As with getting any tattoo in a language you don't understand, there are several important factors to consider before getting a Japanese tattoo. Although a truly beautiful language, both script wise and the way the words are arranged, Japanese tattoos have very precise and important meanings, and it is easy to make a mistake when choosing one. Tamatori Hime, Dragons, Kois and many more depictions are the most commonly used, and as mentioned earlier do have significant meanings which can easily be misinterpreted when the normal, everyday guy or girl walks into a tattoo parlor and sees a picture they like.
The meaning behind a tattoo is so important, and apart from the embarrassment factor as well as the longevity of a tattoo if you discover it means something totally unsuitable; it should be something which is important to you because it will be with you for the rest of your life, or at least removed with huge expense and potentially bad scarring - it must be important for you, in order for you to truly love your tattoo.
Five things to consider before getting a Japanese Tattoo are:
- What does the one you have chosen actually mean?
- As with any foreign language, you need to research your topic carefully
- Ensure your tattooist knows his/her subject and understands what you want
- Find a good tattooist - use the internet, tattoo magazines and other media to find a good one
- Ensure your tattooist uses FDA regulated equipment, and sets the needle up in front of you
Dragons are the most highly regarded of the Japanese tattoos by people who aren't Japanese. Dragons are regarded as a bringer of luck, and are regularly depicted climbing down from clouds, or in a sky scene. The Japanese respect Dragons almost to a degree of reverence, and there is no Japanese lore which depicts them fighting or conquering them. You're safe with a dragon!
Koi is another favorite and represents the struggle for success. Common Koi tattoos frequently show the Koi swimming upstream or jumping up a waterfall as a show of male strength and power, so a woman sporting a Koi tattoo might not be the best choice because the Koi is meant as a predominantly phallic character.
Tamatori Hime represents a woman who stole the King of the Underworld's most prized possession. The King of the Underworld was a huge dragon, and in her hurry to escape, the pearl which was the Kings possession ultimately caused her demise. That story symbolizes greed, and shows belief in the fact that greed never wins. There are so many different paths, patterns and stories that it is hard to differentiate sometimes between what constitutes a good story or moral and something which is totally unsuitable because of either who you are, or your own beliefs.
It always pays to investigate your topic thoroughly, particularly when considering a symbol of another religion. You never know what you're getting if you don't and there are some particularly unscrupulous people who either know and don't mention the true meaning of a tattoo, or have absolutely no idea themselves.