Reviewed & updated: November 23, 2022 by Jamie Wilson BA
Japanese style tattoos are popular for their unique designs! If you’re planning to get one then here is a list of designs you should check out.
Japanese style of tattooing is known as Irezumi meaning ‘inserting ink’.
The subject matter of the traditional Japanese inking style includes elements of nature, Japanese mythical creatures, and animals. These designs, enriched with symbolic meaning, represent the essence of Japanese tradition.
Tattoos have dominated the Japanese culture for decades. The origin of this ancient art form can be traced back to the Paleolithic period in the history of Japan. However, during the Edo period in Japan, tattoos were used to mark criminals and the placement of the tattoos was determined by the type of crimes committed by them. Japanese tattoo artists use a special Nara ink to portray the tattoos which give the design a unique shade of colour. Traditional Japanese tattooing is often performed by using traditional tools comprising of a wooden handle and a needle attached to a silk thread. The theme of these designs revolves around the mythological characters from Japanese folklore, living creatures, along with various aspects of nature like the sea, flowers, and leaves. Take a look at these traditional Japanese tattoos along with their beautiful symbolism!
Japanese Dragon Tattoo
The Japanese dragon is inked in a vibrant shade of blue and the patterns on its skin are detailed with white ink. Its underparts are inked in a contrasting shaded of yellow. The bulging red eyes of the dragon are inked with realistic details. Moreover, the purple floral motifs enhance the charm of the tattoo. According to Japanese mythology, dragons are portrayed as protectors of mankind. Thus, the dragon symbolizes strength, protection and courage.
A stunning monochromatic dragon is paired with vibrant hibiscus flowers. The dragon is beautifully inked in black ink with intricate detailing on its skin. The hibiscus is inked in a crimson red hue that adds a stunning contrast to the design. You can place this floral dragon design on your thigh or back where there is enough space to ink the details.
Japanese Hannya Mask Tattoo
This half sleeve traditional Japanese tattoo portrays the popular Hannya mask with a blue serpent coiled around it. The mask is inked in a red hue with yellow piercing eyes. The fangs of the Hannya mask are inked with vivid detailing. The blue serpent stands in contrast to the red Hannya mask. The tiny florals placed on the dark backdrop add to the beauty of the design.
The Hannya mask is inked on the entire back of the wearer with intricate detailing. The mask is shaded in a greyish hue and detailed in black ink. The daunting appearance of the mask is enhanced by the fierce gaze in its eyes and long fangs. In Japanese, the word ‘Hannya’ stands for wisdom. Thus, it is a popular theme when it comes to Irezumi tattoo art and symbolizes good luck.
Japanese Floral Tattoo
A peony tattoo sleeve on a dark backdrop can be a gorgeous idea for your next ink. The peonies are inked in a bright orange hue and outlined in black and white ink. The traditional Japanese style backdrop beautifully highlights the entire design. You can also incorporate cherry blossoms and maple leaves to add layers to your Japanese floral sleeve tattoo.
The full sleeve floral tattoo beautifully portrays the samurai on the chest of the wearer. The samurai is inked in monochrome on a black backdrop. The peony flower on the arm is shaded in an orange hue. The samurai happened to be powerful military warriors in feudal Japan. Thus, a samurai tattoo represents courage, bravery, and strength.
Japanese Koi Fish Tattoo
A giant koi fish is inked in a traditional Japanese style on the arm of the wearer. The glistening scales of the black koi are highlighted in white ink and shaded in a yellow hue. The fish is swimming in a sea with small tidal waves. The beautiful floral motifs accentuate the charm of the koi sleeve. The koi fish tattoos symbolize perseverance and are indicative of the obstacles one has overcome in life.
This can be a great alternative to the koi fish tattoo inked in a bluish hue. The fins of the fish are portrayed in a contrasting shade of yellow with black detailing. The blue scales of the fish are inked with intricate details. The black waves of the sea with orange floral motifs act as a stunning backdrop to the design.
Japanese Lion-Dog Tattoo
A Japanese lion-dog is a famous mythical creature that originated from Japanese folklore. It can be transformed into great body art with symbolic meaning. The lion dog, also known as the fu dog, is inked in a vibrant shade of red along the length of the leg. Its eyes and sharp teeth are inked in white while the small patterns on its body are inked in black. Place this design on your back or leg where there is ample space to fill the details.
You can also opt for a monochromatic fu dog tattoo design. Its fierce eyes, large claws and sharp canines are intricately detailed in black ink. In Japanese tradition, fu dogs are depicted as fierce beasts who serve as a protector and symbolize guardianship. Tattoos of mythical fu dogs are believed to curb evil spirits and bring good fortune to the wearer.
