Japanese Samurai Tattoos and Meanings

All About Samurai Tattoos

Samurai tattoos are very popular in Japanese culture. Even though it is not a mainstream tattoo in America, it still has a following, especially among people who admire Japan. Samurai tattoo designs are very detailed and quite colorful. Though they come in a variety of sizes and styles, most designs are larger due to the detail in this tattoo.

The samurai tattoo represents traits and attributes of the samurai. It often symbolizes strength and courage, along with a host of other meanings. Samurai tattoo designs are quite stunning and perfect for sleeve tattoos. There is a variety of different elements and symbols that can be designed with the samurai theme. Below, I'll give you a history of the samurai tattoo along with its various meanings and designs.

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Samurai History

When it comes to traditional Japanese tattoos, none may be more symbolic than the samurai tattoo. The samurai tattoo has been a popular choice for years in Japan. But with their rise in popularity in western cultures, samurai tattoos can now be found all over the world. In this day and age, samurai tattoos can be worn by men and women. Traditionally, however, the samurai tattoo symbols masculinity. Samurai tattoos can be designed in a variety of different ways and they can hold a high symbolic value for those who wear such a tattoo.

The samurai have a rich history of traditions and values. Even today, samurai continue to be among the most decorated warriors of all time. The word "samurai" is derived from the word "saburau", which means "to serve." Another representation of this word is "to wait upon a person with upper ranks in society."

Samurai Life

Samurai were expected to live a certain way of life that represented honor, nobility, and service. The 13th century saw the rise of Zen Buddhism, and the samurai based their standards and conduct on this practice. Zen meditation became very important to the samurai. It was used to calm a samurai's mind. With this practice, samurai became disciplined in the art of war. Buddhism also led the samurai to eliminate needless killings as it showed them how to be reborn.

More than anything, samurai were known for their fighting abilities, particularly martial arts skills. With the influence of Buddhism, samurai were trained to be disciplined in their approach. With the new practice and their abilities, they became the ultimate warrior of their time. The samurai followed the practice of "Bushido", which represented "the way of the warrior." They built their principles on courage, respect, honor, and self-discipline, valuing these principles in both life and death.

Zen Buddhism also taught the samurai to overcome the fear of killing and the fear of death. Because of this, samurai were expected to live a certain way of life. They learned to live every day like it was their last. They also learned to keep their lives in order and everything else in between. Samurai would usually marry and have children. This was to make sure that their social class would live on. After years and years of constant war, this would also help with populating the social class. If a samurai would marry, his wife would also become a member of the samurai class, as well as their children.

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The samurai tattoo can represent a variety of different meanings. Since there are a few variations of samurai tattoos, meanings can differ from one variation to the other. Remember, in the end, your samurai tattoo symbolizes what you want it too. That said, here are some of the meanings behind the samurai tattoo.

  • Masculinity
  • Courage
  • Bravery
  • Honor
  • Nobility
  • Self-Discipline
  • Frugality
  • Respect
  • To Serve
  • Warrior
  • Life
  • Death

Since the samurai practiced living every day like it was their last, your samurai tattoo can symbolize the same thing. Your samurai tattoo can be there to remind you of how fragile life really is. It can remind you to live every moment like it was your last because none of us is sure of tomorrow. It may also be chosen by those who value the samurai and their culture. As you read above, samurai tattoos have been around for many years in Japan. Traditional Japanese samurai tattoos were worn as full back tattoos, full body tattoos, or as full sleeve tattoos.


Since samurai tattoos are associated with the culture of Japan, they are often designed with various symbols of Japanese culture. Most samurai are portrayed with their katana, which is a specific type of sword. The samurai is associated with the cherry blossom, which is actually a symbol of the Japanese samurai. Due to this, samurai tattoos often include cherry blossom flowers. There are several other symbols and elements that you can portray with your samurai, such as dragons, Geisha, koi, yin-yang, or tigers. Samurai tattoos may also include Kanji. They can be done in a variety of different sizes and inked nearly anywhere on the body. However, people most commonly choose to have them on their arms or back.

Samurai tattoos can also portray the samurai in different postures. Samurai can be portrayed with their katana in hand or they can be portrayed on a horse. They may be designed to look fearless or at peace. Samurai tattoo designs offer several different options for you to consider. Make sure that you take the time to view all the different samurai tattoo designs in this article and elsewhere. This will give you an idea of what is available, plus you can pick up some tips and ideas for your own samurai tattoo.

