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The Best Colors for a Japanese Traditional Tattoo

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What is a Japanese Traditional tattoo?

Japanese traditional tattoos are one of the original forms and styles of tattoo. In fact, it is estimated that this style of tattoo originating over 5,000 years ago. Since then, the meaning and associations of Japanese traditional tattoos has changed greatly, especially in Japan. What was once seen as an expressive tradition, Japanese tattoos in Japan began to take on other meanings, usually associated with organized crime. Today, there remains a stigma around tattoos in Japan, but the tradition of tattooing continues to gain popularity in many other regions of the world, including the United States.

While the cultural significance of Japanese traditional tattoos has changed over the centuries, the imagery, color, and final product has largely remained the same even with advancements in tattoo technology. In this guide, we will briefly touch upon the popular subjects of a Japanese traditional tattoo as well as the best colors to have the piece done with. After, we will touch upon a few locations where one could search for inspiration for your very own Japanese traditional tattoo!

Best Imagery for Japanese Traditional

Before exploring the best colors for a Japanese traditional tattoo, let’s quickly list some of the popular imagery found in a Japanese traditional tattoo.


There are a variety of traditional Japanese face masks that can be selected from, each with their own associations. The list of popular masks include Oni, Tengu, Okina, Hyottoko, and Saru. Each of these masks is unique in appearance and meaning, usually equipped with their own colors.


There are a variety of animals that are popular for a Japanese traditional piece including both real and fantasy creatures. Among the most popular and widely seen are dragons, tigers, and koi fish. Each creature comes with their own meanings, especially when paired with the right color.


There are plenty of traditional Japanese characters that hold a large significance that also make for great tattoos. This list includes Karura, Baku, and Daikoku amongst quite a few others. The characters hold with them a tremendous amount of cultural significance.

Best Colors for Japanese Traditional

Once you have a subject in mind, selecting the colors for your Japanese traditional piece is an extremely important decision. Each color comes with its own meanings and associations, which should be considered when making this choice. What’s more, the Japanese traditional style calls for a lot of color saturation, which makes these colors pop!

That being said, there are ways to incorporate all the colors below should one want a piece of them all. The most popular colors include:


White is an integral color to Japanese tradition. White is the color of mourning, what black is to the United States. What’s more, the color white in Japan symbolizes purity, truth, and a fresh start. While working a lot of white into a piece may not yield the best results due to a lack of contrast with the skin or other parts of the tattoo, having a part of your tattoo in white can capture the meaning many strive for.


Black is a complex color in Japan; when used with white, these colors combine to create sympathy towards mourning. However, on its own, black has a more mysterious meaning. Japanese traditional tattoos have incorporated black over the years, which has caused the color to take up the feeling of mysteriousness and danger that comes with organized crime.


The color red is usually only used for merry occasions, like weddings and the new year. The association with the color of blood has caused red to take on the meaning of life and passion. The use of red for holidays is more akin to joy and happiness. In both regards, red is seen as an important and positive color, which makes it a great option for a tattoo.


Blue is often associated with luck and money. This has resulted in blue being the favorite color in Japan for people interviewing for jobs. Incorporating blue into a tattoo is said to bring good luck to the individual.


Green, like in many other cultures, has taken on the meaning of life and energy for Japanese traditional tattoos. The associations with nature, as most of nature sports a vibrant green, creates a feeling of youth, hope, and growth.

Where to Find Inspiration for a Japanese Traditional Tattoo

If you’re looking for inspiration for a new Japanese traditional tattoo, there are a few websites that can provide a treasure trove of fantastic pieces that exist in the world. First is Instagram; this platform hosts a tremendous amount of artists and individuals that are excited to share their art and tattoos with the world. This way, you can see what looks good when inked on skin as well as get in contact with specific artists if you find yourself particularly drawn to their style.

Pinterest is another great site to visit for tattoo inspirations. Pinterest is set up for more of a wide spread dump of tattoo pictures, which is great for seeing a large variety of options, but is less personal in that you may not stumble across specific artists that you like. Nonetheless, seeing what Japanese imagery works for you is a great way to end up with your own Japanese traditional tattoo.

Contact First Class Tattoo Today!

For a premier Japanese Traditional tattooing experience, look no further than the expert artists at First Class Tattoo in New York City! Our team of expert artists means that we have the person for whatever tattoo style you want! We take care of the whole process: from helping with design, to executing a fantastic, professional piece, to the aftercare you need to make your tattoo look great. Contact First Class Tattoo today to get started!

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