A Guide to Japanese Dragon Tattoos with Meaning and Ideas (2023)

In Japanese culture, the importance of Dragons is equivalent to the survival of civilization. This means, according to their beliefs, Dragons are the protectors and benefactors of humankind. It is substantial enough for them to get dragons tattooed on their bodies. These tattoos are a tribute to their age-old custom, and also symbolise and tell stories about wisdom, strength, and bravery.

In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about Japanese Dragon tattoos. We will also enlighten you with different tattoo ideas regarding both design and placement.

Japanese Dragon Tattoos Meaning and Facts

Japanese Dragons derived from Chinese mythology dating back to almost 6000 years ago. However, unlike Chinese dragons, Japanese dragons are often depicted as sea serpents. This is because Japan is an island, and the people believe the dragons protect by guarding the island in the sea, protecting the land and people.

Japanese Dragons come in five different colours, each symbolising different aspects of humanity, and there are six different types of dragons. These six are Sui, Ri, Han, Hai, Ka, and Fuku. And the term Ryu means dragon. Each of these dragons, once again, upholds a different meaning.

In the table below, we have summarised some dragons in colour and their symbolism.

Types of DragonsSymbolism
YellowNoble Companion
BlackWisdom and Experience
GreenNature
GoldenValue and Virtue
BlueBenevolent, Gentle, and Forgiving

Japanese Dragon Tattoo Ideas

Without further ado, let us dive right into some of the most captivating Japanese Dragon tattoo ideas. We will also do our best to inform you of everything you need to know about them.

Traditional Japanese Dragon Tattoo

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Traditionally Japanese dragon tattoos have been a major part of the culture. The people of the land believed when they tattooed themselves with beautiful and intimidating dragons from their mythology, the ink used for the tattoo will infuse the wearer with power and magic, which will be derived from the dragons themselves.

These tattoos are designed and infused with colour, which represents variants of dragons and various aspects of their power. The designs are intricate and hauntingly beautiful.

Female Japanese Dragon Tattoo

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(Video) Everything you need to know about Japanese Tattoos! Part.1

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Contrary to popular belief, dragon tattoos can be feminine and look as equally powerful on women as they do on men. There are dragon tattoo designs that are magnificent, and artistically pleasing. The dragons’ many women wear are often thinner with delicate lines that exude femininity. The designs also collaborate with flowers and other elements of nature.

Japanese Dragon Sleeve Tattoos

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Sleeve tattoos are like a rite-of-passage for tattoo enthusiasts. People who love to wear permanent ink on themselves will dwell upon getting sleeve tattoos at least once in their lifetime. They might look painful, but they are totally worth it. And dragon sleeve tattoos look badass and captivating. The art always tells a story, perhaps, a tale taken straight from Japanese folklore consisting of a heroic or inspiring dragon.

Japanese Dragon Head Tattoos

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Oftentimes, some people will only get a dragon head tattoo. The tattoo can be incorporated into any part of the body, depending on the size and detail of the design. Dragon heads embody the emotions of the dragon and are symbolic to the wearer and their lives too.

Japanese Dragon Back Tattoos

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(Video) Top Japanese Dragon Tattoo Ideas - [2020 Inspiration Guide] @Tattoo

If you want to get a large tattoo with a story and focus on intricate details, consider getting a dragon tattoo on your back. It will look awe-striking and the artist can put in as many little details as you prefer.

Japanese Dragon Chest Tattoos

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Another great place to get a dragon tattoo with a comprehensive story is on your chest. Chest dragon tattoos are almost a custom among many peers in Japan. They look exquisite, enthralling, and to an extent almost challenging.

Japanese Dragon Forearm Tattoo

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The most popular and beloved placement for dragon tattoos is the forearms. They are an easy access place for tattoos, and people love forearm art. If you want a dragon tattoo, which is not too big or too small, and you want to showcase it to people all the time, we suggest you get one on your forearm.

Cherry Blossom Japanese Dragon Tattoo

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Cherry blossoms, like dragons, are a significant part of the culture and land. These flowers symbolise the renewal of life or new beginnings. You can easily combine a cherry blossom tattoo with a traditional dragon tattoo, which will together create a dominant tattoo with a deep meaning.

