Japanese tattoos often feature animals such as dragons, koi fish and tigers. The art of tattooing began in Japan as early as the Paleolithic Era as a way to display spirituality and as a form of decoration. Later, during the Kofun Period, the Japanese began tattooing prisoners as punishment which gave tattoos a negative connotation. Shortly afterward, tattoos were outlawed by the Japanese government in an effort to conform to Western culture ideas. The Japanese government legalized tattoos again in 1948, but many business continued to refuse to serve customers with Japanese tattoos because of the connection between tattoos and the Japanese mafia. Traditional Japanese tattoos, also known as "irezumi," tend to cover large areas of skin. Bodysuit tattoos that cover the entire back, chest and arms are common in traditional Japanese tattooing. Japanese tattoos are much more common and accepted in the Western world than they are in Japan. Most Japanese tattoo design ideas feature black outlines and strategically placed areas of color. Japanese tattoos require the tattoo artist to pay extreme attention to detail.
Often, Japanese tattoos are completed in more than one session because of their size and amount of detail and shading required. Properly executed Japanese tattoos are breathtaking. Flowers and trees are common motifs in Japanese tattoos. Some great ideas for Japanese tattoos include Japanese cherry blossoms or dragons. In Japanese culture, cherry blossoms symbolize life and vitality. Japanese dragons symbolize strength and wisdom. Although many samples of Japanese tattoos cover a large area of skin, modern Japanese tattoos can be smaller such as in tattoos of cherry blossoms or Japanese kanji:
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