While tattoos may be a form of fashion in the West which has gained an immense popularity, in Japan, people wearing Japanese tattoo designs are perceived unfavorably. Tattoos are called “Horimono" or “Irezumi" in Japanese language, and they are often associated with the symbol of Yakuza or known as the Japanese Mafia. At the start of the Meiji period, the government of Japan has banned wearing of tattoos.
It was done in order to protect its reputation, and polish its image on the West. Public swimming pools and bath facilities in Japan did not allow tattooed customers from entering their compound. If you wear tats on your body and you plan to enter their facilities, it’s better to ask their permission first. The popular Japanese designs include wavy oceans, “koi" or carp, flowers, dragon and “kanji" or Chinese characters.
To give you a brief history of tattooing in Japan, this art was used for decorative and spiritual purposes, and it is believed to have existed since the time of the Paleolithic or Jomon period way back 10,000 BC. Theories were made suggesting that the unique cord-marked patterns drawn on the bodies including faces of people during that period can be distinguished as Japanese tattoo designs.
At the start of the “Kofun" period which was sometime between 300 to 600 AD, tats have been distinguished negatively. They were pierced on criminals as a penalty for their wrong deeds, just like in ancient Rome where slaves were tattooed with embarrassing phrases. Up to the period of Edo dating back to the years 1600 to 1868 AD, Japanese tattoos remained unaccepted in the society.
During that time, marks were still embedded on people as a way of punishment. This was the time when fascinated foreigners, out of curiosity and excitement for outlawed tats, visited Japan to have unique tattoos inked on their bodies by skilled Japanese tat artists, who went underground to continue their traditional tattooing profession. But later, minor changes have occurred and some Japanese tattoo designs were considered as decorative tats.
These were similar to the ones drawn initially on the bodies of lovers, and would only be completed when they have joined hands in matrimony. Soon, this decorative tattooing started to develop as an advanced form of art in what it is known today. Its popularity began to rise during the launching of the famous Chinese novel named “Suikoden", where the art of printing in woodblock was developed.
This novel depicted the courage of a rebel along with his men having woodblock prints on their bodies doing heroic scenes. They had different forms of tattoos such as dragons, flowers, religious images and tigers. The result of launching this novel was a great success, and the Japanese tattoo designs that they have used gained too much popularity as seen in the bodies of many people. Then, woodblock artists started on the rise in the art of tattooing.
The tools that they used for engraving designs on the skin as what they used in woodblock printing include chisels, Nara ink and gouges. However, an argument arose concerning the identity of those people who really wore these kinds of tats during that time. There were scholars who said that the lower class wore them, while others claimed that the rich merchants were the ones who had them on their bodies.
Considering that it was against the law to flaunt their wealth, these merchants wore their expensive tats covered by their clothes. Then, certain Japanese tattoo designs became identified with firemen who wore them as dashing marks of their bravery and rogue sex-appeal. In 1945, tattooing was finally legalized by the Japanese forces, but still, its image of criminality has been retained. For several years, Japanese tats were identified with Japan’s notorious organization of criminals, the Yakuza.
The art of body tattooing and other decorative forms of body modification are becoming popular in Japan, just like in the Western world. But in the case of the young Japanese, they prefer to have “one point” tat designs. These are actually small designs of either tribal or American styles that the tat artist can complete in one sitting.
In the case of traditional Japanese tattoo designs, they are still being performed by expert Japanese tattooists, but you may be bothered by the pain, high cost and time-consuming effort that you’ll get in having these. Traditional tats done on your arms, chest, upper legs and back can take you from 1 to 5 years of visits on a weekly basis in order to complete the tattooing process, and you’ll be charged more than 30,000 dollars.
Japanese tat designs and symbols date back from 5000 BC. Based on this, it may be possible that tattooing already existed in Japan prior to this date. Moreover, clay figurines dating back to the fifth Millennia BC have been discovered in Japan with images painted or engraved on their faces as representation of tats.
Japanese historians and archaeologists claim that Japanese tattoo designs possessed a special religious or magical meaning to those who had these tattoos. One of the most popular tattoos chosen by the Japanese to engrave on their bodies is called “Kanji", a kind of letter writing using calligraphy style. When you use the kanji tattooing method, it’s possible for you to write any type of message that you like, and display it on your skin.
You’ll find that a lot of kanji characters are now popularly used, and they are translated into several words and feelings like love, duty, loyalty, sadness, beautiful, lovers, wealth, laughter and happiness. If you’re looking for beautiful Japanese designs like exotic flowers, dragon tats, or large intricate designs of samurai warriors, then, you can consider these popular Japanese tat designs and symbols that can fit anyone.
You can also choose from great Japanese tattoo designs like a “koi" fish swimming peacefully on a woman’s hip, an armband of pretty cherry blossoms bonded together, a fearful emerald serpent piercing its tongue on the calf, or a lady kissing the back of a samurai warrior. All these are wonderful Japanese tattoo designs that are hard to resist.