Japanese Dragon and Tiger Tattoos

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(Video) Top Dragon Tattoos Designs + Ideas (2020 Guide)

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Another animal as majestic and potent as dragons are tigers. Many people believe joining a dragon and a tiger together in a tattoo will help them infuse with the power of strength, wisdom, and immortality.

Japanese Dragon Neck Tattoo

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Dragon tattoos on the neck are a custom that has been being practiced for decades. It symbolises that the wearer is ready for new challenges and breaks communicative barriers. If you are not an amateur or new tattoo wearer, getting the neck dragon tattoo is a great idea.

Small Japanese Dragon Tattoo

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Naturally, dragon tattoos are quite big and conspicuous. However, if you do not like showy and eye-catching tattoos, but want something subtler, delicate, and small, you can get a small dragon tattoo. They are more popular than one would believe. They are perfect to be inked on your wrist, shoulder, collarbones, hips, ankles, etc.

Japanese Dragon Shoulder Tattoo

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If you are looking for a dramatic tattoo, a shoulder tattoo would be a brilliant idea. It would span from the back of your shoulder to the front. You could ask the artist to draw the dragon in a way that looks like the dragon flew from the back to the front while spitting fire. It could be a tattoo in motion.

Japanese Dragon Leg Tattoos

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While this could be painful, dragon tattoos on the legs would look incredible. Due to the limited space, we would suggest you get a simple yet meaningful dragon tattoo.

Japanese Dragon and Koi Fish Tattoo

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A dragon can be symbolically associated with a koi fish, which represents accomplishment, strength, courage, etc. Some people prefer to bind the symbolism of both by inking them into their skin. They believe the powerful meaning both these animals hold will help the wearer enhance their virtues.

Blue Japanese Dragon Tattoo

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The colour blue in dragons represents gentleness, benevolence, and forgiveness. If you can associate with those, or want to attract and welcome more of those into your life, you could get a Japanese blue dragon.

Green Japanese Dragon Tattoo

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If you find yourself being in tune with nature, and want nature to be a bigger and more vital part of your life, a green dragon might help to manifest that. Green dragons are always associated with nature, and how they manipulate elements of nature.

Japanese Dragon and Phoenix Tattoo

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We all know universally a phoenix represents resurrection, a new life. Joint with a dragon, a phoenix would hold more supremacy than one could imagine. You can channel the power of this duo by getting a dragon and phoenix tattoo.

Japanese Dragon and Skull Tattoo

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Skull represents death and after-life – a symbolism that is quite opposite of what Japanese dragons represent. The difference between a skull tattoo and a dragon tattoo is like the yin-yang. If you can relate to both sides, it is a great tattoo design for you.

Japanese Dragon and Samurai Tattoo

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Symbolically equivalent to a dragon, a samurai represents the life of a warrior, i.e., the practice of ethics, respect, and discipline. A dragon and a samurai would be invincible, and the power of the two together can be infused into tattoos for people to channel and bask in.

Japanese Yakuza Dragon Tattoo

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An extension of samurai tattoos, the yakuza dragon tattoo is an ancient tradition, which represents the wearer – often warriors – protecting Japanese cultures and traditions from generations ago. They are associated with the loyalty, courage, and pride of one’s culture.

Final Thoughts

Japanese dragon tattoos have been in practice for thousands of years, and we are certain they will continue to live on for a very long time. These tattoos are not mere designs worn by people for aesthetic or artistic purposes. The dragon tattoos speak of a time long gone, tell stories that have been passed on for generations, and about the ancient history of civilization and their legacy. Thus, this is a tradition that should be honoured and practiced diligently with the utmost respect. We love Japanese traditional dragon tattoos, and we hope you will find at least one idea from above inspiring enough to get a dragon tattoo for yourself.

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FAQs

What does a Japanese dragon tattoo symbolize? ›

This is the most popular Japanese tattoo design. The Japanese dragon symbolizes strength, wisdom, blessing, and the force of good. The symbolism stems from the traditional belief that dragons can manipulate elements for the benefit of the people and the good in this world.

What is the best dragon tattoo meaning? ›

The Chinese dragon tattoo has many meanings including good luck, protection, wisdom, peace, strength, and power. Getting Chinese dragon tattoos can help you enhance any of these skills or properties in your life.

