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Japanese Tattoos

Japanese Tattoos 1

Tattooing is believed to have started in Japan in approximately 10,000 BC. At this time tattoos were mainly done for spiritual reasons, but it is widely believed that decorative tattoos appeared around this same time period.

During the Yayoi period (~300BC to 300AD) japanese tattoo designs were not only for decorative purpose, they were also used to symbolize social status.

During approximately 300 to 600AD most japanese tattoos became a mark of punishment. Rather than being used for status or ritual purpose, japanese tattoos were used for the tagging of slaves so their status could be easily recognized in case they were estranged from their master. This activity was also discovered to be commonplace in Rome as well.

Japanese Tattoos 2 Ceremonial japanese tattoo designs were recorded which showed lovers joining hands but it was more of a trend than mainstream. There are records of this but it had no historical continuity.

During the Edo Period (1600 to 1868AD) japanese tattooing began it's transition to becoming ornamental and developed over time into the amazing art form it is today.

Perhaps the most significant influence in japanese tattooing was the release of the highly popular Chinese novel 'Shuihu Zhuan', a courageous tale of rebellion which was illustrated using wood block prints, depicting fighters in heroic battle scenes. Their bodies were decorated with tigers.

Japanese Tattoo Symbolism

There are many meanings of japanese tattoo art, here are some popular examples :

Koi Fish

Japanese Koi Tattoo

The ancient legend says the koi will succeed in climbing waterfalls.

The koi is one of the most popular japanese designs and it is usually associated with wealth and good fortune.


Japanese Dragon Tattoo

When choosing your dragon tattoo, let your imagination take control as it does not have to look realistic! Each coloured dragon has a different meaning, so choose the color according to what the tattoo symbolises to you.

Dragons hold an important place in Japanese culture and has many meanings, from wisdom, courage, freedom, strength, power (or even supernatural powers!).


Japanese Tiger Tattoo

The tiger is considered king of all animals in the far east. In Japanese tattoo art it holds the opposite meaning of the dragon because it has a short temper and is also capable of sympathy.

It is suspicious but full of power and courage.

Japanese tiger tattoos are associated with passion and sensuality, power, ferocity, speed, beauty, cruelty and wrath.

Hannya Masks

Japanese Hannya Mask Tattoo

Hannya masks are used in Shinto ceremonies and also by the traditional japanese theatre Noh Kabuki, whose performances are representations of well known folk stories, most of which date back to approximately the 14th century.

Hannya masks are supposed to ward off evil spirits and bring good fortune.

Cherry Blossom

Japanese Cherry Blossom Tattoo

The beauty of the cherry blossom lies in their fragility and strength to survive despite the harsh conditions they bloom in.

The Japanese believe that every day should be lived to its fullest and the awareness of death should make us value our life.

Cherry blossoms are a direct representation of life itself.

Japanese Style Tattoos Portfolio

We have loads of Japanese designs at our tattoo studio in Axminster so why not pop in and take a look if you are passing?

Please feel free to bring your own design in to us for an instant quote or click here to get a quote online.

If you already know what you would like, click here to book an appointment for a Japanese tattoo at our Axminster based tattoo studio.

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