As per Japanese culture, dragons are considered the protectors and benefactors of humankind, and their significance is equivalent to the survival of civilization. Due to their beliefs, the Japanese often get dragons tattooed on their bodies to pay tribute to their age-old custom and symbolize stories of wisdom, strength, and bravery.
- Japanese dragon tattoos are popular in Japan to pay tribute to the age-old custom and symbolize stories of wisdom, strength, and bravery.
- Japanese dragons come in five different colors, each representing different aspects of humanity, and there are six different types of dragons, each upholding a different meaning.
- Japanese dragon tattoos can be designed with intricate and hauntingly beautiful details and can be placed on any part of the body.
- Dragon tattoos can also be feminine and look equally powerful on women as they do on men.
- Other elements of Japanese culture, such as cherry blossoms, koi fish, samurai, and phoenixes, can also be incorporated into dragon tattoo designs.
- Traditional Japanese dragon tattoos are a popular form of Irezumi ink art, often featuring abstract, cartoonish, dramatic, or realistic styles.
Meaning and Facts
Japanese dragon tattoos have a long history that goes back almost 6,000 years. They are often shown as sea serpents because Japan is an island, and the dragons are thought to protect the land and people by watching over the island in the sea.
These dragons come in five different colors, each representing different aspects of humanity, and there are six different types of dragons, each upholding a different meaning.
For those who are interested in getting a Japanese dragon tattoo, there are several design ideas to choose from. Traditional Japanese dragon tattoos are a big part of the culture and are filled with colors that represent different parts of the dragon’s power. These tattoos are designed with intricate and hauntingly beautiful details.
Contrary to popular belief, dragon tattoos can also be feminine and look equally powerful on women as they do on men. Delicate lines and flower collaborations are often incorporated into female Japanese dragon tattoos.
A Japanese dragon tattoo on the sleeve would be a great way to make a strong statement. The dragons in these tattoos tell a story that may have come straight from Japanese folklore.
Dragon heads represent the person who wears them and their lives, and the person’s feelings represent the dragon. As such, some people only get a dragon’s head tattoo. Depending on the size and detail of the design, these tattoos can be put on any part of the body.
If you are looking for a large tattoo with a story and intricate details, consider getting a dragon tattoo on your back or chest. In Japan, many of their peers have these tattoos, which look beautiful and interesting.
Small Japanese dragon tattoos can be placed on the wrist, shoulder, collarbones, hips, ankles, and other areas for a more subtle and delicate look. Forearms are the most common place for dragon tattoos because they are easy to get and are very popular.
There are also a number of tattoo ideas that include other parts of Japanese culture, such as cherry blossoms, koi fish, samurai, and phoenixes. People think that these designs give the wearer power and magic that comes from the animals themselves.
The symbolism of Dragons in Japanese Culture
Japanese dragons come in five different colors, each symbolizing different aspects of humanity, and there are six different types of dragons. These are Sui, Ri, Han, Hai, Ka, and Fuku. And the term “Ryu” means dragon. Each of these dragons, once again, holds a different meaning.
Below, we have summarized some dragons in color and their symbolism.
The Yellow Dragon is a deity that represents the element earth, the Chinese quintessence, and the changing of seasons in East Asian culture. In Chinese mythology, it is the center of the world and the last of the Four Symbols.
But it doesn’t show up in Japanese mythology because the void, which is the fifth element in the Japanese elemental system, can’t be represented by an animal.
Huang Long, or Kry/ry, is a hornless dragon who once emerged from the river and is known as the “Yellow Dragon” in Japan.
In terms of color symbolism, pale-yellow dragons symbolize envy and cowardice, while golden-yellow dragons symbolize wealth and the sun.
Black dragons are associated with experience and wisdom in Japanese culture.
In terms of Japanese tattoos, black ink is commonly used to depict the dragon. The Black Dragon Society, also called the Amur River Society, was a well-known ultranationalist paramilitary group in Japan. They thought that it was Japan’s destiny to take control of areas past the Black Dragon River.
In Japanese culture, green dragons are associated with nature and the earth. They are usually connected to small or minor dragons, but they are just as important in mythology.
The blue-green dragon is considered the guardian of the eastern signs of the Japanese zodiac. Gold dragons are associated with virtues such as courage, wisdom, and kindness, while green dragons represent nature and the earth.
