Japanese tattoos are steeped in history and culture. Styles range from traditional tattoos to extremely complex new school tattoos.
Tattoos in Japan were initially used as a way of marking criminals to expose their crimes to the general public. It was not until the end of the Edo period (1600 – 1868 AD) that tattoos started to gain popularity as a way to decorate the body.
The Japanese tattoos we see today are inspired by woodblock prints and are interpretations of Japanese mythology and culture.
Japanese tattoos are known for bright bold colours and dark greyscale backgrounds, however they can be entirely tattooed in black and grey too. This style of tattoo works well as large scale work encompassing the body, or can also be tattooed as smaller one point tattoo.
Popular Japanese tattoo motifs include dragons, koi fish, cherry blossoms and Japanese folk heroes.
In the third century, all Japanese men decorated their bodies with tattoos as a form of artistic expression. Later, tattoos were used as a form of punishment for prisoners which led to centuries of demonization and prohibition that lasted until the mid-1900s. But even though laws in Japan restricted men and women from getting tattoos, this didn’t stop them. In fact, it was customary for women in Okinawa to tattoo their hands using alcohol and ink as part of a Shamanistic practice.
Throughout time, the one thing that Japanese tattoos had in common is that they were based on cultural beliefs and traditional folklore. Japanese culture inspired tattoos that tell a tale about the past or present. Today, Japanese tattoos are popular around the world due to their rich history and unique style. Traditional woodblock prints, which originate from Southeast Asia, inspired the typical Japanese tattoo seen nowadays.
Planning Your Tattoo Location
Bright colours and greyscale background shadings are a classic design for Japanese tattoos. Depending on your preferences, they feature either basic black and white or vibrant full-colour images. But before you consider what kind of tattoo you want, consider where you want it put on your body. This decision will help you narrow down the size and style of your tattoo, based on the amount of skin that’s available to work with at the location you’ve chosen.
Start by deciding whether you’ll want to hide the tattoo for work or other purposes. If so, you’ve quickly narrowed your options down to the chest, back, and upper arms or thighs. If hiding the tattoo isn’t an issue, your options are expanded instantly. Consider where the sun reaches your body and whether a particular location will be easy for you to care for while the tattoo heals.
Once you’ve chosen a tattoo location that doesn’t get too much sun exposure and is easy to reach with your hands, it’s time to think about designs.