Japanese tattoos

Japanese tattoos have a long and meaningful history, with almost any kind of image or symbol holding special purpose, which has added depth to this unique art.

Modern day Japanese tattoos represent the culture and mythology of Japan deep history. Japanese style tattoos are generally large, colourful, and incredibly detailed.

They’re also filled with symbolism, and therefore have deep meaning for the wearer.

Choosing a Japanese tattoo artist

Beyond skill and knowledge of this unique tattoo style (as well as the deep history behind it), it’s important you choose a tattoo artist for your Japanese-style artwork who understands your vision and with whom you can comfortably bounce ideas with.

We invite you to meet our artists and organise an obligation-free consultation where you can come in and see our studio, meet our artists, and start discussing your vision.

The history of Japanese tattoos

Characterised by bold creatures and striking colours, the art of ink decorating in Japan (also known as “Irezumi”) can be traced back as far as 10,000BC.

By the end of WWII, tattoos were used in Japan to identify criminals, wherein specific artwork would be indicative of the crime committed.

From here, its popularity spread through the Janapese mafia (“Yakuza”), and as such, for many years, tattoos were viewed as social taboo.

Popular Japanese tattoo styles

Cherry blossom

While most people associate Japan’s famous cherry blossoms as the first signs of spring, the Japanese believe that the cherry blossom is representation of life, and a reminder that we are only on this earth for a short period of time.

People often choose to use the cherry blossom tattoo to remember a lost loved on or to celebrate overcoming illness, and to honour the fleeting nature that is life.


Perhaps the most recognisable creature in Japanese artwork, dragons are a popular choice, not only because of their prevalence of Japanese folklore, but also due to what they represent.

Dragons (or “Ryu”) are a symbol for wisdom, strength, ferocity, and the ability to provide protection to mankind; qualities humans try to acquire throughout their life.

Koi fish

A koi fish tattoo represents longevity, courage, persistence, and personal reward at the end of adversity.

This belief comes from Japanese folklore, in which a koi fish that successfully swam the Yellow River upstream and reached “Dragon’s Gate” would be rewarded by transforming into a dragon.

The Koi fish is native to Japan and as such, is held with deep meaning.

Japanese folklore heroes

Japanese folklore heroes as well as figures from history often pop up in Japanese tattoos.

They bring a realistic, historical grounding to the artwork that is highly appreciated.

Figures that appear a lot in Japanese tattoos in include samurai soldiers, geishas, and even Suidoken and Buddha.


While English folklore depicts the snake in a negative way, the snake has very positive connotations in Japanese history.

The medicinal properties of the snake represent good luck, while a snake shedding its skin represents our ability to always grow and evolve.

Snakes are also a symbol of good luck and health.


The powerful image of a phoenix rising from the ashes is represented in many cultures throughout history, including Greek, Roman, and Middle Eastern.

In Japanese culture, the phoenix represents more than resilience; it also represents both masculinity and femininity.

The Japanese tattoo is often chosen by people looking to remind themselves and others of their innate inner strength.