In Chinese culture, dragons with a golden yellow color are linked to the sun, wealth, prosperity, and good luck. In Japanese mythology, gold dragons represent value and a variety of virtues.
Japanese dragons are believed to control rain, fire, and the earth. They rule from the sky and bodies of water.
The blue Japanese dragon, also known as the Azure Dragon, is believed to be the guardian spirit of cities and protector of the zodiac in Japanese mythology.
According to Japanese tattoo symbolism, blue dragons are considered gentle, forgiving, and benevolent. The blue-green dragon is regarded as the guardian of the eastern signs of the Japanese zodiac.
Japanese dragons are diverse legendary creatures that amalgamate native legends with imported stories.
Japanese Dragon Tattoo Designs
Japanese dragon tattoos come in various shapes, sizes, and designs. Traditional Japanese dragon tattoo illustrations often feature abstract, cartoonish, dramatic, or realistic styles.
The yakuza dragon tattoo is an old custom that means the person wearing it will protect Japanese culture. To draw out a tattoo design of a Japanese dragon, one can watch tutorials on YouTube.
1. Traditional Japanese Dragon Tattoo
Traditional Japanese dragon tattoos are a popular form of Irezumi ink art. In Japanese culture, the samurai is a symbol of a warrior’s life and is the same thing as a dragon.
These tattoos come in various shapes, sizes, and designs, each representing something different depending on the wearer.
According to Asian philosophy, flexibility and adaptability always win out over strength, which is why dragons represent flexibility and adaptability in Asia.
2. Dragon Tattoos For Women
Dragon tattoos are not just for men but also for women. There are many elegant and badass dragon tattoo designs available for women. Dragon tattoos represent strength, power, courage, and honor in women.
Women can opt for full-back tattoos or colored dragon tattoos to make a bold statement.
Many meaningful dragon tattoo designs are available that women can try, such as the Chinese dragon, Japanese dragon, or Celtic dragon.
3. Dragon Sleeve Tattoo
Japanese dragon sleeve tattoos are a popular choice for men and women. There are many traditional Japanese sleeve tattoo designs available that feature dragons.
Some of the best dragon sleeve tattoo ideas include full Japanese dragon sleeve tattoos, traditional black and gray Japanese dragon tattoo sleeve designs, and awesome Chinese dragon half-sleeve tattoos.
Women can also try koi and dragon Japanese sleeve ideas to make a bold statement. One can find many meaningful Japanese tattoo designs with intricate shading that can cover the full sleeve.
4. Dragon Head Tattoo Designs & Ideas
Different kinds of abstract, cartoonish, dramatic, or realistic styles can be used to make a Japanese dragon head tattoo.
One can try vibrant color choices and detailed red scales to make the perfect piece for the forearm. Japanese dragon tattoos can be similar to other dragon tattoo designs.
Each Japanese dragon tattoo design can represent something different depending on the wearer. Dragon tattoos can look equally powerful on women as they do on men, and there are feminine dragon tattoo designs available.
5. Full Back Dragon Tattoos
Japanese dragon tattoos on the back are a popular choice for men and women.
You can try different Japanese dragon tattoo ideas, such as a green and red Japanese full-back men’s dragon tattoo or a men’s warrior fighting dragon full-back Japanese tattoo.
Traditional Japanese dragon tattoos are powerful and can be a great inspiration for a fierce back tattoo.
There are many unique and custom back tattoo dragon designs available on websites like Etsy.
Dragon tattoos can be elegant and meaningful, whether they are full-back tattoos or sleeve tattoos.
6. Dragon Chest Tattoos
Japanese dragon chest tattoos are a popular choice for men. Chest dragon tattoos are almost a custom among many peers in Japan. Many powerful and beautiful Japanese dragon tattoo designs are on the chest.
The designs of Japanese dragon tattoos are similar to Asian dragon tattoos, but the way they are placed on the chest can be different.
Dragon tattoos on the chest can represent good luck, fortune, strength, and power. There are many modern black and gray or colorful Japanese dragon tattoo designs available for the chest.
7. Linework Japanese Dragon Tattoos
Linework Japanese dragon tattoos are popular with those who prefer a minimalist style. On stock image sites like iStockphoto, you can find detailed Asian dragon tattoo line work.
