Japanese tattoos are unique, cool, and ultimately very popular tattoo ideas for men. Japanese style tattoos require a specific art form and often represent important parts of Asian culture. Similarly, Asian tattoos with a Japanese-theme can range from traditional to modern.
From a dragon to a snake, flower, bird, tiger, wave, cloud, skull, sun, samurai, or temple, there’s something special about Japanese tattoo designs that make them beautiful. Given how versatile these design ideas are, guys can get them inked large, small, full body, simple, black and white, colorful or tribal – it just depends on your personal preference and the skills of your tattoo artist.
So whether you’re looking for a Japanese sleeve, back, chest, forearm, leg, shoulder, or hand tattoo, there is awesome artwork that fits your body and style. Check out our gallery of the best Japanese tattoos for men to discover new ideas and learn the meanings behind different designs.
Cool Japanese Tattoo Designs
Today, classic Japanese motifs, designs and art continue to be common sources of inspiration for ink. And while there are many cool Japanese tattoo designs to consider, the fundamental difference between modern and traditional Japanese tattoos stems from how the ink is applied.
Irezumi describes both the Japanese word for tattoo as well as the verb that conveys the process of inserting ink using wooden handles, metal needles, and silk thread.
The tattoo artist then manually injects the ink into the skin. As you can imagine, these traditional Japanese tattoos are very painful and time-consuming to complete.
At one point in Japan, full body tattoos were associated with the Samurai. Later, the Yakuza used sleeve tattoos and other artwork to symbolize membership.
These days, you are far more likely to get a Japanese tattoo with a modern machine, even if the artist is Japanese. The most popular Japanese tattoo ideas are koi fish, dragons, geishas, kabuki masks, cherry blossoms, samurai warriors, ninjas, swords, tigers, and flowers.
Bright colors like red, blue, orange, white, yellow and purple are prevalent in Japanese designs. Other cool designs that complement the main piece include flames, clouds, waves, and other background fillers that give the artistic styling its unique flair.
For the most part, these designs combine black and gray backgrounds with colorful images. This distinct style and look focuses the attention on these symbols of Japanese culture.
However, some of the best Japanese tattoos come in all black and grey for a masculine look. Although it is worth noting that dark backgrounds require plenty of painful shading.
When thinking about placement, keep in mind that a Japanese tattoo generally looks good with size because it allows for more detail.
You will commonly see men with two full sleeves, a chest piece that connects to the shoulder and arm, a leg sleeve, a full back of artwork, or a full-body tattoo that stretches from one arm to the other and from the waist to the neck.
Though you won’t need to be this extreme (unless that’s your style), you should reserve the entire upper part of your arm, a quadrant of your back, one side of your chest, or your full thigh at a minimum.
Without ample room, the loops, scallops, and edges that make Japanese tattoo designs so iconic won’t be clean, crisp and clear.
Best Japanese Tattoo Ideas
For many guys, the idea of getting a Japanese tattoo is one that they’ve dreamed about for years. These tattoos do take a very long time to finish – even with modern equipment – and can also be expensive to get.
Nonetheless, if you view your ink as an investment and you’re looking for some inspiration, here are the top 125 best Japanese tattoos for men.
Japanese Tattoo Meanings
Understanding traditional Japanese tattoo meanings is crucial to picking the right theme and symbols for your design. Here is a complete guide to the meaning of different concepts in Asian culture.
- Dragon: wisdom, strength, ferocity, force of good, protector
- Tiger: strength, protector against evil spirits and bad luck, courage,
- Snake: wisdom, luck, change, protection, prophecy
- Wave or Water: life, movement, change, strength, adaptability
- Sun: new life, divinity, knowledge, energy, courage, guardian, wisdom
- Temple: spirituality, growth, connection with nature, respect
- Samurai: the way of the warrior (Bushido), honor, courage, loyalty, virtue
- Phoenix: rebirth, immortality, fire, life and death, resurrection
- Koi Fish: commitment, strength, ambition, courage, masculinity
- Fu Dog or Lion: good luck, power, health, wealth, strength, courage
- Skull: change, life and death, respect for the dead
- Oni Mask or Demon: good and evil, protection against evil spirits, demons
- Cherry Blossom: life, beauty, appreciation
- Severed Head: courage, fearlessness, respect for one’s enemies, honor
- Peony: wealth, prosperity, elegance, nobility
- Geisha: beauty, elegance, sexuality, aspirations, desire, grace, femininity, mystery