We wanted to share a few of our favorite Japanese tattoo artists and follow it up with a history behind this beautiful style of tattoo. We know there are many more quality Japanese tattoo artists out there but we wanted to bring a few to your attention.

Jiro Yaguchi


We’re big fans of Jiro’s work. If you’re looking for anything with Japanese influence, look no further. What’s really cool about Jiro is not only is he extremely talented with a tattoo gun but his other talent is machine-free “tebori,” or the hand poke method. Jiro also likes to stick to traditional “Irezumi” design rules, in which certain flowers/elements/animals are matched together. He is truly a talent and that’s why he is one of our favorite Japanese tattoo artists.

Lupo HoriOkami


Lup was born in Vicenza, Italy in 1979. Starting with graffiti, he moved on to designing tattoos in 1999 and then opened Inkside Tattooing in Vicenza. While he was in Japan for the first time, Lupo met Horiyoshi III and according to tradition, was given permission to use the name “HoriOkami”. His roots in Japanese tattooing go back a long time but Lupo was a natural talent and is still creating beautiful pieces today.

Nick Fabini


Nick Fabini has been tattooing for over 10 years in Fort Wayne, IN. His American Traditional style influenced his Japanese tattooing style and it’s history from there. Nick has an ability to make simple images pop and for this reason, we’re big fans. Visit Nick at Cardinal Tattoo in Fort Wayne, IN if you’re looking for some amazing Japanese tattooing.



History of Japanese Tattoos

Japanese Tattoos have a long history and were actually outlawed in old Japan. Being tattooed was a very secretive practice and those that were getting them generally belonged to criminal factions such as the Yakuza. Traditional Japanese tattooing (also known as irezumi) was and is still somewhat an underground practice.

However, the popularity of Japanese style tattoos has grown around the world because of the bold lines, imagery, and meanings behind them. There are some very popular Japanese tattoos including the koi fish, dragons, cherry blossoms, and samurais.

Japanese Koi Tattoos

Koi fish tattoos are very popular and there are many forms of this tattoo. As one of the most popular symbols for the Japanese, one can understand why they would become a popular tattoo. The koi symbolize courage, success, perseverance, good fortune, and prosperity amongst other things. The legend behind the koi derives from the Dragon Gate legend in which the koi swam up stream to the Dragon Gate and jumped over it. The koi was rewarded by being turned into a dragon.

Japanese Dragon Tattoos

The dragon has many meanings depending on the culture it is from. Dragons are one of the most legendary creatures in mythology. They are part of the culture of Japan, Vietnam, China and many more countries. However, when speaking of the Japanese dragon, they represent balance in life.

Japanese Cherry Blossom Tattoos

Cherry Blossoms are very important symbols in Japanese culture. They bloom in harsh conditions and often show when the snow first starts to melt and only last for a few days before they fall and land in the snow. They represent life itself as the Cherry Blossom is beautiful, strong, and can be fragile all at the same time.

Japanese Samurai Tattoos

Finally, the samurai once lived by the code of Bushido. In short, the code of Bushido represents living life to the fullest, being ready to die in service, and being strong and loyal. The best way to represent these values is by having a samurai tattoo.

Japanese style tattoos are quite versatile and can incorporate designs that can work for anyone. From dragons to flowers there are a great number of Japanese images that can comprise a fantastic, meaningful tattoo.

Tattoo designs in Japan are greatly influenced by woodblock prints (or ukiyoe) that were found in novels. The heroes portrayed on these woodblock designs were often shown with elaborate tattoos.

The first Japanese tattoo designs can be traced back as far as 5,000 years. Figurines recovered from tombs would have marks and lines to indicate social rank as well as protect them from evil spirits.

Tattoo artists in Japan were considered to be highly skilled and had to undergo a rigorous apprenticeship where they lived with the master for upwards of 5 years. Part of this apprenticeship was to develop a complete understanding of the meanings of the traditional tattoo designs.

For a period of time tattoos were taboo in Japan and became associated with criminals and social outcasts. Towards the end of the 17th century, this stigma began to lift and decorative tattooing began to emerge. In modern day Japan, displaying one’s tattoos is still generally disapproved of, but this is beginning to change with the latest generation of Japanese youngsters.

Traditional Japanese tattoo design elements are typically paired together- such as the dragon and phoenix or lions and flowers. This is done as a way to balance beauty and power.

Kanji characters are also usually incorporated into the designs with meanings that are of great meaning to the wearer. Kanji, which are one of three scripts that make up the Japanese language are actually Chinese characters that were introduced to Japan in 500 A.D. These symbols each carry their own meaning, such as love, wealth, sadness, loyalty or beauty. If opting for one of these characters it is imperative that you and your artist research the meaning and verify that the one you chose means what you wish to convey. Here are some of our favorite Japanese tattoo designs.

Examples of Japanese Tattoos