Japanese Mythology & Iconography

If you're wishing to wear Japanese Tattooing, but you're not certain on the design or you're just curious about elements of Japanese Mythology. I hope the brief list of Japanese Iconography below helps inspire  you.

Gomeniko Books has played such a huge part of my learning & journey into Japanese Tattooing, culture & history. They have an vast amount of reference books & objects for sale through their website.

 

​Some Popular Iconography:

​Koi.

Koi are a symbol of luck, prosperity, and good fortune within Japan. They are highly respected and a very symbolic fish that is closely tied to the country's national identity. 'Koi' in the Japanese language simply means 'carp'.

​There are certain rules with regards which flowers and complimentary imagery such as waves etc. which should or shouldn't be accompanying Koi.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dragon/Ryu:

Japanese dragons are associated with strength, wisdom and usually they are benevolent & highly respected.

​In Japanese mythology if a dragon lives for 1000 years it becomes golden in colour & grows beautiful feathered wings.

For individuals longing for wisdom, strength & fulfilment, then a Japanese Dragon or Ryu is fitting imagery.

As Dragons are the highest order of Japanese creatures, they can only be paired with certain accompanying imagery.


 

 

 

 

 

Hannya:

​Hannya Masks are used often in Japanese theatres portraying the story of Dodoji and Kurozuka. There are a few variations to the story, but the constant theme is of a beautiful young women who turned into a demon by the hurt caused by betrayal or unrequited love.

​Hannya's face is often aggressive, with a mouth full of sharp teeth, horns on her head & unruly strands of hair partially obscuring  her face. These hateful characteristics are only softened by the sorrowful expression in her eyes.

​Hannya's can be either red in colour to enhance the anger & hate she felt or to portray her feminine vunerability & sorrowful emotions pale pastel colours can be used.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daruma:

The traditional Daruma doll represents the silhouette of Bodhidharma in deep meditation, sitting in the customary zazen position. 1500 years ago Zen Buddhism was founded in Japan by Bodhidharma. 

​Daruma dolls are used to fulfil wishes or goals.

​They start off with no eyes, once you know what you wish to achieve you give Daruma one eye to commit yourself & Daruma to fulfilling your desired goal. Once the goal is achieved you give Daruma his other eye as way of payment/thanks.

©Japanese Tattoos by James Bull.

Songbird Tattoo Studio

1st floor, 57 High Street

Exeter, EX4 3DJ

01392 254626