What do different dragon tattoos mean? ›

Depending on the art style, size, and color, a dragon tattoo can be a symbol of fearlessness, rage, passion, or wisdom. They can also represent your favorite dragon from fiction, like Khaleesi's three dragons from Game of Thrones.

What does a Japanese dragon symbolize? ›

All in all, Japanese dragons are the benefactors and protectors of mankind; powerful and wise guardians that shield us from universal dangers, and impart their wisdom. A symbol of good fortune, they bring us happiness, offering us strength and courage at each important turning point in our lives.

What is the difference between a Chinese dragon and a Japanese dragon? ›

The chief difference between Chinese and Japanese dragons, however, is not in their appearance but in their disposition. Where dragons from China are generally benevolent and never harm humans, Japanese dragons are aggressive and at times deadly.

What does a blue Japanese dragon mean? ›

Blue dragons are gentle, forgiving, and benevolent, while yellow dragons are noble companions. In addition to symbolic colors, there are six dragon variants in Japanese culture. They are Sui, Han, Ri, Fuku, Ka, and Hai, which are often written with the word "ryu" ("dragon") on the end (for instance, Sui-ryu).

What does a purple dragon symbolize? ›

Purple dragons symbolize wealth and royalty. On the other hand, a purple dragons symbolize mourning and grief. Since Taoism sees violet as the marker of the transition between active (Yang) and passive (Yin) aspects, a violet dragon symbolizes a transitional or liminal creature.

Where should I get my dragon tattoo? ›

Not surprisingly, the back is the most popular area for a dragon tattoo. It's an ideal position for people who want to make large dragon tattoos.

Where do you put a dragon tattoo? ›

The back is one of the most popular placements for a dragon tattoo. That's because it's one of the largest and smoothest areas on your body. When you have a large, detailed piece of body art in mind – like a dragon breathing fire – your back is the perfect place to show it off.

What does a moon dragon symbolize? ›

the moon dragon tattoo design is a unique symbol that embodies the relationship between nature and the sub-conscious. The moon, which influences ocean tides, represents ebb and flow, and the dragon symbolizes primal forces of nature.

What does green dragon symbolize? ›

The green dragon is also called the azure dragon. It is one of the four great beasts in Chinese mythology (the Black Tortoise, Vermilion Bird, White Tiger, and Azure Dragon) representing the four directions (north, south, west, and east) respectively. The green dragon represents the east and controls rain and wind.

What does a black dragon symbolize? ›

Most people associate the black dragon with vengeance. Thus, it's often linked to catastrophes like storms and floods. Black dragons traditionally symbolize vengeance.

Who are the 8 Dragon Kings? ›

Vasuki is Shiva's snake, depicted around his neck. He is known in Chinese and Japanese mythology as being one of the "eight Great Dragon Kings" (八大龍王 pinyin: Bādà lóngwáng; Japanese: Hachidai Ryūō), amongst Nanda (Nāgarāja), Upananda, Sāgara (Shakara), Takshaka, Balavan, Anavatapta, and Utpala.

What are the different types of Japanese dragons? ›

There are many types of the Japanese dragon, such as the violet, yellow, green, red, white, black, flying, water, and fire dragon. The Japanese version of the Ying long (winged dragon) in China is the Hai Riu, which has feathered wings, a bird's claws and tail, and a dragon's head.

What does a red Japanese dragon mean? ›

Red dragons descend from a red-gold dragon who is about one thousand years of age. They are the the symbol for the West, and are much like black dragons. Red dragons can cause storms in the skies when they fight - a great idea for a fierce Japanese tattoo.

What kind of dragon has 4 toes? ›

I guess it's because the Chinese believe that all Eastern dragons originated from China. They believed that when the dragons flew away, they began to lose their toes. The further the dragons flew, the more toes they lost. That is why Korean dragons have four toes, and Japanese dragons have three.

Do Japanese dragons have 3 toes? ›

Japanese dragons are similar to those of China, but are more serpentine in shape, have only three claws on each foot, and fly less frequently. The reason why they have three toes/claws is because the Japanese believe Eastern dragons originated in their native homeland.

What is gold dragon in Japanese? ›

Kinryu is a golden dragon.

What does a dragon with wings symbolize? ›

Intelligent dragons are usually depicted similarly. Like birds, dragons have wings and symbolize freedom. Western dragons have wings as well and use them as a bird would. Birds give dragons their mighty tails, which are either used in flight or in physical combat.

