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The Irezumi tattoos that the Yakuza have worn for over 400 years have deep spiritual meaning for the wearer. They are above all a cultural and religious symbol which aims to:

  • Reflect who they are through a historical scene.
  • Show the weakest that they have the power to help them.

    Contrary to what one might believe, these tattoos are not intended to be displayed publicly. If you look closely, no Yakuza has tattoos on their hands or above their neck and this is not a coincidence. Each Yakuza tattoo is perceived within the clan as a very personal and codified element and therefore has no interest in being seen by everyone (when they are dressed).


    But today, Yakuza tattoos are quite frowned upon by the Japanese people because they are associated with the criminal activities of the organization. Despite a large part of the truth, the Yakuza are in reality not simple assassins. In many ways they assert themselves as protectors of the people and do not hesitate to help them when they can, such as during earthquakes for example. Horiyoshi III, the most famous Yakuza tattoo artist, declared in the interview dedicated to him by Vice last week (available here ) :

    "I know them personally. They do a lot of good things for their community. If there is a major problem, they sometimes respond faster than the government."

    Horiyoshi III

    At the crossroads of worlds between Japanese mythology and codes of honor, welcome to the heart of Yakuza tattoos: the Irezumis .

    Koi carp yakuza tattoo meaning


    The Koi carp is one of the most popular symbols among Yakuza tattoos. Synonymous with luck and good fortune , but also with motivation and perseverance . The Koi carp represents triumph in the face of adversity, such as victory in the face of a serious illness or an accident for example. In Japanese mythology, the carp that manages to swim upstream of the Yellow River will turn into a dragon. A concept which is very close to what a famous German philosopher said.

    "What does not kill you makes you stronger"


    Yakuza sakura tattoo meaning


    The iconic cherry blossom of Japan is also one of the tattoos most often found within the Yakuza mafia. It symbolizes the very essence of life, the ultimate goal . But also the ephemeral nature of what surrounds us. Each cherry blossom will therefore have a different meaning for the person who wears it, because its interpretation is something very personal.

    Yakuza snake tattoo meaning


    There are many interpretations for the snake tattoo. While the most pessimistic see it as a symbol of bad luck , illness and disaster . Others equate it with the power and wisdom gained from making bad decisions. Still others associate this animal with good health and regeneration . Given the many vices or virtues that can be found, it is likely that not all snake tattoos will have the same meaning for its wearer. Everyone therefore remains free to interpret it according to what suits them best.

    Yakuza dragon tattoo meaning


    Unlike our European culture which equates the dragon with the fire-eater, the Japanese associate the dragon with the power of wind and water. Generally speaking, the dragon symbolizes wisdom and power . But among the Yakuza, the color of the dragon also has importance. A black dragon represents experience , a green dragon represents nature , and a gold dragon represents value .

    Yakuza Tiger Tattoo Meaning


    The tiger, in the same way as the lion and the lion dog, represents above all courage and longevity . But it is also a symbol of protection against demons and illness . Beyond these interpretations, the tiger also serves as a message and a permanent coat of arms for those who wear it, this message is the following:

    “I am ready to fight to defend what is mine”

    To a lesser extent the tiger can also represent a solitary fight. As with many Yakuza tattoos, its interpretation will therefore depend largely on you and your own journey. It is this mysterious side that makes these drawings so fascinating.

    Yakuza samurai tattoo meaning


    The samurai is one of the designs most often found in Yakuza tattoos. It symbolizes the sense of duty , unfailing loyalty and above all honor . Anecdote aside, it is banished samurai who are said to be at the origin of the Yakuza mafia created at the very beginning of the 1600s. Which further strengthens the link with the latter. In addition, the Yakuza adopted a philosophy very close to that of Bushido, which the samurai had as their code of honor.

    Yakuza Oni Mask Tattoo Meaning


    In Japanese culture someone who wears an Oni mask is a person who believes in demons and spirits . The mask is often available in two ways. Either he smiles and represents something good , or on the contrary he appears evil and represents something bad . Among the Yakuza, the demon Oni is a sort of executioner whose role is to punish those who do not respect the established code of honor.

    Yakuza peony tattoo meaning


    The peony is considered the queen of flowers in Japan. It signifies wealth and elegance but also luck , health and prosperity . Among the Yakuza, a peony symbolizes masculinity and strength .

    Yakuza skull tattoo meaning


    In Western culture, skulls often represent danger and bad luck . While in Japanese culture, the skull is a positive representation of the cycle of life . It signifies change as well as respect for ancestors .

    Yakuza Phoenix Tattoo Meaning


    The phoenix is ​​known worldwide for its immortality and its habit of defying death in order to be reborn from its ashes. This is also how the Yakuza interpret it and therefore tattoo it as a symbol of immortality and triumph .