Japanese tattoos are a different brand of tattoos. They have a distinct and unmistakable look, making them perhaps the most easily recognizable tattoos around the world. They come in two forms: traditional and modern. Both forms look nearly identical to each other. The main difference is the method used to apply the tattoo.
Traditional Japanese tattooing is the more authentic form and is done by hand using non-electrical tools. The tattoo artist manually inserts the ink into the skin using a special pencil-like tool. Traditional Japanese tattoos take years to finish, especially full-body designs. Not to mention, they are a lot more expensive than normal tattoos.
And that’s not all. Finding a traditional Japanese tattoo artist also presents a huge problem. Practitioners of the craft are extremely hard to find. Due to the Japanese government’s hard stance against tattoos in the past, there aren’t many left in Japan today. Most of them live in secret to avoid public scrutiny. You need connections and referrals just to get an audience with a traditional Japanese tattooist.
On the other hand, modern Japanese tattooing is done by using a regular tattoo machine. No need to travel to Japan to find a tattoo artist. There are many artists who specialize in Japanese tattoos, so it’s not that hard to find one around the world.
Modern Japanese tattoos are also cheaper and take less time to finish. A full body tattoo can take less than a year to finish, a quick turnaround compared to the 3-5 years that it takes for a traditional Japanese tattooist to finish the same design.
Japanese tattoos typically come in a mix of black-and-gray and colors, though there are also designs that come in full black-and-gray. The main piece of the design is rooted in Japanese culture. The most popular ones include dragons, tigers, koi, geishas, samurai, and kabuki masks.
The main piece is complemented by a black-and-gray background in the form of wavy patterns or clouds. Some designs have a full-black background, which requires a painful amount of shading. The black-and-gray background does a great job at highlighting the main piece. In many cases, the main piece is flanked by a secondary design, usually lotuses or cherry blossoms.
Japanese tattoos are one those tattoos that look better the bigger they are. They look best when covering a large portion of the body such as the entire arm or back. You can go for a full-body tattoo – but make sure that you won’t have any regrets over the design. It’s impossible to cover up a Japanese tattoo. Keep that in mind.
Be careful when visiting Japan with a clearly visible Japanese tattoo, however. Japanese tattoos are usually associated with the Yakuza, the Japanese mafia. The last thing you would want is to get mistaken for a Yakuza member. Better to keep your tattoos hidden when in Japan because some establishments still refuse to accommodate people with Japanese tattoos. Locals might also look at you differently.
Here are the best Japanese tattoos for men. It’s up to you whether you want the authentic route and travel to Japan to find a traditional tattoo artist.
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