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Categories: Japanese Tattoo Designs | Author: admin 20.12.2015

Koi fish are a species of carp (Koi is the Japanese word for carp) that are specially bred to have wild, brilliant color schemes. The Japanese word Koi translates as carp, but also as love, therefore koi fish are a symbol of love (the kind of love you have for your lover, not for your parents for example).
Since they are considered to be extremely energetic, koi fish tattoo designs usually have very lively colors and lots of movement. First, koi fish tattoos depicting the animal swimming upstream may represent strength during trying times. Second, and perhaps more influenced by Western thought (the Japanese had and have a very close-knit society), is the koi fish tattoo for someone who is very independent. Any carp able to climb to the Dragon Gate along the Yellow Riverwill be transformed into a dragon. Sharing much of its imagery with the Japanese for the koi's strength and determination, the Chinese koi is also associated with life-long good fortune. More often than not koi tattoos are very large tattoos, with intricate shading and colors to depict their rainbow of scales and their strong swimming motion against the current. Koi fish designs are also used in zodiac tattoos, more specifically in Pisces tattoos (pisces is the Latin word for fish). Protected by a hard shell, equipped to navigate both land and water, capable of crossing oceans and exceptionally long-lived, it is no wonder that the turtle has been revered for thousands of years by cultures all over the world as a symbol of strength, stability and stamina.
Although tattoo art has been embraced by numerous cultures throughout history, nowhere has the sea turtle been associated with tattoos more than in the Pacific Islands. The art of tattooing has been prevalent on almost every shore of the Pacific, but achieved particular significance in Polynesia, the area defined by Hawaii in the north, New Zealand to the west, and Easter Island to the east.
Where a person stood in the hierarchical society of Polynesia was determined by their current role in the tribe, as well as by their genealogy and maturity. Shark, lizard and turtle tattoo designs were primary symbols, used throughout Polynesian society.


One Hawaiian myth says that it was "Honu" (Hawaiian for turtle) who guided the first inhabitants of Hawaii to their new home. Although there are alternate myths, a reverence for the turtle's prowess in navigation is part of the Hawaiian culture. Capable of laying a hundred eggs at one time, they are viewed as symbols of fertility and creation. The sea turtle's ability to return home connects them with guidance, good luck and faithfulness. Their slow movement has some negative connotations, such as the decreased mobility of old age, but primarily the slow, dogged movement of turtles denotes steadfastness, as in Aesop's fable of the tortoise winning the race against the hare. The tricky thing about tattoo sketch is sometimes you have to consider the curvature of the skin, especially when you want to get inked on the arm or leg.
Koi tattoo designs are often combined with splashing water, cherry blossom and lotus flowers.
Originally a ravenous pet species that stirred up silt in waterways, the Japanese have inbred them and turned them into gemlike marvels.
Interestingly, the Japanese assign different symbolic meanings to the fish depending upon the way it behaves, either in the pond or in the wild.
The koi fish is powerful enough to fight river currents and swim against the stream in order to reach its food sources or spawning grounds.
It takes a lot to be able to go against the tide of fate if life has stacked the odds up against you. Proudly going against the grain, with little care for the opinions of others and society, a tattoo depicting a koi fish swimming through a tumultuous torrent is a powerful and personal image. Their backgrounds are often as spectacular as the fish itself: with crashing water, suns and moons, cherry blossom and lotus petals floating along. Covering one third of the planet, the Pacific Ocean is the realm of the sea turtle, and upon every land mass that the turtle has visited, legends and myths have arisen about the singular creature.


Mohawk mythology ascribes earthquakes to the great World Turtle, stretching in reaction to bearing the weight of the world. As a culture with no writing, the Polynesians not only used tattoos as talismans of protection and spirituality, but as a way to exhibit their status. An ancient petroglyph that depicts a turtle with a vertical line drawn down its shell supports this mythology. Ancient Hawaiians believed that their "Aumakua" (guardian spirits) could take the shape of a variety of animals, including the turtle. The curved, intact nature of the turtle shape makes it a good artistic choice for shoulder designs. These turtles are generally depicted cheerfully, viewed as a symbol that a positive attitude and determined effort spell success in life.
Koi fish tattoos often represent victory despite terrible adversity: courageous triumph over a struggle.
Since koi can eat a hefty portion of their body weight every day, they were expensive to keep. A tribal turtle tattoo might have had a more significant meaning to one tribe than another, gaining particular importance through an association to family genealogy. A 19th century missionary to Polynesia recorded that Pa te Pou Ariki, Chief of the Takitumu tribe in Rarotonga (one of the Cook Islands) had turtle tattoos on both knees. It is said the great turtle Kailua would turn into a human female and appear to protect children playing on the beach from danger. The missionary noted that the turtle symbol was "reserved for the chief alone," indicating that the turtle was deeply associated with the chief's genealogy.



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