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60+ Design Ideas and Placements for Japanese Calligraphy Tattoos and their Meanings

By Jason Hamilton / June 17, 2020
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Asian scripts are fascinating and did you know that they make good tattoo ideas too? This is because aside from the fact that their aesthetics are interesting, they are also versatile and meaningful, particularly the Japanese calligraphy tattoos; and it’s what we’re going to delve deeper into in this article – the Japanese calligraphy tattoos and their meanings. And if you’re eyeing on this tattoo design then read on as we get to know this tattoo better.

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Getting to Know the Japanese Script

If you’re not much familiar with the Asian scripts, particularly of the East Asian’s, there’s actually a huge difference between their characters that you might not notice at first glance. For starters, the Chinese script’s characters look much more complex than other East Asian scripts. The Korean script, on the other hand, has more ovals and circles that make it easier to be distinguished from other East Asian scripts. Meanwhile, the Japanese script today looks more airy and open.

The Japanese Writing System

Now as you take a closer look at the Japanese writing system, you might hear words such as “kanji,” “hiragana,” and “katakana.” Apparently, Japan has several scripts: kanji, hiragana, and katakana. For starters, kanji are ideograms and each of its characters has its own meaning and corresponds to a specific word. It is made up of characters adopted from the Chinese writing system as well so you might find characters that resemble the ones from the Chinese script. It is used for writing adjectives, adverbs, verbs, and nouns.

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On the other hand, we have the hiragana, the Japanese language’s building block today which is used for both grammar and vocabulary. This one looks curvier and the first script that is taught to children. In fact, many books for young children are only written in hiragana.

Meanwhile, katakana is used for borrowed words and transliteration of foreign words. It is also used for onomatopoeia. And compared to the hiragana, katakana looks much more angular.

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At first, the Japanese script might look daunting and complicated but it is what makes it even more beautiful. Which is why it is also one of the popular choices for tattoos. In fact, celebrities love such kind of tattoo too.

Celebrities with their Japanese Calligraphy Tattoos and their Meanings

Asian Doll has a wrist tattoo in kanji

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Kelly Clarkson’s tattoo written in kanji means “blessed”

Chloe Ferry has a Japanese calligraphy tattoo on her ribs

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Asami Zdrenka’s tattoo means “pease passion happiness”

Nerea Garmendia’s tattoo on her right ankle

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Mila J honors her deceased brother, who had the 7 principles of samurai on his back, with her shoulder tattoo that reads “righteousness, courage, benevolence, respect, honesty, honor, and loyalty”

Asami Zdrenka’s tattoo translates to “family”

Mary J. Blige tattooed a kanji character on her hand meaning “strength”

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Pink’s Japanese tattoo on her left ankle that stretches down to her foot

Skylar Grey’s tattoo says “save the whales”

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Shenae Grimes’ small wrist tattoo always reminds her to “keep calm”

Such tattoo is also versatile. Another plus point, right? You can pair it with any symbol and you can still have its meaning and aesthetics and/or even make it better.

If you’re eyeing for a Japanese calligraphy tattoo and want to personalize it or make it even more significant and beautiful, here are some design ideas for Japanese calligraphy tattoos and their meanings.

Japanese Calligraphy Tattoos and their Meanings

Dragon Ball

Japan is known for its animes. One of its popular animes is Dragon Ball. And if you’re a fan of this series, it is one of the top designs that we highly recommend. You can also opt for other animes. They will surely make a good tattoo too and, of course, a good pair for any Japanese calligraphy tattoo. Here are some Dragon Ball-inspired tattoos paired with Japanese calligraphy.

A tattoo of Dragon Ball’s Oolong with his script

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A Dragon Ball-inspired text tattoo

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Dragon Ball’s Goku’s name inked on the skin

A realistic tattoo of Goku’s name on the chest

Cherry Blossoms

Japan is also known for its cherry blossoms. In fact, many people from all over the world flock Japan during the cherry blossoms season because of its beauty. Why not have it inked on your skin too? You can even Japanese calligraphy tattoos and their meanings more significant if you will add cherry blossoms to it. This is because cherry blossom tattoo designs can serve as a reminder of how you should live in the present moment due to the flower’s nature – it only flowers for a short time. Here are some ideas on how you can combine Japanese calligraphy and cherry blossoms.

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A cherry blossom branch with a kanji tattoo

A Japanese calligraphy with traditional cherry blossom tattoos

Another combination of kanji and traditional cherry blossoms tattoo

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A mother-daughter tattoo paired with cherry blossoms

Word/Quote

We all know how powerful words are. That said, if you want to make your tattoo even more meaningful or personal, why not have a very inspiring word or quote tattooed on your skin in Japanese? Here are some ideas for that.

This means “follow your own dreams”

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A tattoo quoted from sword master Mr. Musashi Miyamoto

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A Japanese quote tracing the spinal column

A wrist tattoo written in kanji

This one translates to “I love you”

Oni Mask

While it might look a bit scary for some, oni masks also make nice tattoos, especially when paired with Japanese script.    Apparently, in spite of its scary image, oni masks serve as a protective symbol for people who believe in the spiritual world. As per tattoo experts, when used as a tattoo, oni masks are a representation of the devil’s ability to punish any unjust or evil act. It’s not as bad as it looks, right? Here are some inspirations for you if you’re interested in combining Japanese calligraphy with oni mask tattoo designs.

