40 Intriguing Japanese Mask Tattoo Designs – A Rich Cultural Heritage

Japanese mask tattoo as the name implies has its origin in Japan but following its gaining popularity it has received wide consideration and attention even from other countries. Following the rich cultural heritage of the Japanese people, the tattoo has its meaning as well as a purpose which is strongly knitted to the Japanese culture thus it is very important to understand these before acquiring a Japanese mask tattoo so as not to end up with the wrong tattoo unknowingly.



There are several writings as regards the history of the Japanese cross tattoo but they all point to the common direction of culture and ancient practices of the Japanese people. This history dates back to 10,000BC when the women of Ainu people tattooed themselves to look like their goddess in order to impersonate her and flee from the afflictions who might mistake them for the goddess.

Traditionally, the initial purpose of the Japanese tattoos was to serve as a means of communicating their rich cultural heritage and societal values. Some used it as a sign of protection with the tattoo signifying devotion to a particular belief. Gradually a slight shift began to occur from the initial purpose as it was now used as a form of punishment. This practice has been reported in some other countries like Rome where it became a norm to tattoo slaves, thieves, prisoners among other people as a sign of recognition. Specific tattoos were designed to connote specific meanings thus it was instantly recognized once seen.

For example, a tattoo on the forehead signifies that the person is a criminal and that way people could easily see and recognize them. Gradually the practice started to decline and tattoos returned as a status symbol among the merchant class who were, interestingly enough, banned from flaunting their wealth.

Following the aftermath of the Second World War, the Japanese emperor as at that time sensed the declining image of the Japanese to the outside world and in an attempt to redeem her image tattoos were banned. Following this declaration by the Emperor, this gave birth to a new era of tattooing as mainly criminals and gangs took to tattooing. There was synchronization between the Japanese traditional tattoos and that element of criminality thus this led to its adoption by the Japanese mafia and the Yakuza.

People still learned the art of Japanese tattooing and even foreigners also took the courage to wear them as well as learn how to make them thus this helped to keep the Japanese tattoos from going into extinction. The modern association between Japanese traditional tattoos and the criminal element is said to have led to the adoption of tattoos by the Yakuza, the Japanese mafia.

The tattoo has become a symbol of fashion, love, toughness and following civilization, the Japanese still could not let go the old origin and meanings of tattoos. They still ascribe the old meaning of tattoos to people wearing them. There are places that do not allow people to show off their tattoos as other people might read meaning to it and act accordingly by thinking, for example, someone wearing the skull tattoo is a criminal or part of a criminal family and act accordingly.

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Meaning and Designs

The Japanese style of tattooing entails the use of numerous symbols, images, designs and these symbols are unique and convey specific meanings. These various designs which could be combined depict a person’s beliefs, aspirations, or traits. However they are used, these designs are supposed to convey the same thus this implies that anyone that sees the tattoo does not necessarily have to consult anyone to identify and understand the meaning.

Thus it can be easily deducted that it symbolizes strength, courage or it could indicate membership to a cult among others. Japanese dragon tattoo in the Western part means strength, ferocity, and wealth. In the East, it is seen as a sign of benevolence, strength, and goodwill. Koi Tattoos has its origin from the koi fish. It marks strength and bravery, determination and a very strong desire to succeed.

Japanese snake tattoos hold a wide range of meanings and indicate several things. It symbolizes protection from illness, disaster,and bad fortune. It also represents wisdom and protection from bad decisions. It can also mean regeneration, healing and also a symbol of good health. Japanese skull tattoos have negative connotation such as death, danger among others. Oni mask is an extremely common tattoo and refers to the belief in a spirit world in which the unjust is punished by demons. It can symbolize good, evil as well as protection.

Also, water tattoos convey the believe that life, just like water flows. Hannaya mask tattoos are similar to the oni mask. Some believe that it helps fend off wicked eyes from the people wearing them. Some others believe that it symbolizes love following the role played by a woman (Hannaya) who took vengeance because of her affection and passion for the love of her life.

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Placement Ideas

Tattoo placement is as important as the design itself. This depends on what the person wants. Unlike most other tattoos, Japanese mask tattoos are unlikely to fade thus the need to reemphasize placement. Some of the common areas for placement include the upper and lower part of the arm which is suitable for most designs.The shoulder is particularly suitable if you do not want the tattoo revealed unless necessary. The lower part of the back is also suitable for hidden tats, the neck is also suitable for concealing tats for people with long hairs.

Today many people proudly wear Japanese tattoos for their beautiful artistic merits, flowing composition, and the deep meaning associated with the many aspects of Japanese tattoo designs. However, it is pertinent to understand the meaning of the various Japanese mask tattoos before wearing them. This might lead to portraying the wrong impression unknowingly and thus attracting risk to yourself unknowingly. It’s beautiful but choose wisely.

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