Japanese Tattoo Lettering – History, Basics, and Style

Published by at under Tattoo Design

In Japan , tattooing and tattoo lettering began mainly as an expression of spirituality. From around 300 BC to 300 AD, a Japanese tattoo always delivered a certain religious meaning for its wearer, and also used as a decorative status sign.

tattoo design
During this period, tattooing was punctiliously practiced and highly paid attention. For the tattoo artists, tattooing was not just a carceer, but a way of life. For example, desiring beginner had to coach under masters for many years before becoming trustworthy and approved tattoo artists, which are called “horis” in Japan . Only a horis was granted to make full body suit tattoos.

tattoo design

All that variation when the government start to engrave tattoos on criminals as a ways of penalty. During the Meiji era, the Japanese government announce tattooing is illegal and drove artists to carry on business underground. It was legitmated again in 1945, but until now, Japanese tattoos have never completely departed from the negative connection with common criminal and the Yakuza, Japan ‘s classic notorious mafia. As a result, people displaying tattoos are known to be restricted in many public baths and massage parlors by apprehensive business owners. In spite of all this, Japanese tattoos keep on to obtain reputation locally and universally due to the excellent artistry of the designs and the deep mysterious symbolism inherent to them.

Japanese tattoos are created with words, images, and numbers, or different grouping of each. There are three types of penmanship in Japanese:

• Kanji – derived from traditional Chinese characters. complex and pretty, these characters are used to deliver notions.

• Hiragana – formed during the Heian period by women. It stands for sounds, and seems feminine.

• Katakana – a set of characters created by Buddhist monks. The style is fashion and manly, and stand for sounds.

Kanji, hiragana, and katakana are mixed and used for lettering and can be made vertically and horizontally. Katakana is commonly used for foreign names, places, and words that are of foreign origin. For Japanese tattoo lettering, people often choose Kanji.

In the same way as there are varied lettering styles in English writing, there are also varied writing styles to write Japanese characters. They are:

• Kaisho, is the Japanese equivalent of block style.

• Gyousho, is the equivalent of cursive style.

• Sousho, is an extreme form of cursive, maybe the equivalent of fancy Old English lettering.

Called “irezumi” and “horimono”, Japanese tattoos are beautiful but are rather complex to make because there is no genuine alphabet for the Japanese language. Written message is a series of symbols standing for sounds or common concepts. That’s why it is so essential to seek yourself a tattoo artist who has comprehensive knowledge and specialist with the Japanese language, and its affixed symbolism. Before obtaining a Japanese tattoo, it is best to obey these guidelines:

• Know the distinction between kanji, hiragana, and katakana.

• Familiarize yourself with the writing styles and select the one that attract to you the most.

• Select a word that would interpret reasonably into Japanese. Some phrases may be coherent in English (e.g. “Big Daddy) but may be ludicrous when translated to Japanese (e.g. Large Father).

• Always keep in mind to verify before having any tattooing done.

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