Japanese Tattoo Glossary

Japanese Style Tattoo Glossary

  • Bokashi: the shading of gradations in black and grey used in the japanese tattoo background
  • Botan: the peony flower
  • Gobusode: a pair of japanese tattoo half sleeves; “five tenths” sleeves
  • Gakubori: The japanese tattoo background, composed of God’s natural elements such as wave and wind; the setting of the Japanese tattoo
  • Ho-o: The pheonix. The -o is pronounced by extending the o sound for the length of an extra syllable
  • Hori: literally, engraver; a tattoo artist
  • Horishi: the tattoo artist
  • Irezumi: the japanese tattoo; the name given to the helpful practice of forcibly tattooing criminals to help the innocent identify them; nowadays this term applies to the whole of Japanese style tattooing, and is the most commonly seen name for it
  • Kamenoko: turtle back; the Japanese backpiece tattoo, which extends from the nape of the neck downward across the buttocks to the mid thigh; so named for resembling the shell of a turtle, “kame”.
  • Kiku: the chrysanthemum flower
  • Koi: the carp, a Japanese word all American tattoo people know by heart!
  • Mikiri: the strict, tight border of the Japanese tattoo background, responsible for much of its severe appearance, and its clearly defined shape
  • Momiji: the maple leaf
  • Munewari: traditional irezumi front tattoo, it spans the length of the front of the body and is split down the middle- this allows for some of the chest to be seen (as with an unbuttoned shirt) without exposing the tattoo
  • Nagasode: a pair of Japanese tattoo full sleeves; the full sleeve is the ultimate American tattoo sleeve, in japanese tattooing, it is used much more seldom than the conservative gobusode, or the perfect in length shichibu.
  • Ryu: Japanese dragon, the most iconic image in all of irezumi. Very difficult to pronounce the Japanese "r" in English.
  • Sakura: The cherry blossom flower
  • Senjafuda: a name card of an individual, used in irezumi by the tattoo artist to sign his work; he affixes it to the Japanese backpiece as a mark of distinction and authenticity
  • Shichibu: a pair of Japanese tattoo three quarter sleeves; more accurately, “seven tenths” sleeves
  • Shishi: chinese lion, often referred to as a fu-dog, an often used image in irezumi
  • Sode: a pair of Japanese tattoo sleeves
  • Tebori: hand engraving; the traditional Japanese method of tattooing with needles attached to the end of a hand-held and hand-powered tool
  • Soushinbori Donburi: whole and complete Japanese tattoo bodysuit; very rarely achieved, the wearer is elevated to the highest rung of tattoo
  • Tora: the tiger; power animal of the earth