Top 59 Japanese Wave Tattoo Ideas – [2021 Inspiration Guide]
Water is a vital symbol for the Japanese, not only because the nation is surrounded on all sides by ocean, but because of the illustrious relationship between the Japanese people and the power of the sea.
Japanese symbols play off each other with practiced similarity and relatable imagery often linked by symbolism or seasons.
Wave tattoos are typically representative of power, fluidity, and movement. Such tattoos are often blended with animal motifs like koi, oni, or dragons, or represent the ever-changing nature of life.
Waves are some of the most utilized elements in the Japanese canon, with pieces by famous Japanese artists reaching global recognition. Some pieces have been translated directly into tattoos or used as inspiration, like the famous “Great Wave” by Katsushika Hokusai.
These 59 wave tattoos show versatility in their capture between being the main design (Shudai), secondary motif (Keshoubori), or filler picture (Gokoubori). Each type of wave technique can provide plenty of inspiration for your next tattoo.
See more about - The Top 121+ Best Japanese Tattoo Ideas
1. Hokusai Inspired Japanese Wave Tattoos
Wave tattoos inspired by the art of Katsushika Hokusai rarely disappoint. The work of this great and world-renowned Japanese artist has undoubtedly inspired a multitude of tattoos. Many of them have spawned from his famous painting “The Great Wave”. Tattoos inspired by this amazing piece of art tend to share many of the same core characteristics. They depict water, often in blue and white, although some of these tattoos are inked in black and gray.
It may seem obvious, but these tattoos are most recognizable by the fact that they almost always feature a wave. The more specific and defining point to notice, however, is that this wave tends to be quite large in scale. It is not a standard wave by any means. No, rather, it is a monstrous, overwhelming extension of the ocean it comes out of.
2. Japanese Wave Full Color Sleeves
These sleeves showcase the beauty of the wave and the importance it plays in Japanese culture as a symbol of power, life, and other elements. One of the many aspects of these sleeves that makes them especially vivid and aesthetically stunning is the rich color pallets used to create them.
Waves are not the only elements involved in a Japanese full sleeve tattoo however. Multiple different pieces are set alongside them, and can include everything from flowers to the koi, a masculine linked fish found often in Japanese tattooing.
3. Japanese Wave Back Tattoos
Japanese wave tattoos can be adapted to many body parts. Possibly one of the coolest places where Japanese wave tattoos are inked, however, is on the back.
Japanese wave back tattoos serve as a larger canvas of artwork, and most often play a complementary role to a main theme (shudai).
Tattooing on the back makes bigger pieces and scenes possible. Back wave tattoos show much of what is seen on their sleeve counterparts, but in larger form tying together larger symbolic elements.
4. Japanese Wave Upper Arm Tattoos
Whether done in black and gray or color, the upper arm is a space where these pieces of art can be found looking their best. Japanese wave tattoos on the upper arm often show the rushing water in strong detail alongside accents such as flowers.
5. Gray Scale Traditional Japanese Wave Tattoos
These Japanese tattoos do not include the color that some others have. Despite this, however, they in no way appear lacking. These gray scale traditional Japanese wave tattoos are still extremely interesting and appealing in their own right. They are an equally strong display of the symbolic Japanese waves as well as the other elements that often go along with them.
6. Japanese Chest and Side Tattoos
While they don’t afford as much space as a back piece, a man’s chest and side do provide ample room for several different types of Japanese imagery.
Still others might incorporate slightly larger elements such as the Japanese Hannya mask. Many different pieces can be done on the chest or side and these spots are great for Japanese body art.
7. Japanese Leg Tattoos
Japanese leg tattoos are arguably some of the most creative and artful one can get. These beautiful arrangements include assortments of stunning Japanese designs placed together to form cohesive, fitting pieces of art.
Japanese leg tattoos are not difficult to spot as they often standout from other types of leg pieces on account of their signature symbols, patterns, and color schemes.
8. Traditional Japanese Grayscale Sleeves
While Japanese grayscale sleeves may sound just like all other Japanese sleeve tattoos, they are really quite unique. Yes, it is true that the primary difference between a Japanese grayscale sleeve and a Japanese color sleeve is, well, the absence of color.
This does not, however, mean that these grayscale sleeves are not strongly-appealing in themselves. For the appearance of the gray upon the various Japanese sleeve designs is certainly quite a good look for all of those who wear it.
10. Black Ink and Blackout Japanese Wave Tattoos
Japanese wave tattoos done with black ink have a flair all their own. They have a crispness to them that is unique. They also have a bit of a vintage feel, something that is not necessarily seen to quite the same degree in other types of the same pieces.
Blackout tattoos are an especially unique type of Japanese wave tattoos as they use black as the primary backdrop of the piece and essentially work out of it. These are truly exceptional tattoo types.
Japanese Wave Tattoo FAQs
What are Japanese traditional tattoos?
Traditional Japanese tattoos are referred to as irezumi. Those that are done by hand are referred to as tebori, however tattoo technology has caught up and most designs are now done by artist’s using a machine.
Japanese traditional design feature rich patterns and heavy single fill and bold outline designs often covering large areas of skin.
What is gradation in black and gray tattoos?
Gradation is often essential in Japanese black and gray tattoos or single color ink against variations in shading.
It’s the visual technique of gradually transitioning from one color hue to another, or from one shade to another and is employed to create shifts in space, distance, volume, and curved or rounded forms to make tattoos more complex.
How much does a color Japanese sleeve cost?
A full color Japanese Irezumi sleeve tattoo is at the top of the pricing spectrum. A Japanese sleeve will cost at least $1500 -2000 USD, even at a comparatively cheap average price of $150 per hour.
Experienced artists and Japanese tattooing specialists will charge more, while a sleeve from a Japanese tattoo artist master like Horiyoshi III could cost upwards of $10,000 USD for a colorful nagasode arm piece at a Tokyo or Osaka tattoo studio.
Did you enjoy these Japanese wave tattoos? Look for more interesting galleries by clicking on the links below:
- Japanese Raijin Tattoo Ideas
- Japanese Turtle Tattoo Designs
- Top 47 Koi Dragon Tattoos
- Top 91 Japanese Dragon Tattoos