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Tattoo Designs

40 Traditional Japanese Tattoos

Ancient Japanese tattoo art has been passed down. Traditional Japanese tattoo designs have never lost meaning, whether sleeve, Kanji, or Japanese lettering.

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Starting back almost 5,000 years ago, irezumi, or Japanese tattooing, began to take on its own individual and artistic style. A more traditional style of tattoo, Japanese style tattooing was a status symbol, emphasizing detail and design. Over the years, Japanese culture and tattoo styles have grown in popularity, with styles that are both traditional and modern as the popularity of cartoon/anime-type art grows.

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Known for its intricacy and attention to detail, Japanese tattoos are show-stopping pieces that can be both extremely feminine or masculine. Japanese art has always been very symbolic in nature, making it the perfect tattoo style.

Below we have compiled a list of the most unique and inspiring Japanese tattoo designs. Whether you are looking for something cute and fun or intense and intricate, we have the Japanese tattoo for you!


Best Japanese Tattoo Designs

Nurse Cat Tattoo

Nurse Cat Japanese Tattoo
Source: Instagram @stacey_miao

Paging all nurses, I repeat, paging all nurses! This cute and cuddly nurse cat tattoo is an example of the diversity of Japanese style tattooing. A fun and colorful design, this tattoo is perfect for any cat-loving nurses out there.

Japanese Tattoo Sleeve

Japanese Tattoo Sleeve & Chest
Source: Instagram @monkey1988113

As mentioned before, Japanese traditional tattoos were a status symbol. The more tattoos and the more intricate the design, the more impressive status you portrayed. This Japanese tattoo sleeve would have carried some major social power with its attention to detail. These bold Japanese traditional tattoos incorporate many traditional Japanese symbols including dragons and spirits.

Colorful Koi Fish Japanese Style Tattoo

Koi Fish Japanese Tattoo
Source: Instagram @trunkstuff

This colorful Japanese tattoo sleeve is a vivid and detailed design. Known as a symbol of luck, the Koi fish will hopefully bring you good fortune for years to come. The black background causes the colors to truly pop in this eye-catching design.

Wave Japanese Tattoo Sleeve

Japanese Wave Tattoo Sleeve
Source: Instagram @garthbneale

Ride the artistic wave of this Japanese style tattoo! A traditional styling of ocean waves with thin and arching curves, this Japanese tattoo design brings the Sea of Japan to mind. Water is viewed as extremely spiritual in Japanese culture, which is apparent in the almost life-like appearance of the waves.

Lotus Flower Japanese Tattoo Design

Lotus Flower Japanese Tattoo
Source: Instagram @bmantattoos

A symbol of enlightenment and rebirth, this Japanese symbol tattoo is the perfect choice for someone who has found a new path in life. The pale grey shading of the background helps the color of the flowers to truly pop. The waves and koi fish are the perfect additions to round out this Japanese tattoo sleeve.

Japanese Warrior Tattoo

Full body Japanese Warrior Tattoo
Source: Instagram @lighthouse_tattoo

In tattooing, the body is truly a canvas as perfectly exemplified in this Japanese traditional tattoo design. A symbol of bravery, warriors have long been honored in Japanese culture. This Japanese tattoo design is extremely detailed, requiring real artistry from the tattoo artist.

Japanese Tiger Back Tattoo

Japanese Tiger Tattoo
Source: Instagram @tattoozbymikey

Known as a form of protection from bad spirits and a way to ward off bad luck, the tiger has always been a symbol of strength in Japan. Symbolic Japanese tattoos are an ideal form of self-expression. Use this tattoo design to portray your inner strength and courage.

Vivid Orange Koi Fish Tattoo

Orange Japanese Koi Fish Tattoo
Source: Instagram @tattooartbse

Are you feeling lucky? This orange koi fish tattoo is sure to bring you lots of good fortune with its vivid and vibrant coloration. This Japanese tattoo design is the perfect sleeve but could also be scaled down to a smaller size for positioning on the forearm or leg.