A huge colored oni mask tattoo paired with Japanese text in black and red ink

A red oni mask with a calligraphy tattoo

A unique oni mask tattoo with a text on the face

An Oni mask paired with English and Japanese texts on the torso

Dragon

The dragon is also one of the popular symbols and mythical creatures in East Asia. When used as a tattoo, this majestic mythical creature represents power, wisdom, and protection. And when Japanese calligraphy tattoo is added, it can make it even more significant. Here are some samples that you can take inspiration from if you’re eyeing on this kind of powerful combination.

A dragon tattoo with a Japanese calligraphy

A dragon tattoo with a small text on the upper right part of the back

A sketch of a golden dragon with calligraphy

An abstract dragon tattoo sketch with kanji

Samurai

If you want to show your strength and courage, there’s no better way to show it off with a samurai tattoo. Add a Japanese script tattoo to it and you’ll surely be able to make it even more significant and, needless to say, it can give off some real Japanese vibes. Here are some ideas for that.

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A samurai paired with dragon, temple, and kanji tattoos

Samurai tattoo with Japanese script on the side

A samurai tattoo with calligraphy on the calf

Another combination of samurai and calligraphy tattoos on the calf

Sword

If you want to show your strength and courage but want to lean on the more minimal side, we suggest that you go for sword tattoo designs with Japanese calligraphy. What’s even better is that this tattoo also represents protection power and authority. So why not go for it? Here are some samples you might want to consider if you’re looking for some cool tattoos to etch on your skin.

A combination or sword, kanji, rose, and skull tattoo designs

A tattoo of a samurai’s sword with Japanese calligraphy

A unique sword tattoo morphed into a kanji character that means “divine” with a script on the side that says “I belong to the warrior in whom the old ways have joined the new”

A sketch of a tattoo sword with a text that overlaps

Geisha

If you want more aesthetics, there’s nothing better than having a geisha tattoo. They’re beautiful. Plus, they symbolize beauty, mystery, and even feminine power. Add some Japanese script to it and you can make it even more meaningful. Here are some ideas that you can take inspiration from.

A combination tattoo of a geisha, samurai, and sword tattoo with a Japanese script in red, black, and gray ink

A rib tattoo of a geisha in black ink paired with a Japanese calligraphy tattoo in red ink on top

A Japanese calligraphy tattoo paired with a colorful geisha and a lotus tattoo

A colored tattoo of a geisha paired with a text tattoo just below it

Popular Placements for Japanese Calligraphy Tattoos and their Meanings

Actually, you can place any tattoo with Japanese script anywhere in your body. But there are certain body parts that other people love to have their Japanese calligraphy tattoos inked. Here are some of them.

Wrist

A kanji tattoo that starts on the wrist and stretches down to the forearm

Another kanji tattooed on the wrist but is much shorter

A tattoo meaning “loyalty, honor, respect” when translated to English that stretches from the wrist to the forearm

A matching wrist tattoo written in kanji

A yin-yang tattoo and peace symbols paired with Japanese text tattoos

This one is tattooed on the side part of the wrist

A one-word Japanese calligraphy tattoo on the wrist

A one-character Japanese calligraphy tattoo on the wrist

A wrist tattoo of a Japanese character paired with a birth tattoo on the forearm

Matching kanji tattoos for both of your wrists

A Japanese text tattoo with blue swirls as backdrop

Forearm

A quote tattoo written in kanji on the forearm

A script tattoo in kanji paired with a banner tattoo

Another Japanese calligraphy tattoo that looks like a handwriting

Back

A back tattoo of a kanji tracing the spinal column

A back tattoo of a Japanese calligraphy, which looks like it’s handwritten, paired with a bamboo tattoo that looks like a painting

This Japanese quote tattoo is etched on the middle part of the back stretching down to the lower back area

This tattoo, written in kanji, starts from the top area of the back to the bottom on the right side of the back

Nape

A kanji tattoo made with realistic details as if the skin is cracking

Another kanji tattoo with realistic details but this one stretches down to the upper part of the back

A simple Japanese text tattoo on the nape

A kanji tattoo on the nape

The Dangers of Japanese Calligraphy Tattoos

While foreign scripts really do make a nice interesting tattoo, you also need to bear in mind the dangers of having it. We mean, you know, it’s a bit risky to etch a language you can’t read onto your skin is risky because the translation might be wrong or the errors in strokes might result in another embarrassing word or whatnot. Also, you don’t know if a character has other meanings that might sound off and result in yet another embarrassing mistake.

Thus, if you want to avoid humiliating tattoo mistakes, we highly suggest that you get some pieces of advice from native Japanese speakers whom you trust first. Show them the design that you’re eyeing on and make sure that the characters look professional and has no other embarrassing context.

Remember, tattoos are permanent. No one wants to end up with some grammatically incorrect or demeaning tattoos just like how Ariana Grande ended up with a Japanese calligraphy tattoo that translates to “a small charcoal grill” instead of the Japanese translation of “7 Rings” to supposedly promote her new song.


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About the author

Jason Hamilton

Jason has been an avid fan of tattoos for over 13 years now. He is currently 35 years old, and he got his first tattoo at the age of 22. Since then, he has added over 20 tattoos to his collection. He is also into writing, which is why he decided to celebrate both of his passion and hobby through tats ‘n’ rings. Jason dreams of having his very own tattoo parlor soon. Jason would be very happy to answer any questions about tattoos that you may have! Leave a comment below and he’ll answer it for you right away!

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