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Tattoo Ideas: Japanese Tattoos

I have thirteen tattoos. I think they're all pretty cool (and definitely don't qualify as "bad-quality").


This article will focus on graphic Japanese tattoos. If you are looking for Japanese or Chinese character tattoos (kanji), please read "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 B.C. (although, a more accurate history begins around 300 B.C., 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. This technique 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!


Great Tattoos on September 18, 2010:

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Love your tattoos.

Legends on August 29, 2010:

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.

Susan Hazelton from Northern New York on July 30, 2010:

These tatoos are amazing. Great pictures.

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