You can try vibrant color choices and detailed red scales to make the perfect piece for the forearm.
Many Japanese dragon linework tattoo designs are available on tattoo artist websites like Tattoodo.
You can watch tutorials on YouTube to learn how to draw a Japanese dragon tattoo sleeve design. You can also find many images and designs for their linework Japanese dragon tattoos on websites like Ink Happened.
8. Dragon Forearm Tattoo
Japanese dragon forearm tattoos are a popular choice for men. On websites like Next Luxury, you can find many cool ideas for legendary creature ink for the forearm.
Japanese dragon tattoos can be a great design idea for a connecting sleeve and chest piece, with the dragon taking a journey up the arm to stare boldly at any viewer.
There are a lot of cool dragon tattoos that can be put on the forearm, like ones with bright colors and detailed red scales. Traditional black and gray Japanese dragon tattoo designs can also be used for the forearm or sleeve.
9. Leg Tattoos
Japanese dragon leg tattoos are a popular choice for men. Traditional Japanese tattoo designs with black and gray dragons traveling up the leg can make a bold statement.
Dragon tattoos on the legs would look incredible, yet one can only choose a basic yet important design because of the lack of available space.
Many nice-looking dragon tattoo designs are available for the leg, including black tribal dragon tattoos, blue dragon tattoos, and Asian Japanese tattoos.
10. Neck Tattoo
Japanese dragon neck tattoos are a custom that has been practiced for decades and symbolize that the wearer is ready for new challenges and breaks.
Getting a Japanese dragon neck tattoo shows that one is proud of the compassionate force inside them, and as a man, it shows much insight.
Since Japanese dragon tattoos tend to be incredibly intricate and detailed, the back is the most popular spot to showcase their true majesty.
11. Shoulder Tattoo
Men who want to showcase the rulers of the sky and masters of fire often choose Japanese dragon shoulder tattoos.
Dragons have representations that vary from culture to culture, and their most established representation is in Japanese culture.
Shoulder tattoos are a brilliant idea for those looking for dramatic tattoos that span from the back of the shoulder to the front.
Dragon tattoos for women come in different sizes and shapes, including Chinese and Japanese dragons in the shape of serpents with carp shapes.
12. Cherry Blossom Tattoos
Cherry blossom Japanese dragon tattoos are a popular choice for those who want to combine the beauty of cherry blossoms with the power of dragons.
The combination of a dragon and warrior chest piece with cherry blossoms can make a gorgeous tattoo design.
Cherry blossoms are a significant part of Japanese culture and symbolize renewal, making them an excellent addition to Japanese dragon tattoos.
Traditional Japanese dragons with cherry blossoms and wave designs can be found on stock image websites such as Adobe Stock.
13. Flower Tattoo Design Ideas
Dragon Japanese flower tattoo design ideas are a popular choice for those who want to combine the power of dragons with the beauty of flowers.
Feminine dragon tattoos can be created by combining dragons with floral elements.
Dragon tattoos can represent quiet strength and power that rises to the occasion when necessary.
Big or small, dragon tattoos will never go out of trend and are mentioned in the rich mythological cultures of Japan.
Different colors of lotus flower tattoos have different meanings, such as white and pink lotus flower tattoos depicting purity and black lotus tattoo symbolizing enlightenment.
14. Black Ink and Grayscale Dragon Tattoos
Black ink and grayscale Japanese dragon tattoos are popular choices for those who want to create a mysterious vibe.
Using predominantly black ink can give the tattoo a particularly mysterious vibe, especially if one includes grayscale elements.
Japanese, Chinese, tribal, Celtic, and classic are just a few of the style options among the best dragon tattoos.
Black and grayscale tattoos age well over time and never go out of trend. Many Japanese-style tattoo artists display their work on Instagram using black ink and orange and grey accents.
15. Japanese Dragon and Koi Fish Tattoo
For those looking to explore traditional Japanese ink inspiration, Japanese dragon and koi fish tattoos are a popular option.
The tale of the dragon koi is often used as inspiration for these tattoos, which represent strength, ferocity, and triumph.
Custom-made black or white shoes with Koi Fish tattoo designs can be found on Etsy.
