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Japanese Tattoos | History, Meanings And Symbolism

Japanese tattoos has a tradition that has been followed for quite a long time. With many non-Japanese adopting the Japanese tattoo culture. Japanese tattoos mean different things with some wearing them as a sign of protection from the charm and a symbol of devotion. 

Each tattoo worn has its meaning and purpose. It is often viewed as a means to demonstrate societal status.

The relationship between the Japanese and tattoo art has been a complex one. It may have begun as early as 5000 BC in the form of lines marking the face, but it was definitely outlawed by the eighth-century BC when tattoos were only used as a form of punishment. 

Nowadays, this type of art is seen as a form of expression and portrays peoples personal beliefs. It also relates to character traits or aspirations. The resulting tattoos were believed to have magical properties, protecting the wearer from harm.

A History Of The Art


Tattooing has been part of the culture in Southeast Asia for more than 2000 years. It is practised in Cambodia, Thailand and beyond. 

According to Tattoo World, machines came in very late to the Japanese tattoo scene. Japanese tattooing was all about handmade stuff. 

Wild things are also intimately bound up within traditional Japanese tattooing. The subject matter can deal with gods, monsters and other mythical creatures. But the practice has many other murky associations with the more savage side of society as well.

Japanese tattooing has moved beyond the traditional sense to include modern artists creating smaller pieces informed by the traditional Japanese aesthetic. 

For example leaping koi sleeves, matching dogs or larger pieces. Or water pieces that stick to the back and don’t stray down or around the body. 

They are found to be elements in many legends and folk tales and to possess a great amount of courage, work ethic, and the ability to flow, like water, through the hardships of life.

There is the story of Kintaro, however, that shows that koi can also be stubborn and dangerous. 

The Japanese Tattoos Symbolism

Fu Dogs or Chinese guardian lions are other well-known images. They are protectors and bring the wearer stability in wealth and health during their lifetime. 

Dragons with snarling nostrils enveloped in flame and light pink cherry blossoms floating in the wind. These are the icons of Japanese tattooing. It is called Irezumi. 

A tradition with ancient roots in human history, Japanese tattoos are some of the most revered artworks within the tattoo community and this reason why in today’s generation they are increasingly popular.

The meaning behind the work is dependant on colours used, placement, and other images surrounding the main concept. 

When it comes to choosing the best placement for a Japanese tattoo, it is important to keep in mind that Japanese tattoos often look the best when a large amount of space is allowed.

They tend to look the best when covering a large portion of skin that allows for enough room for the extensive detail used in the style.

For those looking to add a Japanese tattoo to their collection typically select a limb or the entire back.


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