What does a dragon claw symbolize? ›

Dragon claws are symbols of power and fearlessness. They often connote the triumph over evil or a challenge in one's life. These work well as large or even tiny tattoos.

What does a red dragon tattoo symbolize? ›

The Meaning Of Red Dragon Tattoos

Red is a color that signifies passion, strength, and love. Red dragon tattoos are typically Chinese or tribal-style tattoos. The red ink on a dragon represents not just strength but also its' magical powers.

What color dragon is the strongest? ›

Red dragons are the largest and most powerful of the classic chromatic dragons.

What does gold dragon mean? ›

Golden dragons correlate to powerful sun deities or deities of the harvest. Much like bronze dragons, they have sturdy, strong exteriors. Illumination and revelation lie at the heart of a gold dragon. Gold dragons symbolize prosperity and wealth.

What does Brown dragon mean? ›

Definition of brown dragon

: a jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema atrorubens)

What tattoo means strength? ›

Animal Tattoo Design (Eagle, Wolf, Lion Design)

Animal tattoos are generally known to depict strength, power, dominance, leadership, independence, etc. These tattoos often have strong, very bold design, and are large in size. All of this makes them stay in the line of the symbolism they're trying to portray.

What are the rules for traditional Japanese tattoos? ›

If you are having the traditional Japanese tattoo then do not be under the dilemma that it will be small and with simple colors. Japanese tattoos either cover the whole arm; all of the chest portion or the back portion. Rule 2 – Japanese tattoo needs to have symbols and themes to represent their culture.

What do dragons symbolize? ›

The dragon is a symbol of evil, in both the chivalric and Christian traditions. In the Orient, it symbolizes supernatural power, wisdom, strength, and hidden knowledge. In most traditions, it is the embodiment of chaos and untamed nature.

Is dragon tattoo lucky? ›

In general dragons (and dragon tattoos) are associated with strength, wisdom, prosperity, good luck as well as masculinity.

How long do dragon tattoos take? ›

I have a dragon tattoo that wraps around my bicep. If I remember correctly it took between 6–8 hours total, in 2 sessions. It's about half of my bicep in length. The first session was the outline.

Which celebrity has a dragon tattoo? ›

Angelina Jolie also famously had a dragon tattoo on her left arm. At one time, "Billy Bob" was also inked above the creature in honor of her then-husband, Billy Bob Thornton.

What does a fire breathing dragon symbolize? ›

They are revered as life-giving symbols of fortune and fertility, capable of unleashing rain and spewing fire to punish evil-doers.

What does a water dragon symbolize? ›

Closely associated with the serpent of the earth the water dragons are healers, warriors, and peace gathering clans. The water dragon is said to bring peace and unity where only war was before. Powerful spirit guides with knowledge of mother earth secrets and the wisdom of the ancients in their blood.

What does a dragon eye symbolize? ›

The dragon's eye talisman is a well-known, universal amulet of protection. It is an ancient Germanic symbol said to protect anyone who recited the incantation to it. The symbol is depicted in Rudolph Koch's Book Of Signs; a collection of old world symbols.

What does a jade dragon mean? ›

In Asia, the dragon is seen as a symbol of power, strength, and good luck. Jade is known as the "Stone of Heaven" and is said to represent wisdom, beauty, courage, and perfection. So when you see a jade dragon carving, it's not just a beautiful piece of art - it's also a symbol of good luck and fortune.

What Colour are good dragons? ›

SILVER DRAGONS

They are the friendliest of all dragons, cheerfully assisting any good creature in need of their aid. Out of all dragons, they are the most sympathetic to the plights of the smaller-folk and spend more time living among them than any of their kin.

What is the meaning of an orange dragon? ›

The orange dragons will help you to spread their light of warmth, welcome and acceptance to all peoples, races and cultures. . 🔥 Let that light shine through you. You will feel a sense of belonging and oneness and your heart will open. This will help you to develop your abilities of higher manifestation. .

Who is the most powerful dragon? ›

1. Caraxes - ridden by Daemon Targaryen in 'House of the Dragon' Caraxes was a "huge huge" red dragon that was both massive and lean, while being quite "battle savvy". He was first claimed by Aemon Targaryen, Prince of Peyredragon in 72 AD.