Traditional Koi fish tattoos are common of three types: Dragon koi to represent strength, ferocity, and triumph; Yin Yang koi to represent balance; and Carp koi to represent perseverance.
High-quality Dragon Koi Fish Tattoo-inspired gifts and merchandise, such as t-shirts, posters, stickers, home decor, and more, can be found on Redbubble.
16. Yin Yang Tattoo
A yin yang tattoo is a symbol that represents balance and duality in life. It is a popular tattoo design for those who are connected to the culture or philosophy of yin-yang. Yin-yang tattoos can be simple or complex and can be placed on various body parts, such as behind the ear, on the wrist, or on the lower back. A small yin yang tattoo on the outer wrist is easy to cover up if needed.
If you have an old tattoo that you want to cover up with a new design, there are many creative ways to do so. Flowers and watercolor effects are great options for covering up old tattoos. Going big and bold with a new design can also be effective in hiding an old tattoo. In one example, the Cheshire Cat was used to cover up an old yin-yang symbol.
A yin yang tattoo is a meaningful symbol representing balance and duality. It can be designed in various ways and placed on different parts of the body. If you have an old tattoo that you want to cover up with a new design, many creative options are available.
17. Small Japanese Dragon Tattoo
Small Japanese dragon tattoos are also trendy for those who want to showcase strength, power, fearlessness, and confidence in a minimalist style.
Japanese dragon tattoos come in various shapes, sizes, and designs that can represent something different depending on the wearer. Dragon tattoos for men can be inked in tribal, Celtic, traditional, abstract, or blended styles.
A Japanese dragon tattoo symbolizes strength, power, fearlessness, and confidence. Small dragon tattoo designs will always stay in trend and are mentioned in the rich mythological cultures of Japan.
18. Blue Japanese Dragon Tattoo
Blue Japanese dragon tattoos are popular for those who want to showcase a benevolent, gentle, and forgiving nature.
Blue is one of the colors used in Japanese dragon tattoos, representing benevolence, gentleness, and forgiveness.
Unique or custom handmade blue dragon tattoo pieces can be found on Etsy. Japanese, Chinese, tribal, Celtic, and classic are just a few of the style options among the best dragon tattoos to show off your inner strength.
19. Japanese Dragon and Skull Tattoo
Japanese dragon and skull tattoos are a popular choice for those who want to showcase the raw emotion of a Japanese skull tattoo with the incredible artistry and reverence of a Japanese dragon tattoo.
Skulls represent death and the afterlife, which is quite the opposite of what Japanese dragons represent.
Semi-traditional Japanese tattoo designs featuring both dragons and skulls can be found on DeviantArt. Unique dragon skull tattoo designs can be found on Etsy.
20. Japanese Dragon and Samurai Tattoo
A commonly chosen tattoo design to represent courage, strength, and protection is the combination of Japanese dragon and samurai tattoos.
A samurai and Asian dragon tattoo is a symbol of courage and strength, representing Japan’s most legendary warrior and most iconic mythical beast.
The dragon tattoo symbolizes the protection of family and the courage of a true warrior.
The creation of Japanese dragon and samurai tattoos can be viewed in time-lapse videos on YouTube.
21. Japanese Yakuza Dragon Tattoo
Those who desire to demonstrate strength, patience, courage, wisdom, and protection often opt for Japanese yakuza dragon tattoos.
In Japanese culture, dragons are the masters of the sky and are usually placed near the upper body in Yakuza culture.
Traditional Japanese dragon tattoos symbolize the battle between heaven and earth. The protagonist of the Yakuza series, Kazuma Kiryu, sports a nobori-ryu (“ascending dragon”) motif tattoo on his back.
Dragon tattoos symbolize bravery, wisdom, and strength. Black dragons are associated with water and represent change or transformation.
Japanese dragon tattoos are not just mere designs worn for aesthetic or artistic purposes. They tell stories that have been passed on for generations and symbolize the ancient history of civilization and their legacy.
This tradition should be honored and practiced with the utmost respect. We hope you found at least one inspiring idea from above to get a dragon tattoo for yourself.
(Images via Instagram).
Iskra Banović is our seasoned Editor-in-Chief at BlueFashion. She has been steering the website’s content and editorial direction since 2013. With a rich background in fashion design, Iskra’s expertise spans across fashion, interior design, beauty, lifestyle, travel, and culture.