Japanese Snake Tattoo
Serpents have always been a popular subject when it comes to Irezumi. A stunning snake, coiled in a spiral, is inked on the thigh of the wearer. Its bluish skin is detailed with tiny dots while the underparts are shaded in yellow. Its long fangs and forked tongue are visible from its mouth. As snakes shed their skin to heal, Japanese snake tattoos are often associated with transformation and rebirth. Japanese snake tattoos also serve as a symbol of protection against bad luck.
A stunning black snake is paired with bright red flowers in this Japanese tattoo design. The vivid portrayal of the snake in an intense black ink makes the design look enchanting. Moreover, the contrasting red floral motifs, highlighted in white, add to the brilliance of this snake tattoo.
Japanese Tiger Tattoo Sleeve
A fierce tiger is portrayed with a touch of realism on the arm of the wearer. The intricate shading of the black tiger stripes in a yellowish hue enhances the beauty of the design. The glint in its eyes is beautifully portrayed in a shade of green with black detailing. Its large claws and sharp canines are shaded with grey ink. The tiger tattoo symbolizes the qualities of strength and courage which are attributed to the animal.
Japanese Wave Tattoo
You can opt for this really cool armband tattoo detailed with beautiful waves. The scene represents a mountainside by the sea at night. The blue waves, representing the majesty of the sea, are highlighted in white ink. Waves are an unstoppable force of nature. Similarly, wave tattoos symbolize continuity in life. It is a reminder to move forward in life despite facing hardships.
The design portrays a large ship sailing in the ocean on a stormy day. The water in the ocean has curled up in a giant wave in front of the ship. The intricate detailing of the ship enhances the depth of the design. The big waves are shaded in grey ink and outlined in black.
Japanese Goldfish Tattoo
This beautiful Japanese tattoo design portrays a pair of goldfish with floral detailing. The tattoo artist has replaced the scales of the goldfish with stunning floral motifs. The pink flowers on a black backdrop are inked on the goldfish tattoos. Its fins are shaded in black stripes. The eyes of the fish are detailed with concentric circles. The goldfish tattoos represent prosperity and harmony in the family.
You can also ink a realistic pair of goldfish like the one shown in the picture. The scales of the fishes are inked in a gradient of blue and green ink. Its sparkling eyes are detailed in white. The water of the sea is shaded in black with traditional Japanese waves.
Japanese Skull Tattoo
The serpent is coiled around the skull in this mysterious design. The intricate shading on the skull has given it a realistic appearance. The snake is detailed with red patterns on its skin while its eyes are inked in a yellow tint. The orange maple leaves accentuate the charm of the design with its vibrant hue.
The vivid portrayal of the Japanese tattoo designs along with their cultural significance has resonated with people all over the world. It is an ancient art form that dates back centuries. Japanese traditional tattoos are a representation of Japanese society, culture, values, and tradition. Here is a curated list of suggestions for traditional Japanese tattoos that you might like!
- Japanese style traditional dragon tattoo sleeve
- Japanese traditional style tattoo floral sleeve
- Yakuza tattoo with realistic detailing on the back
- Traditional style Japanese tattoo of Samurai on the arm
- Peonies, lotus flowers, and hot springs in Japanese traditional tattoo style on the back
- Traditional Japanese style tattoo of the Hannya mask in vibrant colours
- Traditional Irezumi tattoos of the Japanese mafia
- Traditional tattoos of the Japanese phoenix on the chest
- Full body tattoo of Koi fish tattoo with floral detailing
- Traditional Japanese tattoos of serpents
feature image from Pinterest
What is traditional Japanese tattoo style?
Traditional Japanese tattoo style is a form of body art that has been practiced in Japan for centuries. It involves the application of intricate black ink designs, typically depicting iconic symbols from nature such as dragons, tigers, and koi fish. Traditional Japanese tattoos are often highly symbolic; with each design carrying its own unique meaning and purpose. Common motifs include animals, dragons, samurai warriors and other symbols of bravery, strength and longevity. The bold lines and distinctive shading in these tattoos give them a striking appearance that is unmistakably Japanese.
What are the characteristics of traditional Japanese tattoo style?
Traditional Japanese tattoos are known for their bold lines and shading, in contrast to other styles of tattooing. The symbols used have a deep meaning that is rooted in the culture and its history. Typically, traditional Japanese tattoos will be done with black ink only, though some color may be used as well. Additionally, the designs tend to be quite large and cover significant portions of the body. The traditional Japanese tattoo style emphasizes intricate details that require a great deal of skill from the artist, making them highly sought after by those looking for unique and complex designs.
Why is traditional Japanese tattoo style so popular?
Traditional Japanese tattoo style has become increasingly popular in recent years. This is due to the fact that it carries so much meaning and symbolism, making it a great choice for those looking to express their beliefs or passions through body art. Additionally, many admire the bold lines and intricate details of the tattoos, which can make them quite eye-catching.