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Geisha Tattoo Ideas, Designs, and Meanings

Richard Hale is a tattoo enthusiast who studies and researches tattoo symbolism, meanings, and history.

An intricate geisha tattoo.

An intricate geisha tattoo.

The Geisha Tattoo

One unique tattoo that you may find interesting is the geisha. Although not a mainstream design, it is popular, especially within the Japanese culture. Worn by both men and women, these are usually very detailed and usually done in a larger size.

In this article, we will discuss the various styles and meanings of the geisha tattoo. You'll also find many beautiful photos to inspire and help you personalize your own design.

What Is a Geisha?

A literal translation would be "artist," "performing artist," or "artisan." Geisha (aka geiko or geigi) are traditional Japanese female entertainers/hostesses with refined talents in classical music, singing, dance, and conversation. They can also be skilled in poetry, games, art, and calligraphy, which they use mainly to entertain men. The geishas rose as Japan's traditional courtesan culture (1600–1868) declined. The tradition has existed since the 18th century and continues today.

These women are professionally trained, and professional they are. Some people confuse them with prostitutes, but sex was never the focus of the job. They would sing, dance, play music, and display their wealth of knowledge about Japanese history or politics. The ability to create a relaxed environment and provide constant entertainment is their specialty. These skills play a special role in tea ceremonies and other cultural events.

The first geishas were men, and the first woman who claimed the title for herself was a prostitute in 1751. As they gained in popularity in the late 1700s, many stopped entertaining with sexual favors and instead focused on other talents. A maiko is an apprentice, and taikomochi are male geisha.

Biceps geisha tattoo.

Biceps geisha tattoo.

Geisha Symbolism

When it comes to creative colorful body art in the human form, very few tattoos can compare to the geisha. A symbol of beauty and mystery, wrapped in a vibrant colorful kimono, she is slender in build and wears white makeup and a black wig or extensions.

The geisha represents feminine power, intrigue, and mystery. She is so specialized and refined that she is somewhat hidden from most of society: for most, she remains elusive, untouchable, and unattainable. It is said that she represents dreams, aspirations, ambitions, and desire. She is also referred to as a "figment of the imagination."

She's associated with the color red, a representation of fertility. Her kimono is of bright, vibrant colors. In paintings, art, and tattoos, she is commonly associated with cherry blossoms, which represent the fragility, beauty, and transience of life. They usually are portrayed on her kimono, or on branches in the background.

Calf geisha tattoo.

Calf geisha tattoo.

Geisha Tattoo Design

As a tattoo, the geisha is worn by men and women. It is considered to be a symbol of the Japanese culture and in Western cultures, it is a symbol of exotic grace and divine beauty. It is usually very colorful and very intricately designed. To capture its true beauty, you really need a talented artist, so make sure you do your research and ask to see the artist's portfolio.

There are a variety of traditional elements associated with the geisha that can be incorporated:

  • Japanese samurai.
  • Cherries and cherry blossoms.
  • Fans and umbrellas.
  • Peaches are also symbolic of Japan and the geisha.
  • Some include creatures from mythology, such as the dragon and tiger.
  • You can also incorporate Japanese writing (kanji).

Make sure you look at many examples so you'll have an idea of what can be done.

A note on scale and placement: To be able to capture the full detail, you will probably need a large tattoo. You might want to consider this before you choose this design. Both men and women most commonly choose placement on the shoulders, arms, or back.

Geisha Meanings and Interpretations

Below, you will find some of the meanings of this beautiful design:

  • Beauty
  • Art
  • Talent
  • Refinement
  • Elegance
  • Mystery
  • Uniqueness
  • Sexuality
  • Dreams
  • Aspirations
  • Skill
  • Desire
  • Passion
  • Imagination
  • Exoticism
  • Grace
  • Femininity
  • Intrigue
  • Fantasy
  • Control

The geisha represents feminine power and mystery. Some get it to represent their culture, while others may choose it for personal reasons.

“She paints her face to hide her face. Her eyes are deep water. It is not for Geisha to want. It is not for geisha to feel. Geisha is an artist of the floating world. She dances, she sings. She entertains you, whatever you want. The rest is shadows, the rest is secret.”

— Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha

Tattooed Geisha!

Tattooed Geisha!


Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on December 02, 2013:

Georgia, thanks for the comment. That's a meaningful tattoo for sure.

Georgie on December 02, 2013:

After reading this, I took 2 weeks to research more and I got a geisha tattoo on my arm because our life stories collide together

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on February 09, 2012:

*Donna, thank you so much for taking the time to check it out. Best wishes.

*HBN, thanks again for dropping by. The artwork of these tattoos are extremely profound. Glad you enjoyed the history behind them. Take care.

*Alocsin, always great to hear from my friend in L.A. Thanks for coming by.

*Gypsy, always good to have you come by. Interesting I will have to get back to you on that.

*AE, always a pleasure. Thanks again. The Geisha is true art magnified. They really did great.

*Frank, great to hear from you. I am always apprecitive. Best to you.

*M-S, thanks for taking the time to comment. I appreciate it very much.

Lissette from Central Florida on February 09, 2012:

I love the photos. The images are beautiful. Thank you...

Frank Atanacio from Shelton on February 09, 2012:

These are very nice the lyricwriter.. up and way awesome as per usual :) Frank

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on February 08, 2012:

Beautiful, Such intricate detail. The artist is very good to capture the facial expression so well..Thank you again...

Gypsy Rose Lee from Daytona Beach, Florida on February 08, 2012:

Voted up and awesome! Those are some large and colorful tattoos. It makes you want to ask And whose your favorite Geisha?

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on February 07, 2012:

I don't know that I've ever seen this type of tattoo, which is too bad because it's quite lovely. Voting this Up and Beautiful.

Gail Sobotkin from South Carolina on February 07, 2012:

Some of these Geisha designs are so exquisitely detailed and colorful that they look like true works of art.

I didn't realize how revered, intelligent and entertaining the Geisha was and found your cultural description of the symbolic meanings very interesting.

Voted up, useful, awesome, beautiful and interesting.

Donna Cosmato from USA on February 07, 2012:

Beautiful, wearable art! Pinned and already repinned on Pinterest:)