind both the tiger and dragon stand for ferocity and unyielding relentlessness, but when both these creatures are combined into a single design, strike a balance between these two ferocious animals and come together to form the yin-yang concept of life. In these types of tattoo designs, the tiger is seen as the more relentless animal of the two as it takes what it wants forcefully, whereas, the dragon represents patience and wisdom and is a sign of striking at the right time to get something out of nothing.

Neither the tiger nor the dragon can win alone, but when combined, these two can take down anything in their way as they are unstoppable.

Tattoo designs like this take inspiration from traditional Japanese tattoo designs, also known as the tebori technique which makes no of electrical tools and is created using tattoo needles.

If you are in search of badass Japanese dragon sleeve tattoos, then this tiger and dragon tattoo will be the perfect addition to your legs, shoulder, chest, or back.

Irezumi Traditional Japanese Dragon Tattoo Design

Irezumi Traditional Japanese Dragon Tattoo Design
@sameztattoo via Instagram

In Japan, the Irezumi style of tattoo is particularly famous with members of the Yakuza as they cover most of the skin with decorations based on the many mythical creatures and flowers from mythology and folklore.

This amazing piece of art is among the various tattoo designs that take inspiration from the irezumi style of tattoos as it covers the entire back with a large portrait of the ferocious creature. The dragon is inked with a purposeful intent as it does its best to bring out the design and fills it with a colourful palette of colours including red, black, and grey.

Traditional tattoo ideas like these are only suited to the back of the body. In case you want to change the base design a bit, you can always include a few options in the design by adding elements that portray different meanings for you or you can change the style a bit by adding different colours like blue or green to the tattoo.

A tattoo design like this is full of potential as you can make your very own rendition by adding or removing as many elements as possible.

Golden Traditional Japanese Dragon Tattoo Design

Golden Traditional Japanese Dragon Tattoo Design
@nobodytattoo via Instagram

In traditional Japanese culture, gold dragons represent prosperity and wealth as the Japanese dragon correlates to great sun deities or the harvest deities.

Golden dragon tattoo designs are a common art technique due to the meanings behind them, mainly that of prosperity.

This tattoo design is stunning to look at thanks to the amazing colourwork done on the portrait that too, is perfectly drawn. A tattoo like this is certainly a head-turner because of artwork done on it and will stand out in a crowd of tattoos. If you are in the search of traditional Japanese tattoos, then this shoulder tattoo is absolutely something that you should look into. This can also work as a leg tattoo because of its long frame.

As is the case with tattoos, the flexibility of designs is great to get the best out of them as you can add your own elements to these Japanese dragon tattoos to create your own version or you can throw in other creatures like the snake, or the koi fish or change the red colour band to blue as you take inspiration from your own life in an effort to your own art style in the vast Japanese dragon tattoos and ideas.

Japanese Dragon Sleeve Tattoo With Snake

Japanese Dragon Sleeve Tattoo With Snake
@sashakatuna via Instagram

In Japan, the snake or hebi, has played a vast role in the mythical aspect and symbolizes rebirth, continual renewal of life, and transformation. These creatures are seen as guardians that protect treasures and riches. Snakes, just like the dragon, also symbolize good luck, change, wisdom, and strength.

Individually both the creatures have their own meanings in tattoo ideas, but when they are combined, they strike the perfect balance as dragons are fierce and snakes are calm and cunning. This balance acts as the inspiration for many Japanese dragon tattoos that not only look good but are meaningful in nature.

Tattoo designs like this idea are best suited as a two-piece art with the snake taking one arm and the dragon, the other. The tattoo will take up a lot of space on your skin as it starts from the arm or the back and covers a small part of the chest. All in all, tattoo designs like this are a commitment because of their size and art structure.

Japanese Dragon Tattoo Sleeves Design

Japanese Dragon Tattoo Sleeves Design
@guindero via Instagram

Sleeve tattoos have been sensations throughout the history of tattoos because of their placement on the arm as it takes up the entirety of the mentioned part.

Dragon tattoos are suited as sleeve tattoos because of their large size and how the dragon is made to cover the entire arm.

