The formation of Yakuza clan began in the early 17th century in Japan. The underclass men who sold illegal goods or ran gambling dens began forming these groups. These groups were known as ninkyō dantai (chivalrous organizations). Many of these members were tattooed by police authorities just to mark them as criminals. Adding to the existing prison tattoos, the early yakuza members started incorporating tattoo art in their customs. Tattoo art wasn’t widely practiced among people because of its association with Japanese criminals.
The yakuza tattoos depict imagery and symbolism in Japanese culture, art, and religion. One of the products of the yakuza culture is the full body suit tattoo. It was mandatory for yakuza clan members to get tattoos in the old times. Nowadays, many yakuza clan members prefer having clear skin. This was to merge well with the society. People still wish to have these tattoos to continue the tradition.
Yakuza tattoos with their meanings
The Foo Dog
These are also called as Lions Of Buddha. They are the protectors of Buddhist temples. There are a lot of statues of foo dogs around Japanese temples. They come in pairs and as komainu. The creature is actually a lion. But since it resembles a dog a lot. It derives its name from them. The foo dog provides protection against evil and danger.
The severed head tattoo
Namakubi or the severed head tattoo serves as a symbol for courage, fearlessness, and respect for a foe. It has historical origins. It has origins in the samurai tradition of headhunting in battle and is a symbol of warning.
The chrysanthemum is a symbol of the Imperial family in the Japanese tradition. Its petals are radiating outwards like flames. They are the solar flower. The center of the flower represents an emperor’s social status as the center of all things. In tattoos, they appear alongside dragons.
The Maple Leaf tattoo
This tattoo is symbolic of the passage of time in life. The maple leaf tattoo depicts the leaves caught in the wind or drifting away to the stream of water. This imagery represents people caught in the flow of time. The ever changing colors of these leaves changing with the seasons represent the cycle of life.
Oni Mask tattoo
Oni are ogres or demons that can change form at will, wield spiked clubs, inflict disease, insanity, and death whenever deemed fit for them. They are extremely nasty yet intelligent creatures. They are man-eaters. These creatures terrorize villages, cause deterioration in society, and reincarnations of wicked people, according to tradition. These tattoos represent threat.
Cherry Blossom tattoo
Cherry Blossoms or Sakura are very prominent in the Japanese culture. The very short lifespan of cherry blossoms symbolize life itself. And how it can wither due to harshness of the seasons. Once these cherry blossoms fall from the tree. They are scatter and are dispersed by wind and rain and almost appear as if they have vanished from the earth. Japanese show great delight in holding hanami or the flower viewing tradition. They admire the beauty with family and friends while having festivities. So, in a way, they symbolize that life is fleeting yet full of vigor, colour, and beauty.
The Tiger tattoo
This tattoo is to give you protection against demons, disease, and bad luck. Japanese folklore tells us that the tigers represents autumn. It can control the wind and is one of the four sacred elemental animals. The tiger is representative of courage and strength.
Other yakuza tattoos
- Snake tattoo
- Phoenix tattoo
- The Koi Fish Tattoo
- Dragon Tattoo
- Peony Flower Tattoo
- Lotus Tattoo
- Hannya Mask Tattoo
The Yakuza or the Japanese mafia made their clans long ago. They are known to have pride in their tattooed bodies but never making these tattoos public. People from around the globe travel to Japan. Just to get a tattoo from a horishi or many other tattoo artists being in light of the apprenticeship from their legendary tattoo masters. You just need to follow the guidelines of body placement. And get your favorite yakuza tattoos from a local tattoo shop. But it is always advised to get one from a shop that practices traditional Japanese tattooing.