Japanese Sleeve Tattoos

Traditional Japanese Tattoos

Traditional Japanese Sleeve Tattoo


raditional japanese sleeve tattoos make up a large part of the oldest pictorial form of tattooing in the world, which is the japanese tattoo. This was the tradition that  established the sleeve tattoo, in which a portion of the arm is completely covered with tattooing. The sheer amount of tattooing contained in a sleeve is over the top and goes all in, full force and full throttle, and these aspects of the japanese sleeve tattoo draw us, as American tattoo collectors, to it. Correctly applied, we use it in its traditional form, preserving its power, but for our own purposes, advancing our American concerns, hopes, and statements of intent as we do so.

What Makes a Traditional Japanese Sleeve Tattoo?

Japanese sleeve tattoos are designed with careful attention to the flow and composition of the overall artwork. The tattoo artist considers the natural contours of the body to create a harmonious and balanced design.

Japanese sleeve tattoos are meant to be applied in pairs, to the right and left sides of the body in tandem. They totally cover a specific portion of the arms, and come in three possible lengths: the half sleeve, the three quarter sleeve, and the japanese full sleeve tattoo. Like Japan itself, these tattoos have strong borders and a definite beginning and end, and everything in between is tattooed completely.

The Japanese sleeve tattoo can be applied to one arm at a time. However, the tradition of japanese tattooing is to see, organize, and tattoo the body as one whole made up out of pairs. Tattooed sleeves have a great effect when tattooed in this way, and the whole gains far greater than the sum of the two sides when this strategy is employed.

Japanese sleeve tattoos work together to create a dynamic relationship between the arms. The same motif will be used on each arm, but treated in such a  way as to create a sort of tension that serves to set the tattoos in motion. Classic motifs for japanese sleeves include animals such as dragons, koi, and tigers that represent power and strength, the natural beauty of the japanese flower such as the cherry blossom that symbolizes the human condition, and folk warriors and heroes who carry the ultimate meaning of both the American as well as the japanese tattoo, which is power.

These animals, flowers, and heroes are set against a background of an elemental world comprised of wind, wave, and cloud, again representing the ultimate power of nature. Each part of the japanese tattoo design works in accord with the other, ever increasing in power, creating great cohesion and layers of meaning.

Japanese Sleeve Tattoo Lengths

To correctly use the japanese invention of the tattoo sleeve for our purposes of American tattooing, each of its traditions should be preserved. By respecting these traditions, we strengthen our own. We also achieve correct tattooing. Let’s examine these precise formats for the creation of a sleeve:

Half Sleeve

The half sleeve tattoo will end just above the elbow. This sleeve length is the most common, both in old Japan and in present day America, for its versatility as it is both easy to conceal as well as to show off. Note that the quarter sleeve is not an option. However, a half sleeve may be choked up on the arm a few inches, to provide for extra conservatism when modesty is a requirement.

Full Sleeve

The full sleeve tattoo will begin at the wrist. It should be a bit raised to allow for wrist movement and concealment under a shirt sleeve. Rarely on display in Japan, the full sleeve tattoo is the ultimate American tattoo sleeve length, as it is bold and assertive. One drawback to the full sleeve length is actually too much space- this may not be the preferred sleeve length for some designs.

Three quarter sleeve

The three quarter sleeve will begin just above the middle of the forearm, perhaps the ultimate sleeve length. It fits most japanese tattoo imagery perfectly. Easily concealed with shirt sleeves. The drawback is the open skin at the lower forearm. The American tattoo collector is likely to decide to add more tattooing there at a later date, which may put the original sleeve slightly off kilter.

Ready For an Authentic Japanese Sleeve Tattoo? Schedule A Consultation Today

Achieve your traditional japanese sleeve tattoos with American tattoo master Carl Hallowell, a renowned tattoo artist serving Dallas, Fort Worth, and East Texas from his private studio locations.

Whether you envision a set of japanese full sleeve tattoos, three quarter sleeve tattoos, or half sleeve tattoos, choose American craftsman Carl Hallowell for yours. Carl’s expertise is dedicated solely to preserving the traditional forms of tattooing. You’ve heard it said that “they don’t make ‘em like they used to”. Well maybe they do. Channelling the strength of the japanese tradition through the fist of American independence. Traditional Japanese Tattoo. Traditional American Values. That’s Carl Hallowell tattoo.

Begin your journey to tattoo and contact Carl Hallowell to discuss your ideas for your sleeves. Carl turns your personal vision into your unique tattoo by connecting with you and translating your person into a set of traditional Japanese tattoo motifs that will reveal a man’s American power, or a woman’s American beauty.

Contact me to set up an appointment for your tattoo.

Contact Me