Japanese tattoos have been one of the most popular tattoos for decades, with celebrities like John Mayer sporting sleeves. Possibly most iconic of them are the Geisha girl images, showing bold eyes, headdresses and bright colours.
These tattoos show gorgeous faces and colours which are perfect to compliment bold pieces you already have. They can be completely universal, working as a feminine design or even part of a full, dark sleeve.
Do you think a geisha tattoo could be your next ink? Continue reading for inspiration.
What does it mean to have a Geisha tattoo?
Geisha tattoos originate from Japan, based off of the entertainers stemming back into their culture.
They often are paired with handheld items (like parasols), cherry blossom and rural backgrounds, making them very stunning if executed right.
The tattoos help to represent the beauty of these women, whilst also showing mystery behind the costume. The geisha girl is often shown as unobtainable- hidden with their fan and removing the identity. Of course, they also show female empowerment, fertility and power, yet keeping fragility with the branches and flowers.
To really understand the meaning of this tattoo, however, you need to know the background of the geisha themselves. So what exactly is a geisha?
The Background of Geisha
What many people don’t realise about the iconic geisha girls is that they weren’t, in fact, originally girls.
Originating from 1700s Japan, their original function was to serve the upper class, offering entertainment to business parties and dinner events. The role was given to males, as globally at this time women were not performers and men would play their roles. The second world war really took a toll on these, as there was a lack of excitement for such performances, following the death of millions.
It wasn’t until American soldiers abroad (after the war) heard about ‘geisha girls’, that led to this change to happen. Here, sex workers of Japan had started to pose as Geisha, despite having proper training, transiting women to the role. Since then, females have gradually become welcome to the position, but that definitely doesn’t stop males, still.
And no, Geishas are not a part of the sex industry. This was just a cover for those struggling at the time.
Japanese Style Geisha Tattooing
With Geisha being a part of their culture, of course they were originally tattooed in a Japanese style.
This would involve a less detailed face (a more cartoon feel) with bold outlining. The colour palette is a lot more bland and features primary and secondary colours, such as red and yellow, too. They also have traditional Japanese waves, like in the image above, with old black shading.
For a full Japanese sleeve, you could include other items specific to their heritage and location. Examples include:
- Koi Fish
- Hannya Masks
The stylised waves are a great to gap fill too, to really give you that block sleeve effect. If Japanese wasn’t what you were looking for, however, keep scrolling for more ideas.
Traditional Meets Geisha
The two images shown here are known as traditional pieces, from Western culture. Similar to Japanese, it features bold outlines and colours, however the overall look is less harsh.
These geisha keep an overall cuter appearance, and are easier to execute as a small tattoo, too. The colours have an overall ‘cleaner’ look and can fit next to other pieces, without clashing styles.
Traditional is one of the most popular and versatile styles at the current time, but also stays popular for decades. While tattoos like tribal are going out of fashion, traditional always remains timeless. With this style, you can guarantee your ink will remain fashionable.
The word ‘Chibi’ means short and is a term used for caricature portraits, often seen in the Japanese cartoon anime’s. Here, the geisha is given wide eyes and small lips, to accentuate her features. She’s also paired with bright, yet soft blush colours, to again give it a cute appearance.
With a Chibi tattoo, you can always have a happy and positive design to carry with you. They can often be described to have a ‘kawaii’ feel- a type of aesthetic in Japan for generally adorable stuff.
These would be very suiting to a female, or someone wishing to have a more gentle looking tattoo, overall.
Realism is a style that requires a highly talented artist to pull off. It involves a more trained attention to eye and execution of detailed shading to give a photo-realistic look.
Realism can either be black and grey, or colour realism. Or a mix of both! Generally, for a realism piece you’d need it to be bigger however, to get all the detail in, so bare this in mind. The good thing about realism is, like Japanese tattoos, they’re much easier to fit together to create a sleeve. Due to the shading, the background can be shaded out to fit them seamlessly.
With these realism tattoos, you can see how a full picture has been built up using the background, to make a whole piece. While the geisha is a focal point in this, they aren’t a standalone image. If you are just wanting the geisha girl, then a different style may be better for you.
Adding other Subjects to Geishas
Due to faces not holding the most detail, it’s common for geisha to be paired with other things, such as fans or parasols in their hands. These allow more interesting designs to be created. The one below shows a fun twist on traditional geisha, giving her a snake tongue and black tear drop.
Of course as said before though, they often include hair accessories and headdresses, flowers, rope and kimono sand sometimes Japanese characters too.
