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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 had played such a huge part of my learning & journey into Japanese Tattooing, culture & history. Kintero are an independent Book & Art store have a great reference books available for sale through their website.

JP Books have a wider selection of books, gifts etc. 


​Some Popular Iconography:


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.










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 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.








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 Koi by James Bull Tengu Tattoo Studio Bristol
Dragon Tattoo by Japanese Tattoo Artist James Bull Tengu Tattoo Studio Bristol
Hannya Mask Tattoo James Bull Bristol Japanese Tattoo Artist
James Bull Japanese Tattoo Artist Tengu Bristol
James Bull Japanese Tattoo Artist Bristol
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