Japanese Tattoo Symbols

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Tattoo design of the Japanese symbol for fire

Not done in Japan, but a trend in the West: kanji tattoos, it's what Pink, Britney Spears and Mel C have in common.

Japanese tattoo symbols are popular in America and Europe and It's easy to see why: kanji are understated, yet impactful – both compact and elegant, a kanji tattoo is the perfect way to make an artistic statement that is both modern and meaningful.

 

Design of Japanese tattoo symbols with lotus flowers

Find the meaning of these symbols in the list below

 

The Japanese writing system has 3 sorts of scripts. For tattoos the kanji script is used the most often, followed by Katakana for name translations:

 

  • Kanji: Japanese kanji are characters with a Chinese origin. Kanji are simplified traditional Chinese characters, but most of them have different simplifications than simplified Chinese. There are about 50,000 kanji characters, they are mostly used for nouns (words like "peace" or "perseverance"). Here's an example of a kanji character, meaning "morning":

    Kanji symbols


  • Katakana: used to write loan words (foreign words) and names. Here's the name "Emily" translated into Japanese, written in katakana script:

    Katakana tattoos


  • Hiragana: used for adjectives and grammatical stuff and is less interesting for tattooing.

 

Below is an a to z list of the most popular kanji symbols for tattoos, their meaning (and pronunciation):

Can't find the word you were looking for? Don't worry, we'll do your kanji translations.

 

- Angel (tenshi) -

Japanese Symbol: Angel

- Anger (ikari) -

Japanese Symbol: Anger

- Angry (okotteru) -

Japanese Symbol: angry

- Bad (aku) -

Japanese Symbol: bad

- Balance (heion) -

Japanese Symbol: balance

- Beauty (biyou) -

Japanese Symbol: beauty

- Believe (shinjte) -

Japanese Symbol: believe

- Brothers (kyoudai) -

Japanese Symbol: brothers

- Change (henkou) -

Japanese Symbol: change

- Chaos (konran) -

Japanese Symbol: chaos

- Cosmos (rikugou) -

Japanese Symbol: cosmos

- Courage (yuuki) -

Japanese Symbol: courage

- Crane (tsuru) -

Japanese Symbol: crane

- Crazy (baka) -

Japanese Symbol:

- Demon (akuma) -

Japanese Symbol:

- Desert (sabaku) -

Japanese Symbol: desert

- Destiny (unmei) -

Japanese Symbol: destiny

- Discipline (kiritsu) -

Japanese Symbol: discipline

- Dragon (ryuu) -

Japanese Symbol: dragon

- Dream (Yume) -

Japanese Symbol: dream

- Earth (chikyu) -

Japanese Symbol: earth

- Effort (doryoku) -

Japanese Symbol: effort

- Endurance (taikyu) -

Japanese Symbol: endurance

- Energy (katsuryoku) -

Japanese Symbol: energy

- Eternity (eien) -

Japanese Symbol: eternity

- Faith (shinkou) -

Japanese Symbol: faith

- Faithful (chuujitsu) -

Japanese Symbol: faithful

- Family (kazoku) -

Japanese Symbol: family

- Fate (unmei) -

Japanese Symbol: fate

- Father (chichi) -

Japanese Symbol: father

- Fire (hi) -

Japanese Symbol: fire

- Freedom (jiyu) -

Japanese Symbol: freedom

- Friendship (yuujou) -

Japanese Symbol: friendship

- God (kamisama) -

Japanese Symbol: god

- Good Luck (kou-un) -

Japanese Symbol: good luck

- Happiness (koufuku) -

Japanese Symbol: happiness

- Hate (ken-o) -

Japanese Symbol: hate

- Heaven (tengoku) -

Japanese Symbol: heaven

- Honor (Meiyo) -

Japanese Symbol: honor

- Hope (Kibou) -

Japanese Symbol: hope

- Individuality (kosei) -

Japanese Symbol: individuality

- Integrity (richigi) -

Japanese Symbol: integrity

- Life (jinsei) -

Japanese Symbol: Life

- Love (ai) -

Japanese Symbol: Love

- Loyalty (chuugi) -

Japanese Symbol: Loyalty

- Luck (un) -

Japanese Symbol: Luck

- Magnificent (migoto) -

Japanese Symbol: Magnificent

- Mother (haha) -

Japanese Symbol: mother

- Music (ongaku) -

Japanese Symbol: music

- Nirvana (nehan) -

Japanese Symbol: nirvana

- Passion (jounetsu) -

Japanese Symbol: passion

- Patience (nintai) -

Japanese Symbol: patience

- Patriot (shishi) -

Japanese Symbol: patriot

- Peace (heiwa) -

Japanese Symbol: peace

- Peaceful (nodoka) -

Japanese Symbol: peaceful

- Perseverance (konki) -

Japanese Symbol: perseverance

- Remembrance (tsuioku) -

Japanese Symbol: remembrance

- Respect (sonkei) -

Japanese Symbol: respect

- Samurai (samurai) -

Japanese Symbol: samurai

- Serenity (heisei) -

Japanese Symbol: serenity

- Sisters (shimai) -

Japanese Symbol: sisters

- Soldier (heishi) -

Japanese Symbol: soldier

- Special (tokubetsu) -

Japanese Symbol: special

- Speed (sokudo) -

Japanese Symbol: speed

- Strength (chikara) -

Japanese Symbol: strength

- Success (seikou) -

Japanese Symbol: success

- Sun (taiyou) -

Japanese Symbol: sun

- Taboo (kinki) -

Japanese Symbol: taboo

- Temptation (yuuwaku) -

Japanese Symbol: temptation

- Trust (shinrai) -

Japanese Symbol: trust

- Truth (shinjitsu) -

Japanese Symbol: truth

- Uncommon (mezurashii) -

Japanese Symbol: uncommon

- Unique (dokutoku) -

Japanese Symbol: unique

- War (sensou) -

Japanese Symbol: war

- Warrior (bushi) -

Japanese Symbol: warrior

- Water (mizu) -

Japanese Symbol: water

- Wave (nami) -

Japanese Symbol: wave

- Welcome (kangei) -

Japanese Symbol: welcome

- Willpower (kiryoku) -

Japanese Symbol: willpower

- Wisdom (chi-e) -

Japanese Symbol: wisdom

- Wise Person (kenja) -

Japanese Symbol: wise person

- wise (kahikoi) -

Japanese Symbol: wise

- Yin Yang (inyo) -

Japanese Symbol: yin yang

- Zen (zen) -

Japanese Symbol: zen

 

Celebrities With Japanese Tattoos

  • Britney Spears: has a kanji character that was supposed to mean "Mysterious", but actually means "Strange".
  • Melanie C: has the kanji characters for "Girl Power" on her right shoulder.
  • Kelis: this singer has a kanji tattoo on her right leg, meaning "God".
  • Alyson Hannigan (Buffy): has a kanji meaning "Happiness" on her lower back.
  • Pink: also has a Happiness kanji.
  • Janet Jackson: has a kanji tattoo on the back of her neck.
  • Missy Elliot: rap star, has a band of kanji around her right ankle.