If you choose to get characters written on you and don’t speak the language, then make sure you get a native speaker to triple check what is written before you get it inked. There’s many horror stories of people who use Google translate and don’t end up with what they expect. For example, Ariana Grande’s latest was found out by fans to read BBQ chicken finger!
Blackwork Geisha Tattoos
A blackwork tattoo is the most unique style to use for a geisha tattoo, as this isn’t often seen. Usually, the typical geisha will feature bright colours, whereas blackwork tattoos are purely monochrome. They also highly focus on the lining and so may have little to no shading at all.
A blackwork tattoo is great if you don’t want to look completely covered, as it allows for skin to show between the lines. They’re also much easier to make smaller, so are good for people not wanting to full commit to a big piece yet.
Dark Style Geishas
If standard tattoos aren’t for you, then you may want to shake up your design by putting a dark twist on it. The one below shows how a normal geisha girl was made to look sinister by revealing half of her face as a skull. Another cool idea is to create a mechanical robotic look to the girl, to again change it.
If you don’t want to change the basic structure of the girl, however, you can always change up the shading to alter the feeling of it.
One of the most important things to consider in getting a tattoo is the placement to put it. This is especially important if you have other pieces in that area, meaning less room to fit it with.
The most typical place for a geisha tattoo would be the arm or leg (upper arm or thigh, where the surface area is larger). This is so that the wearer could create a Japanese-themed sleeve that it can fit with. However, there is no right way to create and place a tattoo.
Below are a few examples of more creative placements for a geisha girl, including this foot tattoo which is particularly interesting. As you can see, a foot or hand is great for if you wish to have a smaller tattoo. If you need this to be hidden, however, a tattoo or your leg, arm, or back will give it more chance to be covered by clothing.
A full back piece is especially great if you can brave it and want to create a big design.
As well as considering the tattoos you already have, you also need to think of the tattoos you may have in the future and whether this is the best use of your space. Will having a big geisha on your arm leave enough room for that portrait you wanted?
Still not feeling inspired? There are plenty more tattoos to look through, to really give you that idea you were missing. Have a scroll and let us know what your favourite style is! More advice follows below.
Choosing the Artist for Your Tattoo
When getting your tattoo, it’s worthless having a good design unless you have an artist who can execute it well. It’s important to look around at different shops and consider who you think could do it best. For example, if you want a Japanese style tattoo, find someone who specialises in this! Most artists nowadays have social media and Instagram pages where they’ll share their work, so check it out before you choose them. You’re paying someone to permanently mark your body, so think it through!
Another top tip is to search the artist on Facebook or google, as this will show any bad work from reviews that they can’t hide.
Preparing in Advance
Before the day of your tattoo, make sure you avoid alcohol or blooding thinning medicines like aspirin, if not essential. Try and pack everything you’ll want for the day, if you’re going to be there a while, to not keep your artist waiting. Sugary foods are especially great to bring with you as they can help keep your energy up. Because of the force and pain you’re experiencing, lots of adrenaline is used up and so can leave you feeling drained.
Make sure to say if you need a break during- your artist wont mind! Your well-being is in their best interest, so they won’t frown upon this if you need it.
When you get to the shop and your artist sets up, make sure that all needles are from unopened disposable packets. If you even feel uneasy and doubt their hygiene then leave. A deposit is not worth worrying about compared to the damage your health could take. If you feel wrongly treated, you can always flag it as a dispute!
Another great tip could be to take a small blanket or pillow. Sitting on a tattoo bed for hours can be rather uncomfortable after a longer period of time and definitely aren’t always the warmest of places. If doing so, however, try and clean this beforehand as you want everything involved to be as hygienic as possible.
When it comes to aftercare, also, there’s no right way that suits everyone. Listen to your artists advice and ensure you keep it clean and wrapped whenever in a dirty environment. When applying cream, you also need to make sure to keep it moist, but not wet, as this can cause just as much damage to your ink.
Finally, never pick at your tattoo scabs! Doing so will remove the ink with it and take away ink from the full design.
Final Tattoo Thoughts
We hope you have found something to suit you among these images and are up for getting your new ink!
When getting a new tattoo it’s important to know the meanings and history behind what you’re getting. While tattoos do look stunning, they often have great significance behind them! Especially in the case of the geisha, where there is a cultural background in Japan surrounding them. Therefore, we hope you have learnt something new here too!
Let us know in the comment section if any of these inspired you to get your own geisha, or even if you’ve seen geisha on a holiday trip. And if this hasn’t satisfied your tattoo cravings enough, check out one of our previous articles!