Japanese Style Tattooing on Leg

Full Leg Japanese Tattoo
Source: Instagram @garthbneale

This Japanese tattoo design will certainly give you a “leg” up. With traditional Japanese symbols and art, this tattoo is both intricate and ornate. Red and black ink also pays tribute to the traditional colors of Japanese culture.

Japanese Dragon Tattoo

Japanese Dragon Tattoo
Source: Instagram @stupagdintattooer

Traditionally, dragons are benevolent sources of power that support humanity with their strength and ferocity. With its vivid colors and detailed design, this tattoo is the consummate Japanese tattoo. The dragon seems to come alive as it serpentines down your arm forming a cohesive and intriguing tattoo sleeve.

Black and White Flower Japanese Style Tattoo

Japanese Black & White Forearm Tattoo
Source: Instagram @aidanobrientattoos

The bold contrast between black and white in this Japanese style tattoo is stunningly eye-catching. With beauty in its simplicity, this design make a perfect forearm tattoo. Each flower has its own unique design adding to the detail of the overall design.

Blue Koi Fish Tattoo Sleeve

Blue Koi Fish Japanese Tattoo Sleeve
Source: Instagram @horisou_tw

Japanese tattoo meaning is as important as the design itself. As we previously mentioned, the koi fish is a positive symbol of not only luck, but also strength of purpose. With tattoos lasting forever, it is important to feel strongly about the message and symbolism your tattoo art will convey.

Japanese Women Tattoo

Japanese Women Tattoo with Hannya Mask
Source: Instagram @jaicheong

Incorporating various traditional images, this Japanese tattoo design is a real piece of art. A detailed portrait of a Japanese women pairs beautifully with stork silhouettes and traditional flowers. A bold spirit portrait is symbolic of the pain that can also be found in beauty. This tattoo design makes a strong statement with its imagery and detail.

Rising Sun Japanese Traditional Tattoo

Rising Sun Hand Japanese Tattoo
Source: Instagram @fideos.de.nanjing

Pay tribute to the Land of the Rising Sun with this gorgeous Japanese style tattoo. Wonderfully placed on the hand, this luminescent design is meant to represent good things on the horizon. The continuation of the sun up the forearm beautifully evokes a sense of the sun rays spreading their warmth.

Japanese Style Forearm Tattoo

Japanese Forearm Tattoo
Source: Instagram @bmtattoo

Bold, red lines always bring Japan to mind. This Japanese style tattoo is striking with its distinct lines and vivid colors. Easily scaled to bigger and larger sizes, this tattoo could easily be placed anywhere on the body.

Japanese Landscape Tattoo

Japanese Landscape Back Tattoo Rising Sun
Source: Instagram @umatattoostudio

Bold lines and color contrast make this Japanese tattoo design a true stand-out. Small in size it could fit easily on the back, hand or foot. Deceptively simple in appearance, the creation of the landscape requires a great deal of skill from the tattoo artist.

Kanji Tattoo on Side

Japanese Kanji Tattoo
Source: Instagram @bmantattoos

Continually growing in popularity, a Kanji tattoo is a favorite style in all areas of the world. Letters and symbols hold great and involved meaning in Japanese culture, allowing individuals to make a large statement with bold and intricate Japanese tattoo lettering. The scale of this lettering makes this an ideal side tattoo.

Japanese Traditional Tattoo on Shoulder

Japanese Shinto Tattoo
Source: Instagram @_void_tattoo_

A symbol of Shinto, this tattoo has long been a part of Japanese culture. The three comma shapes represent the earth, sky, and humanity. A basic and straightforward design, this look can easily be recreated by any experienced tattoo artist. Small in size, this tattoo can be placed anywhere including the hand, foot, or wrist.

