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.
Nearly every Japanese tattoo is going to include water in some way.
Waves are one of the most popular representations of water in the Japanese canon, and many of the artistic renderings by famous Japanese artists have reached global levels of recognizability.
Japanese wave tattoos are typically representative of life, power, fluidity, and movement. Such tattoos are often blended with other similar elements, like Koi, Oni, or Dragons. All of these Japanese symbols play off each other with practiced similarities and relatable imagery.
Waves are a popular tattoo design because they can represent the ever-changing nature of life, such as the ebb and flow of water. Just as with water and the ocean, life can be gentle and breezy during the simple times and tumultuous during the hard. Such direct symbolism is deeply attractive to those who understand the fluid nature of life.
Some Japanese artistic pieces have been translated directly into tattoos, like the famous work by Katsushika Hokusai. In it, he depicts a large wave bearing down on three ships trying desperately to survive the tsunami, which illustrates the resilience of the human spirit against all forces of adversity.
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
Some Japanese wave tattoos come in the form of sleeves. These sleeves showcase the beauty of the wave and the importance it plays in Japanese culture as a symbol of power, life and several 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. Whether it be blue, green, purple or red, these sleeves are done with incredible tones and shading.
Waves are not the only elements involved in a Japanese wave sleeve, however. Instead, multiple different pieces are set alongside them. These can include everything from various flowers to the koi fish, an animal of the water that is 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. Tattooing on the back makes bigger pieces and scenes possible. Back wave tattoos show much of what is seen on their sleeve counterparts. One large difference? Everything is much bigger.
4. Japanese Wave Upper Arm Tattoos
Another place on the body that Japanese wave tattoos fit well is on the upper arm. 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. There are sometimes other forces at work on such tattoos as well, such as depictions of wind. The upper arm is without a doubt a great place for a Japanese wave tattoo.
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. Some of these include the important and aforementioned wave tattoos. Others could include variations on what one might see on a Japanese sleeve. 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
There are many different types of leg tattoos. Nevertheless, 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.
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.
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