What colors represent dragons? ›

Dragons come in many different colors. Gold, Bronze, Brown, Blue, and Green dragons are canon, meaning they are original color dragons found in the Pern books.

What does a GREY dragon symbolize? ›

Gray dragons possess great wisdom. An older dragon may be gray with age. Gray, as a symbol of travelers and helpers, makes the gray dragon likely to help a polite passerby. Since a gray dragon combines black and white characteristics, attributes associated with those colors apply to gray dragons.

What does a red Japanese dragon mean? ›

Red dragons descend from a red-gold dragon who is about one thousand years of age. They are the the symbol for the West, and are much like black dragons. Red dragons can cause storms in the skies when they fight - a great idea for a fierce Japanese tattoo.

What do Japanese tattoos symbolize? ›

Traditionally, Japanese tattoos began as a means of conveying societal status as well as serving as spiritual symbols that were often used as a sort of charm for protection as well as symbolizing devotion, not unlike modern religious tattoos.

What does Oni tattoo mean? ›

Oni Tattoos means the devil's ability to punish any evil or unjust act. You can embrace that meaning and show that you're a tough guy with this sleeve idea. This tattoo will protect you from evil and it will represent your bold character as well as your journey or the life that is ahead or behind you.

What does a dragon tattoo mean on a man? ›

In general, men tend to choose dragon tattoos to represent: Courage. Strength. Raw power and force. Wisdom and reason.

What color dragon is the strongest? ›

Red dragons are the largest and most powerful of the classic chromatic dragons.

What does purple dragon mean? ›

Purple dragons symbolize wealth and royalty. On the other hand, a purple dragons symbolize mourning and grief. Since Taoism sees violet as the marker of the transition between active (Yang) and passive (Yin) aspects, a violet dragon symbolizes a transitional or liminal creature.

What does black dragon symbolize? ›

Most people associate the black dragon with vengeance. Thus, it's often linked to catastrophes like storms and floods. Black dragons traditionally symbolize vengeance.

What are the rules for traditional Japanese tattoos? ›

If you are having the traditional Japanese tattoo then do not be under the dilemma that it will be small and with simple colors. Japanese tattoos either cover the whole arm; all of the chest portion or the back portion. Rule 2 – Japanese tattoo needs to have symbols and themes to represent their culture.

What does a dragon mean in Irezumi? ›

The Asian dragon is usually the bearer of profound blessings. Like other Oriental tattoo designs, the choice of a dragon is generally an aspiration to the qualities of great goodness, wisdom, and power.

What do frogs mean in Japanese tattoo? ›

4. Japanese Frog Tattoo

Frogs hold a prestigious place in Japanese culture. It represents abundance and prosperity.

What does a Tengu tattoo mean? ›

In tattoos, however, the Tengu reminds its wearer to adhere to the samurai's code of Bushido and the virtues of courage, honor, duty, and loyalty, and to also be vigilant against vices and personal weaknesses.

What does a Kitsune tattoo mean? ›

The word “kitsune” in Japanese tattoo culture means fox, and the animal itself is an integral part of the culture and mythology of Japan. Represented as intelligent and wise beings with a penchant for shapeshifting, the kitsune retains the Native American folklore of being a trickster or illusionist.

What does a koi tattoo mean? ›

The Meaning of a Koi Fish Tattoo. The most common meaning of koi fish tattoos is perseverance. They are often used to symbolize the struggles one has overcome or is overcoming in their own life.

Where should I put my dragon tattoo? ›

The back is one of the most popular placements for a dragon tattoo. That's because it's one of the largest and smoothest areas on your body. When you have a large, detailed piece of body art in mind – like a dragon breathing fire – your back is the perfect place to show it off.

What does 13 in a tattoo mean? ›

The MS 13, also sometimes seen just as MS or 13, is a symbol of the Mara Salvatrucha gang from El Salvador. Typically these tattoos can be found anywhere on the body, but are most often found in highly visible places like the face, hands or neck.

What does green dragon symbolize? ›

The green dragon is also called the azure dragon. It is one of the four great beasts in Chinese mythology (the Black Tortoise, Vermilion Bird, White Tiger, and Azure Dragon) representing the four directions (north, south, west, and east) respectively. The green dragon represents the east and controls rain and wind.

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