Japanese Kanji Neck Tattoo

Japanese kanji neck Tattoo
Source: Instagram @japan.tattoo

The back of the neck is under utilized when it comes to tattoo placement. What a truly wild and wonderful world we live in when it comes to having beautiful Japanese kanji tattoos like this. The bold circling around the lettering gives a finished look and the typewriter-esque font of the wording contrasts nicely with the more intricate style of the Japanese lettering.

Kanji Hand Tattoos

Japanese Kanji Hand Tattoo
Source: Instagram @allthatglittersisgxld

The delicate approach to this Japanese kanji tattoo makes a simple, yet breathtaking, design. The artistry of Japanese lettering adds true beauty to this Japanese traditional tattoo. Choosing symbols that are important to you can make this a personal and unique design.

Cherry Blossom Kanji Tattoo

Japanese Sakura Tattoo
Source: Instagram @eiji_tattoo

Elegant cherry blossoms and delicate kanji lettering come together in this dainty and feminine tattoo. The soft pinks of the flowers add a romantic feel. The size of this cherry blossom tattoo makes it possible to fit almost anywhere on the body.

Kanji Neck Tattoo

Japanese Kanji Neck Tattoo
Source: Instagram @reco_ttt

Japanese lettering is an art form in and of itself. This unique and striking neck tattoo requires a steady hand. You want to ensure that the tattoo artist has a mastery of Japanese lettering in order to make sure everything is done correctly.

Japanese Imagery Leg Tattoo

Japanese Leg Tattoo
Source: Instagram @ronsugano

With well-defined images of Japanese culture, this Japanese symbol tattoo is a great choice for any Japanophilia. Showing a clear appreciation for the different elements of Japanese culture, this tattoo is detailed without being overwhelming.

Colorful Floral Tattoo Sleeve

Japanese Floral Sleeve Tattoo
Source: Instagram @daria_tattooist

Vibrant and tropical colors give this Japanese tattoo sleeve a more modern feel. The pops of pink and teal really stand out against the dark background in a perfect contrast.

Cherry Blossom Wrist Tattoo

Japanese Wrist Tattoo
Source: Instagram @miraa.min

Gentle, rosy hues of pink create an arresting Japanese tattoo. Meant to represent the fragility and beauty of life, this cherry blossom tattoo is a meaningful design. Beautiful as a standalone tattoo, this look would also make a wonderful addition to a Japanese style tattoo sleeve.

Japanese Cat Tattoo

Japanese Cat Tattoo
Source: Instagram @shiroi_illustration

Symbolic Japanese tattoos create meaningful pieces of body art. Long a symbol of good luck, cats have been a popular animal in Japanese culture. This colorful tattoo is a cute design that could fit on the hand, foot, or shoulder.

Falling Cherry Blossoms Tattoo

Japanese Cherry Blossoms Tattoo
Source: Instagram @hantattooart

Further symbolizing the fragility of life, the cherry blossoms appear to gently float down the back in this beautiful symbolic Japanese tattoo. Bright pinks make this a striking tattoo, and the detailed branch adds visual interest to this engaging design.

Dazzling Cat and Cherry Blossom Tattoo

Japanese Cat Tattoo
Source: Instagram @moon_la_piquante

Gentle strings of beading weave the elements of this lovely Japanese tattoo design together into a cohesive work of art. Thin lines and small details make this an exquisite and intricate tattoo. Its height makes it a perfect tattoo for the arm or leg.

Red and Black Japanese Style Tattoo

Japanese Red & Black Tattoo
Source: Instagram @song_tattoos

An intense eye stares out at you in this striking Japanese tattoo. Darker than some of the other tattoos on this list, it evokes a much more grim feeling. The dark red and black further develop the severity of this design.

Japanese Spirit Tattoo

Hannya Mask tattoo
Source: Instagram @shiroi_illustration

Macabre faces are common in Japanese artwork, representing different spiritual beings. This Japanese tattoo design utilizes bold colors to draw the eye to the intense expression of the spirit’s face. Small in size, this tattoo works on most locations on the body.

