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What is a Japanese style tattoo?

Like many cultures, the Japanese have their own style of tattooing, but have the uniqueness of being one of the oldest civilizations to use tattooing as a form of permanent body art. Evidence of early prehistoric tattooing can be traced to over 10,000 years ago in Japan, and in modern times the use and availability of tattoos has changed the way individuals represent the art as well as how society views them.

Because of the yakuza, or Japanese gangsters, tattoos have had a relatively negative representation in Japanese culture the last century. Yakuza would decorate their entire bodies with traditionally Japanese tattoos, such as koi fish and dragons. This all-over style was obviously easy to see, and the attitudes and behaviors of the yakuza made them targets for societal repression.

Today, there are very few traditional tattoo shops left in Japan, except for a few that are found in tourist-heavy areas rife with foreigner’s money and time. Most of these practitioners have apprenticed under a master for decades at a time in order accurately represent the types of traditional tattoos that people have come to expect from Japan’s greatest artists.

Nowadays, most of the cheaper tattoo shops use a tattoo machine as the rest of the world does, instead of the ancient way of tattooing known as irezumi.

How much do Japanese tattoos cost?

Most tattoos don’t come cheap, and Japanese designs are no exception, most likely due to the fact that they are often incredibly complex and difficult to outline initially. As well as this, most inherently Japanese designs require aesthetically pleasing coloring and shading that can take months to years to complete for the average individual.

In terms of strictly sleeve designs, most of the cost will be in the shading and coloring of the tattoo, which will essentially remove and of you “normal” skin tone to be colored over if desired. Some people choose to only have a sleeve outline, where they can get slightly more detail in the lines themselves versus spend countless hours doing the coloring process.

If you have the time and money to spend, the best way to get a fully complete sleeve is to incorporate this shading and coloring to the point where it looks like there’s a near photograph on your arm.

The Aesthetic of Japanese Sleeve Designs

Sleeve tattoos have been popular for as long as there have been contemporary design elements for permanent body art and design. Being able to use the entirety of the body’s canvas has always been a boon for individuals who want to express their appreciation for the more aesthetically pleasing aspects of Japanese sleeve design.

A common style is to have koi going up some sort of water feature up the arm, or a “dragon’s gate” which a picture of a koi swimming upstream in order to transform into a dragon. This is a traditional aspect of Japanese mythology, where thousands of koi swim up the Yellow River in order to hopefully become a dragon. Only some of them make it, allowing this tattoo design to adequately represent the completion or success over a trial in life.

Koi fish sleeve asian

Where to Get The Best Japanese Style Tattoos?

Japanese style tattoos are frequently seen in tattoo shops across the world, as they are an important part of traditional designs even in America. Various tattoo ideas in the Japanese style can be altered or personalized in a way that effectively showcases their originality.

No matter where you go, ensure that the artist you’re having complete your design is experienced and passionate about the style you’re going for.

Japanese symbols, like their calligraphy, are popular contemporary tattoos for men and women. There are many different symbols and “letters” that can be used to create an incredibly aesthetically pleasing tattoo.

Traditionally, Japanese tattoos for men were mostly represented through common criminals, or slightly more organized ones like the yakuza. In ancient times, criminals were sometimes branded with them in order to show the public they had committed a crime and weren’t to be trusted.

The Ceremonial Cherry Blossom

The cherry blossom is immediately and easily recognizable as a uniquely Japanese flower, one that is indicative of the respect that the country gives to its ancient ceremonies and traditions. Tattoos in this style are often coupled with other relevant Japanese symbols, in order to create the ideal aesthetically pleasing group of images that represent Japanese culture.

Some sleeve tattoos can incorporate cherry blossoms all across the arm in a sort of pink harmony that is unique among Asiatic aesthetic design. Many people will look at this as feminine, but most of the cultural significance surrounding the cherry blossom is rooted in the respectful admiration of its annual blossom festival. Every year in Japan, the cherry blossom season is met with joyous celebration and grateful attitudes towards life and living.

cherry blossom brushstroke

Setting up Shop

Finding a tattoo shop that specializes in the types of tattoos you want can be difficult, but it really just requires a bit of research and some time. Once you know what you want, you can have an artist sketch it out for you or do a simple stencil outline. This way you can see the outline of the tattoo on your skin and see if it matches up with your perception of it.

It can be difficult to fully outline sleeve tattoos, so a sketch of the entire design on a flat sheet of paper wrapped around the arm can be a more accurate representation of what it will look like completed. You can also opt to get smaller portions of the sleeve done first, so that if you end up changing your mind midway it will be easier to switch things up instead of be stuck with something you don’t want.

Once that’s done, you can take steps to set up an appointment and get your body art done. No matter where you choose to place your design, you’ll feel comfortable and proud of the permanent art you get to wear.

Ready to Explore Your Own Japanese style Tattoo?

At Chronic Ink Tattoo, our talented artists are ready to help you explore Japanese style and other tattoos to make sure you find something you’ll want to show off for decades to come. If you’re in the Toronto, Markham, Mississauga, Kitsilano Vancouver area drop by our shop and check us out for yourself.

Tell us Your Idea

Tattoo Studio Locations

Downtown Toronto

378 Yonge Street,
2nd Floor,
Toronto, Ontario
M5B 1S6
Directions

Midtown Toronto

252 Eglinton Ave East,
2nd Floor,
Toronto, Ontario
M4P 1K2
Directions

Markham

7381 Kennedy Road,
Unit #105,
Markham, Ontario
L3R 5B5
Directions

Mississauga

100 City Centre Dr.,
Unit #2-311,
Mississauga, Ontario
L5N 2C9
Directions

Vancouver

1804 W 4th Ave,
Vancouver, British Columbia
V6J 1M3
Directions

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