Katana Tattoos: History, Meanings & Designs

Katana Tattoos: History, Meanings & Designs

When you think of the Samurai, it’s impossible not to think of the katana as well. These swords, with their steel folded thousands of times, were sharp, deadly, and an extension of the one who wielded them. This begs the question, what are the meanings and symbolism behind Katana tattoos?

Read on and we’ll explore this together with you… as it turns out, these blades are a  whole lot more than just a famous type of Japanese sword! Let’s discuss the facts and see what you think!


What is the History of Katana Tattoos?

While we aren’t 100% sure, the first Katana was believed to have been designed and made by a blacksmith named Amakuni and this happened in the 7th century. While he is also credited for the distinctive folded steel design, it is likely that this came from trade with China, but these swords were nonetheless destined for greatness.

Traditionally, they were given by Japanese feudal lords, called Damyo, to their Samurai, though katanas were often gifted at Shinto shrines to the Kami (divine beings) as well. For the Samuri, these swords were much more than weapons – they were an extension of the warrior’s soul.

The Samurai were quite serious about this, enough so that a Samurai’s fathered a son who was intended to become a Samurai one day himself, they would bring his sword into the delivery room to join the two inseparably from the moment of birth.

That’s some serious dedication and it’s a very old tradition to boot, making it quite likely that the first katana tattoos are very old skin art, indeed!


What Do Katana Tattoos Symbolize?

The Katana represents the soul of a warrior and also his or her honor. The steel is like their resolve, while the razor edge is their will focused to the point of deadliness. Sword tattoos tend to get generically grouped, but the type of sword tells you the era and about the spirit of the people who wielded it.

With a katana, the heavy ties with honor and loyalty are a large part of the theme of the artistic depiction, though even the way it was carried and worn is interesting to note.

Of all Japanese swords, the Katana was the only one to be sheathed and carried with its edge up – allowing it to draw and instantly slice whatever was in front of it. The painstaking process of making them, as well, including folding the steel over and over again to create the amazing strength and sharpness.

It’s quite the powerful weapon, in physical performance, composition, and in the spiritual associations that tie with the mysteries of this well-known blade. It’s easy to see why some people choose to wear one in their skin art – it’s an ancient and profound image to its core.


What Do Katana Tattoos Mean?

Katana tattoos usually tell you something about the owner’s personality. With their Samurai connection, katanas tend to represent a personal code of honor, self-discipline, and even an aggressive spirituality. The image of the katana indicates reliability and a fierceness of spirit.

The spirituality aspect comes from this blade’s popularity as an offering to the divine, with these swords being left at Kami Shinto shrines all over Japan, and some may choose a katana tattoo for this very reason – as an ancient symbol of the kind of faith which they profess.

That’s not to say that you can’t have a ‘fun katana’, and lots of people who are fascinated with Samurais or even with their cinema depictions will simply choose to wear this sword as a tattoo because they like it.

When you get down to it, katana tattoos are perfect for any reason if they call to you. Be it spiritual, a reflection of a warrior character, or a matter of aesthetics, or an appreciation of Japanese culture… you’re the one who decides whether or not you’ll be wearing it. It’s your tattoo, after all, so it’s all about you!


Where Do Katana Tattoos Usually Go?

While you can tattoo small katanas that travel the length of the arm, more commonly they will be placed on the back or on another area of skin where you can do a lot of detail work. Mind you, this rule isn’t graven in stone, it just gives you a lot more skin to work with for your design.

Katanas on the hips or ankles are certainly present in the skin art world and you’ll see a lot of variance in how they are displayed. For instance, sometimes you’ll see the full sword, unsheathed, while other times it is fully-sheathed or even depicted in part, as if stabbing into the skin.

We recommend coming up with your base design first and then talking to your artist. Sometimes the design may get expanded, while other times it might be made smaller and more succinct.

With your artist’s input, you can get your design implemented in many different ways and it can even fit the contours of your unique body shape.


Characteristics and Styles of Katana Tattoos

Katanas are most commonly done in Japanese tattooing style, but you can definitely go other routes and get powerful results if you prefer.

A Geometrical style katana might be a fun tattoo for a techy type with an ancient, honor-driven mindset, while a New School katana can even come across as powerfully symbolic, but fun, even with colorful blood dripping from the blade.

Once you’ve got your basic design, we urge you not to rush, but to review as many color and style options as you can. Even if you just take a day looking at your artist’s portfolio and designs online, you can get invaluable information that you might have wanted before you decided to commit.

Typically, it’s a stylistic option that you didn’t know existed. So, take a little time with it. You’d be surprised at some simple artistic tweaks that can take ‘pretty cool’ and turn it into ‘breathtaking’. It’s worth waiting that extra day – trust us on this!


In closing: Are Katana tattoos right for you?

In today’s textual journey we’ve explored the symbolism and meanings behind katana tattoos and like you’d expect with such a rich tradition, there’s quite a lot that you can work with. It can represent a fierce focus, unbreakable honor, or even a strength of spirit and a traditional bent that truly reflects your character like nothing else.

Are katana tattoos right for you? Only you can answer that, but we can say with 100% certainty that they make for amazing tattoos if you take the time to do it right!

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