Komodo Dragon Tattoo

Japanese Komodo Dragon Tattoo
Source: Instagram @heeno_tattooer

With an expression of fierceness and savagery, this Japanese traditional tattoo is powerful and bold. Rich and vibrant colors add to the strength of this design. The length of the dragon make this an ideal tattoo for the forearm or leg.

Pink Cat Tattoo

Japanese Pink Cat Tattoo
Source: Instagram @lilianraya

A cute and fun design, a cat and pink flowers come together for an adorable and appealing Japanese tattoo. While small in size, this tattoo is more elaborate than it may appear and requires attention to detail from the tattoo artist.

Cat in a Kimono Tattoo

Japanese Tattoo of Cat in a Kimono
Source: Instagram @laurenjaynegow

Two mainstays of Japanese culture, cats and kimonos, collide in this detailed and unique tattoo. The complexity of the kimono’s patterns is spectacular and creates a level of sophistication that you may not expect for this tattoo image. This Japanese tattoo is a real showpiece.

Naruto Japanese Symbol Tattoo

Naruto Japanese Symbol Tattoo
Source: Instagram @crowd_rp

Passionate anime fans will instantly recognize the Naruto symbol in this Japanese tattoo design. The leaf background plays on the meaning of this symbol, which represents the Hidden Leaf Village. This tattoo is a great size for the hand, foot, or wrist.

Hidden Leaf Japanese Style Tattoo (Konohagakure)

Japanese Konohagakure Tattoo
Source: Instagram @rusty.shackle

While the palm is definitely one of the more sensitive places to get some ink, cool designs like this symbolic Japanese tattoo can certainly make it worthwhile. You can sport your true anime fandom by toughing out the pain to mimic this tattoo idea. The hidden leaf is a symbol of Konohagakure, one of the more powerful ninja villages.

Anime Cat Mask Tattoo

Japanese Anime Cat Mask Tattoo
Source: Instagram @heliaco_tattoo

Anime has grown significantly in its mainstream popularity amongst teens and adults in recent years. This Japanese tattoo sleeve has an elaborate design that is a perfect way to display your fandom. Ideally, your tattoo artist will have some experience with anime art in order to give this design an authentic feel.

Daruma Doll Tattoo

Japanese Daruma Doll Tattoo
Source: Instagram @gazztattoos

Created in the likeness of Bodhidharma, founder of Zen in Buddhism, Daruma dolls are a popular symbol in Japanese culture. Vivid red and black ink pays tribute to the traditional colors of the daruma doll. The blue flowers add brightness to the overall design.

Daruma Doll Foot Tattoo

Daruma Doll foot tattoo
Source: Instagram @danieletonelli

To the unknowing viewer, this tattoo may seem unfinished with the blank eye of the Daruma doll. However, this is done intentionally in tribute to the tradition and history of this symbolic Japanese doll. Seen as a symbol of good fortune, a wish is made as the right eye is painted while the left eye remains unpainted until the wish comes true. So, remember to make your wish as this tattoo is created!

Traditional Japanese Tattoo Sleeve

Japanese Tattoo Sleeve
Source: Instagram @shwedtattooer

The bright pops of red in this grey and black Japanese tattoo sleeve add an edgy feel to this striking tattoo. It is almost hypnotic with the different geometric shapes spiraling around the spirit portrait. The level of detail is very involved in this design and will require patient skill on the part of the tattoo artist.

Black and White Cherry Blossom Tattoo Sleeve

Japanese Sakura Tattoo Sleeve
Source: Instagram @alismind_yuishin

Classic in coloration and design, this Japanese style tattoo will stand the test of time. Bold without being garish, this cherry blossom design makes a lovely and visually satisfying tattoo.

With myriad symbolism and detail, Japanese tattoo designs make for truly intricate and meaningful pieces of body art. They are a perfect opportunity for self-expression and offer a variety of different ideas and designs. This list provides a collection of the most detailed and intriguing Japanese style tattoos. All you need to do is decide which one is the right fit for you!

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