Need an artist or shop recommendation?Give us a description of the tattoo you're looking for and we'll try to match you up with a great local artist or shop! This is one of the reasons that the Japanese tattooing tradition has persisted for so long and has appealed to so many outside of Japanese culture. The lantern is full of meaning and history which is a major contributor to its popularity, but the ornate nature of the lantern lends itself to very interesting and beautiful tattoo designs. If you’re thinking about getting a Japanese tattoo, then we recommend reading this guide to get acquainted with the meaning of traditional Japanese tattoos and their meaning. Over time, tattoos in Japanese culture developed as a form of punishment similar to what was seen in Rome where it was common practice to tattoo prisoners of war, criminals, and slaves as a means of making their status in society instantly recognizable.
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. First, and most common, are lanterns resembling those people used to carry before the advent of the flashlight. These images are used to convey a person’s beliefs, aspirations, or character traits.
For more ideas on styles of lanterns to use in your tattoo, check out the lantern wiki page.The style of this tattoo often calls to mind images of miners, as this design resembles lanterns used to light mines before electricity was widely available. The last, but seemingly equally popular lantern tattoo design, is the Chinese (often referred to as Japanese) lantern.
In Japanese traditional tattoo art, dragons are generous, benevolent forces that use their strength to do good for mankind. This version extends the meaning of the lantern tattoo slightly, but does not diminish the other interpretations of its symbolism.In addition to different lantern styles, your lantern may be drawn in a particular tattoo style.


Traditional tattoo or Neo-traditional tattoo styles are often used for people who want a very nostalgic feel to their tattoo.
Koi are a specially bred type of carp, a fish native to China, where the Koi actually originates. Neo-traditional designs retain some of the nostalgia but are more like fine art pieces in their attention to fine details and sometimes delicate line work. Koi are given masculine qualities in traditional Eastern folklore such as strength and bravery. With that said, some folks like to mix and match themes, styles, and symbols so to see a Chinese lantern done in a traditional or Neo-traditional tattoo style wouldn’t be unheard of.
The pictures above showcase some fantastic work by local artists in a style that spans classic traditional with Neo-trad.
Most of us are familiar with the story of the Phoenix, a bird that is consumed by fire and then rises from its own ashes.
Many are not aware that the story exists in many cultures and at many times throughout history including Greek and Roman mythology, Middle Eastern folklore, and even the Americas. The Japanese phoenix story draws its source from the story that’s indigenous to mainland China. It’s a great example of how you can take a classic design element and make it wholly your own.
For tips on coming up with a gorgeous and unique custom tattoo piece, check out our guide to getting a custom tattoo.Josh Richey from Heroes and Ghosts has a great piece that also exhibits a great modern take on the this theme  that includes another common tattoo design theme, moths. Snake tattoos also represent wisdom and protection, particularly from the results of bad decisions.


The snake can also embody regeneration, healing, and medicine as it was revered in Japanese culture in association with medicinal rites and remedies. As a symbol of good luck, it was also though to bring good health.The Japanese snake tattoo also represents the Divine Feminine, or the holy female attributes. It was thought that much in the same way a snake sheds its skin, a woman could take on the positive attributes of a man. One instance of this would include a monk who becomes an Oni after death to protect his temple. Oni, in traditional Japanese folklore, we marauding ogres known for terrorizing villages and tormenting villagers. Their association with demons in Japanese tattoo art has more to do with ogres being grouped into the realm of supernatural creatures (along with yokai) than anything else. Specifically, waves are an element of Japanese tattoo art that are perhaps among the most recognizable (Think traditional Japanese artists, like Hokusai). The image of water in Japanese traditional tattoos is often combined with Koi, Dragons, or Oni. In addition to symbolizing strength and life, water tattoos convey the belief that life, like water, ebbs and flows.



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