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Japanese Traditional Tattoos NYC

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Japanese traditional tattoos are characterized by distinct imagery, which usually depict culturally relevant images in Japan. This includes a variety of subjects from Japanese characters and symbols to popular creatures in traditional Japanese culture like dragons, koi fish, and samurai.


These images are cultivated with detailed line work alongside deep, vibrant saturated color, which makes the art pop off the skin. On this page, we will explore the history of Japanese traditional tattoos, examine the future of the tattoo style, and address questions frequently asked by individuals considering a Japanese traditional tattoo as their next ink.

Mikhail Andersson - First Class Tattoo

Our Japanese Traditional Tattoos Artists


History of Japanese Traditional Tattoos

As previously mentioned, Japanese traditional tattoos are amongst the oldest, most original forms of tattoo. In fact, there are historical texts that mention the use of Japanese traditional tattooing as far back as 5,000 years ago. These tattoos were initially considered a form of old folk art as men of all ages would get their entire bodies covered in ink. 

However, connotations surrounding tattoos changed from a traditional form of expression to something more sinister when the unsavory citizens in society began getting covered in ink. This change drastically shifted Japan’s view on tattoos; today, some beach resorts and hotels refuse to admit people with tattoos. Currently, tattoos in Japan are often grouped together with organized crime, which has created a massive taboo surrounding ink on skin.

What Are Japanese Traditional Tattoos?

Japanese traditional tattoos are characterized by distinct imagery, which usually depict culturally relevant images in Japan. This includes a variety of subjects from Japanese characters and symbols to popular creatures in traditional Japanese culture like dragons, koi fish, and samurai.

If you want a traditional Japanese tattoo, look no further than the expert artists at First Class Tattoo in New York City for the best tattoo experience around. Our expert artists can help guide you through the tattooing process from helping design an awesome tattoo, to performing the best linework and color saturation around, to providing the information needed for aftercare. Let us show you the way to an awesome traditional Japanese tattoo all your own!

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The Future of Japanese Traditional Tattoos

The most minimalistic interpretation of abstract tattoos is that they are a collection of shapes and colors scattered about on the skin canvas, which may have no meaning on first look. But these shapes and colors are meticulously picked and plotted to create a piece that has depth in meaning and presentation that may not be easily apparent to all who view it. What’s more, your abstract design doesn’t require any deep, dramatic meaning. Abstract tattoos look awesome, and you don’t need any more reason to get one beyond just enjoying the art.

Japanese Traditional Tattoos Gallery

Japanese Traditional Tattoos FAQs

Do I Need to be Japanese?

People ask. Naturally, you are allowed to get this style of tattoo even if you aren’t Japanese and it won’t be offensive. In fact, seeing as the culture of Japan has a taboo around tattoos, a lot of Japanese people don’t have the ink themselves. If the style speaks to you, absolutely get the ink!

Where is the Best Placement for a Traditional Japanese Tattoo?

Traditional Japanese tattoos have a lot of details, which means that they excel on a large canvas. Some popular areas to get this style inked include the chest, the back, upper thighs, and the arms for purposes of a sleeve. So long as your artist has room to incorporate the fine detailing that brings traditional Japanese tattoos to the finish line.

What Colors Should I Use?

A staple of traditional Japanese tattoos is the deep, saturated color. However, in Japanese culture, not all these colors mean the same thing. If having culturally relevant colors to your message, check out these brief descriptions on what each color represents. 


White in Japan represents a fresh start. At the same time, white is used for mourning in Japan, as Americans would use black. Purity, truth, and innocence also go hand-in-hand with the color white in Japan.


Red is an important color in Japanese culture representing happiness and joy as well as passion and longevity as red is the color of the vital fluid that gives us all life. Thus, incorporating some red into a Japanese traditional tattoo is a fantastic idea to keep cultural relevance. It is also said that having red in your tattoo is a good idea because it will provide you with protection. 


Blue is a great color choice for this style of tattoo. In Japanese culture, blue is said to be the color of fidelity and good luck. 


Naturally, green is a widely popular color for this style of tattoo. Being that all of nature boasts vibrant greens, this color is said to express life, youth, and energy.


Purple in Japan, as it is in many other cultures, is a color of royalty. This stems from the difficult process of producing the purple pigment, an expensive process. 


Pink is considered a very feminine color to Japanese culture. Pink captures the delicate nature of life and health.


Yellow is a complicated color for Japanese culture. Depending on where you are, yellow may represent optimism and joy. However, in other areas, yellow can represent deceit. 

Japanese Traditional Tattoos
& Cover Ups

Japanese traditional tattoos may not be your typical cover up style, but a skilled artist can certainly use them as stunning cover-ups in certain situations. The dark, saturated color and larger nature of Japanese traditional pieces gives an opportunity for them to be used to cover smaller, lighter pieces. A skilled artist is the best resource for this decision; the artists at First Class can be that resource to send you home happy with a perfect coverup.

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Contact Us

Contact Us

Ask us a question or inquire about booking a time for your Japanese Traditional Tattoo!

52 Canal Street, New York, NY 10002  |  Tel: (646) 998-5203

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