10 Japanese Tattoo Ideas And Their Meanings


10 Japanese Tattoo Ideas And Their Meanings

Japanese tattoo ideas and elements for inspiration

If you’re looking for ideas for your next japanese tattoo we’ve got you covered. Instead of posting specific Japanese tattoo ideas and tattoo designs, we’ve decided to give you a listing of 10 popular Japanese tattoo elements that you can use for inspiration.

These elements should give you an excellent starting point to visualize the look of your next tattoo rather than arbitrarily seeking a Japanese tattoo design. We’re also presenting you with the meanings and symbolism for each element, as there’s nothing worse than getting a tattoo you don’t understand.

Skulls (Zugaikotsu)

While the skull gets a bad rap in western culture, Japanese tattooists intended skulls to be a positive representation of the natural life cycle; representing the greatest change one can experience – death.


Chrysanthemum (Kiku)

The Kiku has a deep history tracing back to the seal of the Emperor himself. The flower is portrayed as a symbol of perfection – usually depicted with petals radiating like flames from the sun, the centre representing the Emperor’s status in the social climate.



Demon (Oni)

The Oni is often depicted as a malevolent horned character. Fearsome and supernatural, they are said to represent a belief in the spirit world in which Oni carry out the role of punishing the unjust and evil. Oni, are often confused with the popular Hannya Mask which a traditional Japanese prop used by actors of Noh theatre in the 14th century.



Dragon (Ryu)

Another common misconception is that the Dragon is a fire breathing, cave-lurking, selfish, and terrifying creature. In reality, the Japanese culture views the Dragon as a representation of wisdom and strength, as well a power that can manipulate the universe for the benefit of people.



Fu Dog (Karashishi)

The Fu Dog is also known as the “Lion of Buddha”. It’s an accurate representation as the character is in fact a lion symbolizing protection and courage, rather than that of a dog.  There are many names for this character such as: Fu Dog, Foo Dog, Fu Lion, Foo Lion, Lion Dog, Karashishi and Shi-Shi Dog.


Cherry Blossoms (Sakura)

The fragility of the Cherry Blossom represents the fragility of human existence. The Cherry Blossom lifecycle (flowering, quickly fading, and scattering of petals in the wind) is said to be a powerful symbolic mechanism for our own lives.



Phoenix (Hou-ou)

The myth of the Phoenix is one prevalent in all cultures. Oddly enough, for each culture the symbolic meaning remains the same; that of resurrection, triumph, rebirth, and fire.


Severed Head (Namakubi)

The Namakumbi can be used to symbolize many things. For some, the graphic symbol can represent an image of fear, respect, or warning. While others view the symbol as an acceptance of fate for a punishment if they are not living a righteous life. No matter how you interpret it, the Namakubi is a striking image that should be used wisely due to it’s significant meaning.


Snake (Hebi)

The Hebi is another supernatural depiction that is said to represent a wide range of beliefs including protection against illness, disaster, and bad fortune.


Peony (Botan)

The Peony represents elegance, wealth, and prosperity. Often referred to as the King of Flowers, or rose without thorns, the peony takes on a much different conotation in Japanese culture – A masculine devil-may-care attitude, rather than a feminine quality.



Sayagata Pattern

A final tattoo idea for your next Japanese design, is the Sayagata Pattern. While not a true character, the pattern works beautiful as filler in Japanese tattoos – it’s comprised of left- and right-facing swastikas joined by lines.



If you’re looking for more inspiration for your next Japanese tattoo idea, head over to our Japanese tattoo gallery. Here you can find a collection of amazing Japanese tattoos from the best tattoo artists in the world.

Image credit: Deviant Art, Pablo Esquivel, Deviant Art, Dane Manning, PinImg, Tattoo Picture, Artician, Yoso, Terry James, Vanishing Tattoo  

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