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Before You Get a Tattoo

There are some very important things that you should remember before you get your Japanese samurai tattoo or any tattoo. Make sure that you take the time to research your tattoo. You want to make sure that you completely understand what your tattoo represents and stands for. Don't rush to get inked! Men and women who rush to get a tattoo on an impulse usually have regrets about their choice later on down the road. If you are not sure, give it more time. Make sure you get it right the first time around!

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Comments 17 comments

thelyricwriter profile image

thelyricwriter 4 years ago from West Virginia Author

Max, thanks for taking the time to comment pal. Yeah, very interesting history on them. Can easily see why one would want to sport such a tattoo.

BeyondMax profile image

BeyondMax 4 years ago from Sydney, Australia

Wow. Very interesting background and the images themselves are like an open book. Incredible, fascinating!

thelyricwriter profile image

thelyricwriter 4 years ago from West Virginia Author

*Lightshare, thanks for taking the time to visit. I hope you enjoyed them and thanks again!

*Rosemay, always great to hear from you:) Some are very detailed. Probably days and weeks worth of work on a few. I enjoy the history on them, always been into history. Appreciate you noticing, it means a lot! Take care Rosemay.

Rosemay50 profile image

Rosemay50 4 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

Wow these are amzing. There is so much detail in them, surely it would take more than one 'sitting' to complete the intricate and detailed tats.

I love the way you include the history, stories behind these tattoos.

An awful lot of work has gone into this.

Awesome Up and so much more

Lightshare profile image

Lightshare 4 years ago

Wouh!! Amazing picture collection and information shared.

thelyricwriter profile image

thelyricwriter 4 years ago from West Virginia Author

Ruby, thanks for stopping by and for your comment. Yes, some of these are very detailed. Some probably take months to complete.

Alocsin, thanks for dropping in. Yeah, this would be the way to go for a colorful, large tattoo. They look great on the back.

Thanks to you both and take care.

alocsin profile image

alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

I don't think I've ever seen a samurai tattoo, which is certainly quite noticeable due to its size. If you're going to go big, put lots of color, as shown by several of your examples. Voting this Up and Beautiful.

always exploring profile image

always exploring 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

My,some of these cover the entire back, must take a long time and has to be painful, but they too are beautiful..Thank you Ricky...

thelyricwriter profile image

thelyricwriter 4 years ago from West Virginia Author









Thank you all for your visit, time, and comments:) It is very hard keeping up with you all:) I try my best, I really do. Nell, that is cool. As you probably know, movies and books really boosted the popularity of the samurai. Thanks for the share Nell!! Frank and Tammy, many thanks. The same is said for you both. Mhatter, I learned a little bit about Zula Zula during my research. To be honest, I remember anyone that I read. With these Japanese words and names, they slip me. I hate that, but what can you do. Gypsy, Pix, Aviannovice, thanks again. All of you make the Hubpage community.

aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

These lovely works of art are remarkable.

Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 4 years ago from Riga, Latvia

Crazy, fantastic and colorful tattoos.

pinxinsales004 4 years ago




Mhatter99 profile image

Mhatter99 4 years ago from San Francisco

just wondering if you ever heard of Zulu Zulu

Klingonkorra profile image

Klingonkorra 4 years ago

I have 5 tattoos, and am looking to get some more i´m a warrior of love and light, what kind of samurai is that?

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton

Thelyricwriter I don't think I could ever get enough of your tattoo teachings and designs Voted awesome

tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 4 years ago from North Carolina

These are epic Lyricwriter! I bet these are popular with all the young people that love animae. Excellent as always!

Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

Hi lyric, now these are super cool! I love the Samurai traditions and watch all the films, I think I got hooked on them when the tv program Shogun was on back in the seventies! lol! and of course the updated version with Tom Cruise, which wasn't so good, but watchable, these are great, and your photos will certainly help someone pick the right choice, interesting info too, voted up and shared, nell

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    thelyricwriter profile image

    Richard Ricky Hale (thelyricwriter)704 Followers
    475 Articles

    Richard Hale is a tattoo enthusiast who studies and researches tattoo symbolism, meanings and history.

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