Tattoo style – Japanese tattoos


Tattoo of a carp means courage and braveness.

In ancient times, the main subjects for the Japanese tattoos were old stories and legends. The carp is a fish and it was a common image for these tattoos, because many owners of such tattoos were sailors. Their life was connected with the sea. For other sea images were considered to be the dragons and samurais.

A further development of the Japanese tattoo is the “yakudza” tattoo. Some researches show that it has come from China, and other – that it had been created from people who lived near Japan. Japanese people like to tell a story about how queen Senoyartu was really impressed by the beautiful and intriguing tattoos on the body of the ruler Yaponyi Dzimo. It’s believed that the queen created a poem in the tattoos’ honor. By telling that story, they want to prove that the “yakudza” tattoo is Japanese.

In XVI century the Japanese tattoo reached its peek of popularity, but in XIX century it was forbidden by the law. This period of three centuries is so to say the main part of the development of the Japanese tattoo art.


Almost every Japanese tattooist prefers to make rich tattoos which are like a whole song and look like a kimono. Of course, a single day is not enough for the making of such a tattoo. It’s made in a few stages. It sometimes demands about a year or even a few years. Often, the Japanese tattoo is not symmetrical. The image is a complex of many motifs – one main motif and a few smaller ones, which determine the core and then become one. The different motifs are mostly with different contrasting colors.

If you pay attention, you will notice that the place of the tattoo depends on the muscles (the body structure) of the particular person. The purpose is for the image to seem more alive when the owner of the tattoo moves. That is why the motifs are drawn in a special way – they cover the places where the person has big muscles.

There are no empty spaces left on the image, because Buddhism texts and geometric models are written on them.

Stages of tattooing:

1. “Sudzi” – The image is drawn on the client’s body with black Indian ink or other colors.

2. “Otsumi” – One or more needles (it depends on the width of the main scheme) are connected with bamboo sticks.

3. “Bokasi” – Big spaces which should be colored are fixed by creating a ray of needles.

4. “Tsuki Hari” – The working is on a small part of the body, because a certain depth must be reached. At this stage, the whole image is shady. That is considered the hardest stage of the tattooing.

More often, the used colors are black, red and sometimes bronze. Yellow and green are very rarely used.

In XVIII-XIX century, the Japanese tattoo was announced for an art. It was considered a sign for unique beauty of the body.

The Japanese women were interested in a tattoo which was called “kakusi-boro”. The image of this tattoo was usually made by cutting the skin and then rubbing some rice (in dust) in the cuts. This tattoo is invisible for most of the people. It becomes visible only in times of alcohol drinking, swimming and intimate closeness. By making such a tattoo on their body, women aimed to show their love towards their husband.

The members of the Yakudza mafia had tattoos of a dragon. By having similar tattoos they wanted to show the gang that they belong to. Other images for such mafia groups were of Japanese iconographies and hazards.

The Japanese tattooing style has its charm and manages to enchant many artists from all over the world. In every corner of the world, people dream for the opportunity to go to Japan and get a Japanese tattoo from a real tattoo artist.





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