The Meaning of Japanese Tattoos
In order to understand the meaning of Japanese tattoos it is essential to understand the history and background of the Japanese culture itself. The traditional Japanese tattoo (referred to as Horimono or Irezumi – which means “carving” or “engraving”) dates back to the 4th century, when the Chinese first reported full body tattoos on their Japanese neighbors. However, the art of the Japanese tattoo is believed to go back as far as 10,000 years B.C.
The meaning of Japanese tattoos however depends on the design, color, and location of the tattoo on the body. The most common tattoo designs and symbols in the Japanese tattoo culture are certainly mythological figures like the Dragon or Foo Dog; animal tattoos like the Koi fish (or Carp), the Tiger, the Snake, or the bird or Phoenix.
Also very popular Japanese tattoo designs with a particular meaning are flowers like the Cherry Blossom, the Lotus flower, and Peonies, along with the Bamboo or Maple leaves. Geisha and Samurai designs inspired by the “Ukiyo” prints (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ukiyo) between the 17th and the 19th century, are also very popular and meaningful tattoo designs, as well as the Japanese Buddha, to cover the most common symbols.
Every single of these typical Japanese tattoo designs has a specific meaning to it, which will be explained in detail by clicking on the links below:
The Japanese dragon (or Tatsu) originates in the Japanese mythology and merges native historical stories with legends of dragons from other Asian or Oriental countries like China, Korea, or India. As opposed to the meaning and the design of western dragon tattoos, the Japanese dragon does not have wings or spit fire. The Japanese dragon looks more like a lizard, snake, or some sort of reptile with clawed feet, and is usually associated with any type of water ... more
Foo Dogs (Fu Dogs, Foo Lions, Guardian Lions, or Komainu) are the guardians of Buddhist Asian temples. These ancient sacred dogs are usually placed to the left and to the right of a temple entrance ... more
The koi fish or Carp tattoo is one of the most popular Japanese tattoo designs of our time. The meaning of a koi fish or Carp tattoo depends mostly on it's color and it's position. In general the koi fish symbolizes courage and determination ... more
The Japanese tiger tattoo represents strength, courage, and power. It is also seen as a symbol for destruction, cruelty, beauty, and speed throughout many Asian countries like China, Thailand, India, Indonesia and more ... more
The meaning of the Japanese snake tattoo varies, but overall it stands for wisdom and knowledge, life and rejuvenation (due to the shedding of it's skin), and comes in various designs, colors, and positions. For example: A snake that bites it's own tail may stand for the cycle of life or eternity ... more
The bird or Phoenix (Hou-Ou or Hoo-Oo in Japanese) plays an essential role in the Japanese tattooing culture and is potent with meaning. One of it's most widely known meaning is the rebirth and resurrection, which made this fiery bird popular among tattoo enthusiasts ... more
For the Japanese the cherry blossom represents a short lived life to the fullest similar to the life of the Samurai. Therefore the meaning of the cherry blossom tattoo has along tradition in the Japanese culture ... more
The lotus flower is not only a very popular tattoo design in the Japanese culture, India, and throughout the Asian world, the lotus flower has also become a central part in tattoo design all over the world. Tattoo artists and tattoo enthusiasts appreciate this graceful flower for it's beauty and meaning ... more
The meaning of the Japanese Peony tattoo is very similar to the meaning of the lotus flower tattoo. It symbolizes the struggle of life and resembles a risk-taking and daring attitude as we know it from the Samurai ... more
The Japanese bamboo symbolizes longevity, courage, and constancy. The bamboo is one of the few plants that can withstand a Hurricane and are know for it's sturdiness. Therefore, the meaning of a Japanese bamboo tattoo design is pretty obvious ... more
The meaning of the Japanese maple leave is quite different than the meaning of a western maple leave. While in the western world the maple leave design is usually associated with Canada and it's flag, the Japanese maple leave's meaning is very similar to the meaning of a red rose in the western world ... more
In many parts of the western world a Geisha is believed to be the word for a Japanese prostitute, which is not the case at all. A Geisha is not a prostitute! In the eastern world a Geisha is a symbol of beauty, calmness, and patience ... more
The Samurai is probably one of the most prominent figures in the Japanese history. A samurai is a Japanese warrior, fearless, strong, and disciplined to the extreme, ready to give his life for the Japanese culture at any time ... more
The Japanese Buddha tattoo belongs to the religious group of tattoos and has a strong spiritual meaning in the eastern world. Buddhism was first introduced to the Japanese culture with the opening of the silk road around 200 B.C. by the Chinese and other Asian cultures ... more
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