An Irezumi tattoo is any type of tattoo that originated in Japan, from those made centuries ago to the ones that you can go into a shop and get today. If you like the look of these tattoos and find that any of them are meaningful to you, you might just be the perfect candidate!
On this page we will take a look at a little bit of the history of Irezumi tattoos, some design options that you have, and some of the meanings that come along with these designs.
Up until the late 19th century, every Irezumi tattoo that was made had one or more symbols in the design rather than images. These symbols could be made as small as a pinprick and could also be as large as an entire back. The key thing was that the symbols were made for the wearer as marks of pride and heritage. Unlike today, these tattoos were earned rather than simply purchased, adding even more meaning to the designs.
No one knows for sure who wore these Irezumi tattoos originally, but it seems like the majority think that it was the lower class. However, some will argue that only the wealthiest of Japanese people got them in order to show that they were in the upper class. Considering the amount of detail that went into them and the skill it took to make them, it seems more plausible that the process at least began among the wealthy.
Another interesting fact is that Japanese firemen regularly got these classic Irezumi tattoos. They did so both for symbolic protection and power and because it was a form of comradery for everyone who took on that tough line of work. These weren’t just small tattoos that were only visible when the owners wanted people to see them; no, they were often full-body tattoos that were seen at all times by anyone who came across these men.
After that period, Irezumi tattoos encompassed every style of ink that could be found, including those that we see today. More design options started to pop up, giving people even more ways to express themselves through their personal art. It really started to spread throughout Japan once the tools were modernized and easier to create, allowing people of all classes the chance to get Irezumi tattoos.
Some people still prefer to get their Irezumi tattoos by using the original tools, including chisels and Nara ink. While this tattooing style is not nearly as safe as using modern tools, the look is certainly unique and beautiful. The combination of this ink and chisels actually makes the ink look a bit flatter on the skin, making it appear a bit more natural.
One of the most common Irezumi tattoo styles that continues to be extremely popular is anything with a mythical creature included. The creature itself will add its own meanings to the design, so if you plan to go this route you should learn about each one and its symbology. These are extremely popular as back tattoos as they allow the artist to fill in more detail while also giving the creatures a much more menacing look.
One of those creatures that plenty of people still get is the Ryu, which is a Japanese dragon tattoo. Dragons are considered to be water gods in Japan, so this is a fantastic tattoo to get if you are a lover of the sea or even if you work on the water. While you can get a dragon tattoo of any shape and size, most opt to get their dragons large, either on their arms or on their backs.
The koi fish is yet another very popular modern Irezumi tattoo that people all over the world get thanks to the fantastic meanings that are attached to it. Not only is it seen as the ultimate symbol of masculinity, it also symbolizes the warrior spirit because of the fact that it does not shake around or quiver when it is about to be killed. The koi fish tattoo looks amazing on the arm and is one of the most colorful fish tattoos that you can get.
The fact is that you can choose from hundreds of great Irezumi tattoos, tweak them a little bit to suit your tastes, and you’ll end up with a unique Japanese-style tattoo. A good idea is to get three or four designs drawn up for you and then pick the one you think will look best on your skin. You should also have a placement in mind before you even begin the design process.
Of course, anyone who is not from Japan should think long and hard about the decision to get one of these designs since you do run the risk of unknowingly offending people from that part of the world. However, if you do your research and find that one of these designs is simply perfect for you, don’t hesitate to get one. Just be sure that your design is respectful and that you are getting it for the right reasons.
If you do plan on getting an Irezumi tattoo, we highly recommend that you find an artist who has experience making these Japanese designs. If you’ve seen these tattoos in your life then you know that they have a recognizable look not seen in any other tattooing style. Therefore you should find an artist who has experience making Irezumi tattoos. Ideally, you’ll find one in your area, but it’s worth it to travel a bit to get an amazing Irezumi tattoo that you can be proud to have for the rest of your life.
As you can see, there is a lot of history behind the Irezumi tattoo and quite a few great designs that you can choose from. They are beautiful and meaningful, and you can easily tweak any design to make it your own. We highly recommend looking into the symbology of these designs so you can find one that you think is attractive and has a meaning or two that works for you.