Monday, July 22, 2013

Japanese Mythical Creatures: Tattoo Inspiration

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Something that I like during my free time is read about Japanese mythical creatures. I find it all so fascinating: the art, the history, the stories associated with each and their connection to the world of tattooing. 

I already have one Japanese creature tattooed on me (click here to see it), with plans for several more. 

Dragons are probably the most common creature featured in tattooing, but there are hundreds more to discover. Here are my favourite Japanese mythical creatures. 


The Akkorokamui is a giant squid-like creature said to grow up to 120m in length and live in Funka Bay.

I’ve had a fascination with giant squids since watching ‘The Beast’ TV movie when I was young.


The term ameonna refers to a person believed to be jinxed, who brings rain with them wherever they go.

I feel as though this sums up my life perfectly.


A baku is a supernatural creature that devours dreams and nightmare. Likewise with dragon, a baku has the physical characteristics of several different animals including: elephant, ox and tiger.


I’m a firm believer in karma, and it’s the gaki which represents ‘hungry ghosts’ of people who were jealous or greedy in a previous life. The gaki are afflicted with an insatiable hunger for foul objects. It’s a reminder that too much of a good thing can be bad.


A genbu (or black tortoise) is often depicted with a snake coiled around its body. As these creatures gained knowledge they used it for evil rather than good, thus becoming demons. When they were faced with their imminent demise they repented for their sins in order to live.

To me, it’s important to recognise when you make an error in judgement or hurt another person, however it’s possible to right all wrongs.


The hannya mask is similar to the myth of gaki, as it represents women who became demons due to their obsession or jealousy.

I’m sure everyone can relate to being jealous of another person at some point in their lives. I was brought up to work hard and appreciate things, rather than to expect everything to be handed to me on a silver platter. To be happy with yourself and your life is far greater than living an unhealthy life of pain and jealousy.


A kawauso is a river otter with the supernatural ability to become human. In most stories the kawauso are depicted as dressing as young, poor children or women to attract people, to only then kill and eat them. Perhaps this is why the Japanese river otter is now considered extinct.


As a kitsune (or fox) ages they gain more wisdom, and with more tails, the more powerful they are. For the most part they’re mostly depicted as loving and mischievous creatures who transform into women, tricking men into marrying them.

Foxes are such beautiful creatures, although where I live they often meet an untimely death as they run into traffic.