Tattoo Ideas: Japanese Tattoos

Updated on January 25, 2016

This particular hub will focus on graphic Japanese tattoos. If you are looking for Japanese or Chinese character tattoos (kanji), please refer here: Tattoo Ideas: Kanji. In Japan, the word used to describe tattooing (or, more literally, the art of inserting ink under the skin to leave a permanent, usually decorate mark) is irezumi. Japanese tattooing probably dates as far back as 10,000 BC, although a more accurate history begins around 300 BC, and is still in practice today. The traditional art of irezumi is still available through practiced tattooists, although it tends to cover most of the body (except for a strip down the front of the torso which is left bare) and can be quite pricey--in excess of $30,000. Irezumi is done completely by hand, a technique which is called tebori. A different word, yobori (or yo )describes a tattoo that is done by a machine and is more so a Japanese-English slang term.

Traditional irezumi tattoo on a Japanese woman
Traditional irezumi tattoo on a Japanese woman


In addition to traditional irezumi, Japanese tattoos can also be used to simply describe a tattoo that employs Japanese images. Typical Japanese images include symbols such as the following:

  • Mythological characters such as dragons, kirin, baku, foo dogs, phoenixes
  • Birds in flight, koi fish, carp, ferocious tigers, slithering snakes
  • Lovely pink cherry blossom flowers or entire cherry blossom trees; lotuses
  • Bamboo trees or stalks; maple leaves
  • Geisha girls (a traditional female Japanese entertainer whose skills included classical music or dance)
  • Samurais (military nobility of Japan, often depicted wielding swords)
  • Buddhas (the spiritual teacher from ancient India who founded Buddhism)
  • Clouds, waves, wind bars inked in traditional Japanese style

A Japanese tattoo form that I find particularly interesting is called Kakushibori. Literally translated, it means hidden carving, and it describes the act of tattooing in a hidden location: near the armpits, the inside of the thighs, the bottom of feet, behind the ear, or any other secret spot that is not seen at first glance. It can also mean the tattooing of hidden words--among the petals of flowers. Although it would be an ideal place to tattoo something erotic, something you wish to hide from the prying eyes of mainstream society, it is also a great place to ink something meaningful that is only for your eyes....or the eyes of your beloved an area that only the two of you know about, with a meaning that only the two of you understand!

Japanese Tattoos: Pictures


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      Great Tattoos 7 years ago

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      Legends 7 years ago

      The image of that Japanese girl kneeling by the covered in so much irezumi body art that she can literally walk around nude without truly being naked.

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      Susan Haze 7 years ago from Sunny Florida

      These tatoos are amazing. Great pictures.