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Japanese Kanji Tattoos - 4 Pitfalls You Must Avoid

Updated on May 5, 2011

Japanese kanji tattoos have gotten popular in recent years. Being expressive and artistic, Japanese kanji characters have captured the fancy of those wanting to stand out from the crowd. You can easily create and express the meaning you want visually as Japanese kanji characters are ideograms. However, keep in mind that kanji is actually of a different language with different constructs from English. You don't want to embarrass yourself with a permanent inking for lack of proper understanding. Avoid these pitfalls when choosing the designs of your Japanese kanji tattoos.

Pitfall 1: Rushing Into Japanese Kanji Tattoos Under Peer Pressure

You're not a wimp when you need time to decide on a right Japanese kanji tattoo. It's good sense. You'll prove nothing rushing into one simply because all your friends have one. Remember, you're wearing that tattoo for the rest of your life, not your friends. You want no regrets later. Don't treat getting a tattoo as a shopping trip at the mall.

Japanese Kanji Tattoo
Japanese Kanji Tattoo

Pitfall 2: Shopping Japanese Kanji Tattoos On Impulse

Tattooing cannot be done on impulse. If you regret owning the things bought during impulse shopping, you can always return them or give them away. Getting rid of a tattoo afterwards isn't so simple on the other hand. It is often costly and painful.

Don't go flipping through the portfolios in the parlors for tattooing inspiration purely on impulse. It's a bad idea. Since you don't have any inkling what you want, you'll regret it later. Just like impulse shopping. In fact, just having an idea of the design you like isn't enough. Japanese kanji tattoos are no mere graphics. Each Japanese kanji character has its own meaning.

Pitfall 3: Misunderstanding What The Japanese Kanji Tattoos Mean

Kanji is a form of written characters for the Japanese. So each Japanese kanji tattoo design carries with it ideas and meaning behind the character. Even though a specific design of the kanji tattoos appeals to you, you don't want to end up a laughing stock being "p**s" rather than "peace". Asking the tattoo artists, unfortunately, is no guarantee of finding out the true meaning of a kanji. After all, they are tattoo artists, not linguists of the Japanese language.

To make sure the Japanese kanji tattoos mean what you expect them to mean, you must do your own research. An area in your research you have to take note of is not to mix up kanji and hanzi.

Pitfall 4: Confusing Kanji With Hanzi

Kanji may mean Chinese characters as does hanzi, but kanji isn't hanzi. Rather, kanji is Japanized hanzi. Japanese adopted the Chinese characters from China long ago for their own use. Today, even though both kanji and hanzi look similar in forms, there are actually subtle differences. The pronunciations and meanings of the characters could be entirely different as well. So when you want a Japanese kanji tattoo, make sure it's kanji and not hanzi.

Mark Twain once remarked that the difference between the almost right word and the right word is like the lightning bug and the lightning. When it comes to Japanese kanji tattoos, I suppose the difference is between the body art you appreciate and the mistake you regret. Bad tattoos last just as long as the good ones. So do yourself a favor. Before you ink those Japanese kanji tattoos permanently on your skin, check out what that kanji means.


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    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Good HUb- Also as one who can read Japanese, I'm surprised at how many people get Kanji tattoos and have no idea what they mean. When I ask them what it means ad they tell me, it's almost always totally wrong..keep up the good work!

    • profile image

      Kanji Tattoos 

      10 years ago

      Some Kanji tattoos are quite beautiful

    • GreatTattoosNow profile image


      11 years ago from San Jose

      Well put Kanji tattoos can become a huge mistake. My wife being 100% full blodded Japanese can of course read Kanji and you wouldn't believe that tattoos we see.....Ugly bastardizationof such a beautiful language and script.

      Voted for your page and have added you as a friend!

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Great site,,


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