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Japanese tattoos have long been associated with the Yakuza, but Japanese tattoo traditions go way beyond criminality. Tattooing in Japan reached its zenith in the 1800s, during the Edo period, a time when the power and influence of the common people was very much on the rise.
Around 1870 the Japanese government outlawed tattoos in order to make a good impression on the Western world. Tattooing in Japan was legalized again in 1945 by the occupying forces, but never really lost its association with crime. The Western style of tattoos (which they call yobori, as opposed to wabori) is popular in Japan, especially the old school style like heart, skull and rose tattoos.
Although tattoos are getting more popular in Japan, they still face resistance by the Japanese cultural code.
Tebori is the art of traditional Japanese hand tattooing ( as opposed to Yobori, tattooing with a tattoo machine).
The advantage of tebori is that it is possible to create gradations of tone that are hard to accomplish with a tattoo machine. The dragon represents the element wood and male powers, as opposed to the phoenix, who represents the element fire and female powers. Like many other world cultures the Japanese had a traditional and distinctive version of tattoo art. The woman of the Ainu people used tattoos to make themselves look like their goddess, so that demons (who caused diseases) would mistake them for the goddess and get scared.
One way in which people chose to use their new-found wealth was to celebrate their art and culture with tattoos. As a result, Japanese tattoos went underground and became affiliated with the Yakuza, the Japanese mafia. Even today people with tattoos are still banned from businesses like fitness centers, in an attempt to restrict the yakuza from entering their place.
They are not primarily interested in traditional irezumi though, they prefer the American style of tattooing and tribals. Tattooing in Japan is also getting more attention among females than among males, something that used to be the opposite. Some of the wood carvers turned to tattooing as an adjunct to their artistic careers, others exchanged their carving-blades for tattoo needles full time as tattooing grew more popular in the 19th century.
Some travel to Japan to be tattooed by a Horishi in the Tebori way (by hand), a time-intensive, painful and very expensive undertaking. In Japan, the dragon is considered a benevolent creature and a bringer of good luck and wealth. His most famous work is Beneath the Wave of Kanagawa, and has become the standard Japanese style tattoo water.
Koi can swim against the current, that's why Japanese koi tattoos are associated with perseverance.


Yakuza members want to keep a low profile and a full body suit tattoo isn't exactly low profile.
The beauty of the images created was considered a reward for enduring what was, at the time, a long and painful process. They are more interested in one-point tattoos, smaller tattoos on one part of the body that are usually done in one sitting. The traditional Japanese tattoo style is very detailed, what makes getting a Japanese tattoo time-consuming and expensive.
The dragon and the phoenix are enemies and are often depicted together in Japanese art and tattoos. Tattoos are their way of showing courage, masculinity and devotion towards the organization.
Smaller tattoos in the Western style are getting more popular and some go as far as tattoo removal. People started covering up these marks of shame with more decorative tattoos and that's how the art started. Polynesians which includes Marquesans, Samoans, Niueans, Tongans, Cook Islanders, Hawaiians, Tahitians, and Maori, are genetically linked to indigenous peoples of parts of Southeast Asia.
It’s a sub-region of Oceania, comprising of a large grouping of over 1 ,000 islands scattered over the central and southern Pacific Ocean, within a triangle that has New Zealand, Hawaii and Easter Island as its corners. The two pictures below clearly show this triangle:┬áPeople who live in these islands are regarded as Polynesians for their similar traits in language, customs, society and culture. But the European navigators showed little interest due to the lack of valuable resources.Captain James Cook was the first navigator trying to explore the whole Polynesia Triangle.
But due to the difficulty in sterilizing the traditional tools, the Ministry of Health banned tattooing in French Polynesia in 1986.Although many years passed, tools and techniques of Polynesian tattooing have changed little. For a strictly traditional design, the skill gets handed from father to son, or master to disciple. Each tattoo artist, or tufuga, learned the craft over many years of serving as his master’s apprentice.
Polynesian peoples believe that a person’s mana, their spiritual power or life force, is displayed through their tattoo. For example, sea creatures are very common Polynesian symbols, like mantas, sharks, bonitos and sea urchins. Each of them has a meaning related to its inner nature and embodies the meaning by tattooing it on to the body.
It depends on the degree of evolution of various traditions from the original common tattoo designs, like Lapita, which is a former Pacific archeological culture. Ancient original styles mainly consist of some simple patterns, like straight lines, repeating on the body. These geometrical styles can be found in Hawaiian and Samoan tattoo traditions, or in tattoos from Fiji, Palau, Tonga, etc.


Because the age is too far from nowadays, the meanings of these patterns are almost lost, or debatable. The tattoos and their location on the body were determined by one’s genealogy, position within the society and personal achievements. Tattooing was operated by high trained shamans (tahua) in the religious ceremony, who was an expert in the meanings of the tattoo and skills of the art.Before getting tattooed, a person should experience a long period of cleansing. During this period one would fast for a fixed length of time and abstaining from sexual intercourse or contact with women. The tattoo practice generally marked both rites of passage and important events in a person’s life. The position of tattoo on women’s body was limited to hand, arms, feet, ears and lips. One saying is that girls at the age of twelve would get tattooed on their right hands, and since when they were permitted to prepare the meals and join in the process of rubbing of dead bodies.
After my participation in the 2013 Ironman world championship I got stunned after seeing the locals with their polynesian tattos. I wanted to give myself a souvenir and something that always give back the great memories from my trip to hawaii.
My name is obviously hispanic, so yes I consider myself 100% latino but with an amazing love of Polynesian culture.
I guess I was too lose with the 100% comment because my estrange great grandpa was actually from Samoa. I would like to get a tribal tattoo but I wouldn’t want to claim any tribal rights as to not offend anyone. I just love the designs and I would like something that could represent who I am and what I have accomplished so far. Your Great Grandfather would be proud of you for acknowledging you have a link to our ways, his ways. If you can find out more about his place or status in Samoa, you may be entitled to his markings.
If not, there are plenty of modern designs which have no direct tribal or lineage link, you could conceivably choose from. If that is the case however, you should choose based on your personality, and indications of strength and honor. Notify me of new posts by email.Subscribe to Get Various Designs and Pictures!Get new collected designs, pictures and all information about Polynesian Tattoo.



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