In Asian culture, Japanese traditions occupy a special place. Exciting, they fascinate us and inspire contemporary deco solutions for The bathroom , for the garden and, in a general way, for the whole house.
Today, we turn to another aspect of the culture of the country of the Rising Sun: the Japanese tattoo.
The Japanese tattoo has a long history and a deep meaning.
That’s why the choice of images and symbols is an interesting step. It allows us to familiarize ourselves with many aspects of Japanese body art. Decoding of this tradition of body decoration and its original symbols in the lines that follow!
Meaning traditional and modern Japanese tattoo
The Japanese tattoo has always possessed a deep meaning. Spiritual, social, aesthetic … the values of the images appearing in the motifs of Japanese body art were numerous according to the periods. Some mouth-to-mouth stories claim that the first tattoos in this region of Asia dated back to a very ancient period. They would be typical of the people of Ainu, indigenous inhabitants of Asia. Their function would be to give girls and women an aspect closer to that of a deity.
Japanese tattoo meaning in the past
Whatever the true origins of Japanese body art, it has undergone a very important development throughout the existence of the culture of the island of the Sun-Levant. Rich in color and in images, sometimes striking for the European observer, he has not always been charged with a purely positive value.
At a given time, the decorative images on the human body were used to indicate the social status of the person. They allowed to distinguish between master and slave. In a similar way, they could also mark the body of a person convicted of a crime.
Later, Japanese tattoos were associated with the mafia. Yakuza tattoos were often drawn on the whole body. Some of the pictures were made using the traditional Japanese tattoo technique: with a specific ink, says Nara. Rich in patterns and details, these images could take several years to complete, especially when they covered the entire body. Moreover, in the past, the process could be quite painful, since it consisted of introducing the ink under the skin using handmade instruments (bamboo or steel)!
Small lexicon related to traditional Japanese tattoo rites
The Japanese language has a rich dictionary of terms related to tattooing and Japanese tattooers. Word irezumi, which can be a verb or a noun, thus designates the tattoo itself. At the same time, we also find the term horimono , used to refer to the traditional Japanese tattoo. The artist practicing the tattoo artist’s job is said, as for him, horishi.
Then, the Japanese language also has separate words for the inks used in the tattooing process, for different parts of the body covered with images and for various instruments. The job of the Japanese tattoo artist is learned after many years from a master specialized in the field. During the apprenticeship period, future Japanese tattoo artists become familiar with the techniques, patterns and preparation of the instruments and inks required for the practice of their craft.
The most modern Japanese tattoos and their value today
After a period when Japanese tattoos were mostly attached to the mafia, body art suffered a negative image. Thus, during a good part of the 20th century, it was even banned in Japan. Yet Japanese tattoo culture has never ceased to exist. It is since 1945 that Japanese tattoos are no longer the object of a formal ban in the country of the Rising Sun. However, it is only with the most modern generations that this type of body art is starting to regain popularity.
Nowadays, Japanese tattoos can remain banned in some public spaces. This is a peculiarity that is related to the threat of the mafia in the past. It still exists in some public and private institutions. But this does not prevent young Japanese to take an interest in the art of tattooing. The images and decorations of the body they prefer, however, remain much less complex than those typical of traditional Japanese tattooing.
Zoom on Japanese tattoo symbols and meaning of images
Each element and symbol of the Japanese tattoo has its own meaning. Depending on the complexity of the images, it often happens that a graphic composition has several possible interpretations. Some are perceptible to everyone; while others remain reserved for the person wearing the tattoo only.
Japanese tattoos symbol: the dragon
The dragon is a fascinating symbol. He is part of the mythical creatures who have always impressed men and whose strange nature seems so exciting and dangerous. So what is the message of a Japanese dragon tattoo?
The dragon is an animal that symbolizes power and strength. With wings, it is generally regarded as a creature that protects humanity. Its strength and power make it one of the most popular items in traditional Japanese tattoos. Today, the image of the dragon is popular around the world.
Phoenix birds tattooed on the body
The tattoos of phoenix birds have a meaning related to that of the dragons. Mythical creatures par excellence, the two types of animals are attached to the fire and its magic power. This bird, known to have returned from death through fire, is widely regarded as a symbol of triumph and victory.
It will be used as a motif of his body art if we want to mark the crossing of a difficult period in his life. For the Japanese, the phoenix is a symbol of the words “what does not kill makes you stronger”.
Japanese tattoo meaning snake
Another member of the oriental animal world appearing on Japanese tattoos: the snake. As fascinating as the dragon and as the phoenix, the symbol attached to the snake may vary according to the person. For some, it’s a reptile that has the ability to protect us; he then symbolizes good luck.
Others tend to view the snake as a bearer of wisdom or as a metaphor for constant change. Like a snake, the person grows up, transforms and becomes wiser.
Japanese skull tattoos and their meanings
In Western culture, the skull and skeletons are traditionally viewed as images of death. But, for Japanese tattoo artists, they embody more mutability and transformation.
For this reason, skulls tattooed in the spirit of the Japanese tradition have a value close to that of the elements yin and yang, the two complementary categories that are found everywhere in the world. Use this symbol if you want a strong image that reminds you of the transformation of everything that exists in human life.
Japanese tattoo of koi fish, what does it mean?
The koi fish comes from the land of the Rising Sun. It is, for this reason, a popular image for Japanese tattoo artists. To understand its meaning, you need to know the legend about this friendly fish. She says it’s the only fish that has the ability to swim against the current of the Yellow River.
Successful goldfish are rewarded for their bravery by being allowed to turn into dragons. So here is a Japanese tattoo idea for those who want to show their audacity!
Japanese tiger and dragon tattoos and Fo lions
The tiger, lion and Fo lions are all understood as creatures embodying courage and protection. In Japan, as in China, these animals adorn the entrances of a number of temples. They are the guardians and you can decorate your body to show that you are not afraid to protect what belongs to you.
Japanese tattoos of waves and water currents
The Land of the Rising Sun is an island, Japanese tattoo artists are used to express the power of water through powerful images. These are body decorations in the form of waves and water currents; they express the power of the sea to bring food but also to destroy through tsunamis.
As in Western culture, waves and water currents are therefore two-way symbols. On the one hand, they express the life force; on the other hand, the end of life that can occur at sea.
Japanese geisha tattoos
The images and tattoos of Japanese geisha are largely inspired by the mythical figure of these women in Asian culture. Feminine and seductive, geisha is also a metaphor for the intelligent woman. Those who wear his image show their fascination and respect for this type of woman.
Japanese tattoo cherry blossom
The cherry blossom tattoo is another option for those who want to express softness and finesse. Illustration of the beauty and very short season of blooming, cherry blossoms are a common option of tattooing woman arms, forearm, back or shoulder.
In tones of black and white or in colors, the tattoo cherry blossom is an excellent small tattoo option . It symbolizes femininity, youth and fulfillment.
Kanji tattoo, to complete a motif or to deliver a specific message
Finally, we come to a last type of popular Japanese tattoo; it consists of writing a message in letters typical of Japan and it is called kanji.
The tatoos kanji , sometimes accompanied by drawn patterns, allow us to transmit a precise message transcribed in specifically Japanese characters. If you want to offer this type of body art, start by identifying ideas with the list of examples below:
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