Japanese tattoos are filled to the brim with symbolism. Some of the most common design motifs of Japanese tattoos include kannon, suikoden warriors and dragons. Let’s take a moment and talk a little about each of these. Kannon is a Bodhisattva of the Mahayana Buddhism. The task of the Bodhisattva is it to support humans on their way to illumination. There are Bodhisattva with several different tasks. Kannon is the Bodhisattva of sympathy and pity. In Japan Kannon is represented by a woman, usually riding a dragon. Suikoden warriors are 108 rebels who carried some tattoos. The illustrations of many different Japanese artists to the adventures of these brigands were used as tattoo flash. Especially the color woodcut series of Utagawa Kuniyoshi was gladly used which was published by the artist in the year 1827. The last motif of Japanese tattoos are of course, dragons. In Japan it is regarded as a luck bringing animal. This may be justified due to the fact that the japanese dragon is a water symbol. He lives either in the clouds, from where he climbs down during thunderstorms, or also in rivers and lakes. Any or all of the Japanese tattoo elements can also be combined with things such as lotus, cherry blossoms and snakes. The variations in this genre are appealing and endless.
There are several symbols associated with japanese tattoos. These include Koi fish, snakes and dragons and they are usually the most well known. The lesser known japanese tattoos are the Hannya Masks and the Kiyo Hime which are represented by the tattoos in the photograph. Little is known by the general public about these motifs so let’s get into a small explantation of the symbols. Hannya Mask are usually thought of as demons, but these are actually terrestial monsters. Confused human feelings like passion, jealousy or hate can transform women into these dreadful monsters, which are then bound to the earth realm. Kiyo Hime is the best known story of a Hannya demon. Her father owned a harborage in which a monk stopped each year. Over the years Kiyo Hime developed a deep love to the monk but her feelings could not be returned by him. One night Kiyo Hime confessed her love to him and it came to a controversy between the two of them and in which process Kiyo Hime enraged and the monk had to escape. He found shelter in a close monastery and hid himself under an enormous bell. In the meantime, in the intoxication of its hate love, Kiyo Hime had transformed into a demon with the body of a snake and a Hannya head. It sought out the monks hiding place and melted the bell with its fire breath, thereby causing the object of its longing a painful death. As you can see, japanese tattoos are often more then just beautiful designs but almost always carry a deeper symbolic meaning, one that is often infused with a dose of morality.