Reviewed & updated: April 7, 2023 by Jamie Wilson BA
Komainu or foo dog tattoo can be much more than what it appears. Explore the 10 best Komainu tattoo designs below to inspire your next tattoo.
Komainu tattoos are a combination of a dog and lion and are called Japanese lion or foo dog tattoos.
With different meanings for both males and females, these guardian lions, or as traditionally said foo dogs, are immensely popular in Japan, China, and the rest of the world.
Guardian lions are an irreplaceable part of India and its culture. The statues of these beasts were used as the protectors of the temples. Among the Chinese dog breeds, the creatures like Shih Tzu and puffy lion dogs are mixed breeds between a dog and a lion. Often described as guardian lions, lion dogs also have an in-depth cultural significance in China because its Tang dynasty gave birth to the foo dog tattoos. Komainu tattoo meaning is different in every culture. In Japan, Komainu tattoos are regarded as guardians who protect the holy shrines and are represented by guardian lions. In the 9th century, foo dog tattoos with horns became popular in Korea also. Lord Buddha is a divine figure in Chinese and Buddhism. Let’s take a look at some magical, mystical Komainu tattoo designs.
Black Shoulder Blade Komainu Tattoo
The tattoo artist has carved the foo dog here with raven ink. The big red glowing eyes and the open mouth of the foo dog are representing its angry emotions. Foo dogs with fierce expressions are regarded as protectors of heaven. Chinese and Japanese people believe in their ability to chase away the evils of society, hence a male and a female foo dog cum guardian lion are kept at different sacred entrances such as palaces by Chinese, Buddhist temples, and so on. The dark hairs of the foo dog are permed in curly bangs on its forehead using circular strokes giving it an outlook of lion-like creatures. Dog and lion tattoos like these have great significance.
Half Sleeve Noh Mask Komainu Tattoo
With the symbolism of art and talent, the Noh mask is derived from a traditional drama in Japan. In the given tattoo, the closed mouth foo dog tattoo which is tatted on the forearm is spreading towards the chest of the tattoo holder and taking the form of the noh mask tattoo with its mouth open. This noh mask tattoo is believed to represent the gender, life, social ranks, and age of the demonic creature. The given lion-dog is shaded in curvy patterns using light hands to highlight his beards and hairs. The outline of the noh mask tattoo is completed with dark strokes as a symbol of its angry expressions.
The Holy Lion Dog Red Komainu Tattoo
In the given foo dog tattoo, the tattoo artist has split a red and angry lion-dog tattoo from the centre to reveal a woman’s face with red outlines. While the foo dog tattoo is believed to be a symbolism of strength and protection, the lady tattoo inclines more towards loyalty, devotion, and peace. Both the pairs are referred together as guardians to balance the yin and yang pairs, to spread the energy and harmony, mainly in Japan, the Han dynasty of China, and other Asian countries. The evolution of age from childhood to adulthood is clearly referred to by the hairpins on the bun inside the foo dog tattoo.
Chinese Style Foo Lion Dog Tattoo
The foo dog in the given tattoo is in its full form with the body of lion-like creatures and the head of foo dogs. Surrounded by some flowers and leaves, the foo dog tattoo is tattooed with black curvy lines. There is a spiral pattern starting from the head of the lion cum foo dog and goes all the way to the paw of the lion tattoo. The flowers in this lion cum foo dog tattoo symbolize hope and purity while the common sight of the lion is a clear indication of protection, spirituality, prosperity, and calmness. Here the guardian lion tattoos are tatted alone but usually, they come in pairs in the history of Buddhism.
Fierce Foo Dogs With Dagger Tattoo
The artist has inked a guardian lion with different shades of black colour and a few red-coloured strokes. It already means to spread happiness and energy, brings prosperity and success with a promise of forever protection. Its placement on the right-hand chest of the tattoo holder adds another dimension to its meaning. The tattoo of a foo dog/lion represents the masculine nature and physical strength to prevent against any odds. The closeness of the foo dog tattoo towards the heart shows its emotional significance and the depth of the bonding. This could make for a great Japanese Komainu tattoo on the back or chest.
Full Sleeve Puffy Lion Dog Tattoo
The tattoo started with different things from colourful flowers to misty clouds and the foo dog tattoo. In a sense, it is telling the story of guardian lions or foo dogs to represent the struggle and transition in life. The tattoo of the statues started with sun and star on the shoulder is believed as commercial structures for truth and light. Anybody, who wears such foo dog tattoos is in search of the real meaning of the outer world. This full sleeve foo dog tattoo can be linked to the Nara period of the history of Japan. The green-coloured foo dog tattoo legend is a symbol of prosperity to provide money and goodwill.
Kawaii Komainu Tattoo On Forearm
The artist has carved a small foo dog tattoo on the upper arm of the tattoo holder. The sides of the foo dog are highlighted with dark strokes while its body is decorated with subtle dot technique. It is also covered with white polka dots. Circular patterns and straight lines are forming the shape of the beard and hairs of the male foo dog (represented by yang) who has his mouth closed. With a special bond with Asia, such tattoos go by the meaning of active and flourished energy. Though according to history, it is true that lion statues are paired with yin, some modern artists usually carve the guardian lions alone as done in this tattoo.
Guardian Lion Dog Tattoo
In the above link, one of the guardian lions with its mouth open is tattooed behind the palm. The presence of the sun on its forehead is indicating towards life, energy flow, power, the realization of inner strength, and a strong belief in religion. The red colour starting from the sun is spreading all over the face of the lion, portraying an angry look. The hand banger tattoos show the bold attitude of the tattoo holder. You can have this beautiful and meaningful tattoo on any part of the body if you want. A Komainu tattoo, small or big, will still promise you protection from all the mishappenings and evils.
Foo Dog Tattoo On The Back
In the following back tattoo, a foo dog is sitting on his knees and a few flags are tied behind him. It is showing the fighter and protector instincts of the guardian lion. The artist has painted some ornaments along with a thick neck chain around this lion-dog. With its mouth opened and sharp paw nails, the lion tattooed on the back is representing an ending to the previous lifestyle and relations and the beginning of a new phase. Its placement on the back is showing the hesitant nature of the tattoo holder. It is also giving mysterious vibes about the tattoo wearer.
Fiery Komainu Tattoo On The Leg
In the given tattoo, an open-mouthed foo dog is made with dark and light strokes of black ink. Its eyebrows and moustache are tattooed in a curvey style. Its left side of the face is followed by some red flames. Foo dog lion tattoo on the thigh has more depth than on any other body part. Their significance lies in the fact that only some people will be able to see this tattoo, usually the most closer ones as some places are not for every eye to see. It will strongly connect two people. The main objective of the statues in this tattoo is to ensure safety.
If you are looking for more suggestions for a Komainu tattoo, take a look at the suggestions below.
- Komainu Fox Tattoo
- Komainu Hip Tattoo
- Komainu Tatto And Star
- Komainu chest tattoo
- Japanese Komainu tattoo back design
Still looking for inspiration, then checkout this blog post about dog paw tattoos
Feature image from Pinterest