This tattoo design uses the red dragon, commonly known as the Kai-Ryu which is smaller than the rest of the dragons in the mythology of Japan. The red colour dragon in the design fills this tattoo with a sense of ferocity as it soars through the clouds which are also a part of the tattoo.

The inkwork including black and grey along with a hint of yellow makes the tattoo pop visually as it combines the colours to create a perfect blend of the art technology that makes the best use of the design.

Fierce Japanese Dragon Tattoo Design

Fierce Japanese Dragon Tattoo Design
@zlukness via Instagram

Dragons are often seen as creatures that love soaring in the skies as they look down upon the world and provide it with blessings that bring good luck to people who wish for it. However, due to this carefree nature, it is often forgotten that dragons are one of the fiercest creatures that have been a part of several mythologies and folk tales.

Japanese dragon tattoos like this design are made to remind us of the ferocity of these creatures and how evil or destructive they can be when they make up their minds to destroy something.

This tattoo is the perfect interpretation of that bold and fierce approach that dragons have as it incorporates fierceness into the tattoo design. The black and grey shading in the tattoo gives it a mindful appearance and brings out the best of the design with the simple artwork and intricate dragon portrait.

Ideas like these fall under the various Japanese dragon leg tattoos due to their verticality and can also be inked on the chest if you are a bit adventurous.

Shoulder Japanese Dragon Tattoo Idea

Shoulder Japanese Dragon Tattoo Idea
@guindero via Instagram

Dragons in Japan are often shown as more fierce than their Chinese counterparts, but, are still seen as a force of good that brings luck and prosperity to people.

The green dragon is associated with nature and is often the inspiration behind the protection of nature in the Japanese community.

This tattoo uses the green dragon as the base of its design as it interprets the closeness that one can achieve with nature through the dragon inked on their bodies. The tattoo consists of several elements like flowers and leaves surrounding the dragon as it puts a stamp on the design that will serve as an inspiration for people who want to appreciate nature more with the addition of tattoo designs like this.

Japanese Dragon And Samurai Tattoo Idea

Japanese Dragon And Samurai Tattoo Idea
@joshhurrelltattoos via Instagram

The samurai is a crucial element or symbol in the various Japanese cultures and are often known for their unyielding courage and strength. Samurais are also symbols of masculinity, nobility, honour, respect, discipline, and courage.

Samurai tattoos on their own are cool and badass, but when they are combined with the mystical dragon, the tattoos become even more badass as they are both symbols of courage and strength.

This tattoo idea takes inspiration from the courageous side of Samurais as it pitches the samurai in a battle with the fierce dragon as it faces the daunting task of being a dragon-slayer.

The black and grey design of the tattoo is simple and takes nothing away from the amazing artwork involved in the creation of the dragon and samurai portraits.

Tattoo designs like this are great for drawing inspiration from because of their concept with pitches David against Goliath in an uphill battle for supremacy. If you want to go beyond your own limitations and achieve what others would consider impossible, then this tattoo is perfectly suited to you as it will hopefully, provide you with enough confidence to make the best of your situation and come out victorious.

Arm Sleeve Japanese Dragon Tattoo Idea

Arm Sleeve Japanese Dragon Tattoo Idea
@hwido_tattooer via Instagram

Popular to contrary belief, it is not disrespectful to get a dragon tattoo inked on yourself as these creatures are not only majestic but an important part of several mythologies. Dragon tattoos take inspiration from the carefree and nonchalant attitude of dragons.

This tattoo idea is great for people who want to bank on the fierce nature of dragons and make use of this to their own benefit by gaining a sense of confidence and strength that is achieved through the tattoo idea.

The inkwork on the tattoo combines several colour palettes and forms a design that is visually pleasing to look at as it adds a sense of courage to you. As seen in the picture, the best placement for this tattoo is usually the arm sleeve, but it can also be inked on your shoulder or back.

Here are some recommendations of dragon tattoos that you might like:

  • Japanese dragon head tattoo
  • Japanese dragon tattoo flash
  • Japanese style dragon tattoo

Still looking for inspiration, then checkout this blog post about dragon tattoo ideas.

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