Classic Geisha Tattoo Designs And Meanings
In Japanese culture and heritage, a geisha tattoo is a sign of genuine appreciation.
We’ll find out more about who geishas are in this article and what their meaning in tattoos and beyond is.
We’ll also look at some beautiful examples of Japanese geisha tattoos in various styles and placements.
Who are geishas?
Geishas, unique to Japanese society, are conventional female entertainers. The geisha tradition, as we know it, dates back to the 1700s. Geishas were almost entirely male until then.
Gei means ‘art’ in Japanese, and sha-‘person who does ‘. The term geisha thus translates loosely to ‘artist’.
In order to entertain rich guests, Geishas devote their lives completely to the arts, mastering many abilities and talents.
Popular Japanese music, reading, singing, and literature are also involved in these skills.
In order to make Geishas extremely good conversationalists, a broad general awareness compliments these artistic talents.
Geishas were not intended to get married. They lived in profession-exclusive (okiya) buildings, where they took their schooling and practiced the arts. Usually, if a geisha is dating, she ends her career as an entertainer.
It was long and incredibly difficult to learn to become a geisha. At a very early age, girls began their studies, serving as maids in Okiya while they were studying. The role was notoriously demanding and complicated.
She became an apprentice and no longer had to do the chores until a girl was able to pass the incredibly challenging examination. During performances, apprentices will join seasoned geisha and begin to study.
Being a geisha is both a career and a way of life: even though geishas are not actually hosting visitors, they remain geishas.
There are especially close links to the geisha culture in the Japanese city of Kyoto. Kyoto people refer to geishas as geiko occasionally.
It is important to remember that many people erroneously assume that geishas are prostitutes. Although geishas were educated to entertain male guests in the art of flirting, they were never sex slaves.
Geishas, bound at the back, wear silk kimonos. Their hair is set in intricate buns, and on their noses, younger geishas wear white lipstick.
Traditionally, hair-styling, makeup application and wardrobe preference approaches have been strictly practiced.
Today, though it is much less common, the traditional way of life for geishas continues. There were an estimated 80,000 geisha in Japan in the 1920s: today, the figure is closer to 1500.
Any of the ‘geishas’ that visitors in Japan today are likely to see are simply actors stylized to look like geishas. It takes the right contacts and, typically, a great sum of money to find a true geisha.
Geishas still follow the same preparation today, but it is expected to be shorter and less rigorous.
Geisha tattoo meaning
Sophistication, the arts, and Japanese rituals and customs are symbols of Geishas. As a tribute to Japanese history, many people who prefer geisha tattoo designs do so.
Arts, knowledge, and wit
Geishas, in Japanese society and beyond, are practically associated with these three theories.
Via their thorough knowledge of a variety of subjects, their artistic skills, and their beauty, they distinguished themselves from other entertainers.
Geisha tattoos, however, also refer to the importance of practicing the arts and upholding heritage.
The notion of loyalty stems from the intense effort it took to become a geisha. Training was notoriously difficult for the profession, designed to ensure that only the best of the best truly become professional entertainers.
Geishas, for example, had a tradition of dipping their hands in ice water until the 1920s, walking out into the freezing cold, and playing the shamisen (a musical instrument) until their hands began to bleed!
In the Geishas’ devotion to their way of life, which is expressed in geisha tattoos, there was also an aspect of tradition and spirituality. One of the main values of a geisha is to better herself each day in every way.
Self-control and elegance
It needed considerable self-control in order to become a geisha. The visual sense of discipline can be carried by contemporary geisha-themed tattoos.
A geisha, at all times, had to walk, talk, sit, and step in very different ways. We can only imagine the self-control it takes to pay attention to any action continuously and never respond impulsively.
An picture of beauty, composure, and grace was part of the reason behind this restraint.
As we have already seen, with talk as well as dance and singing, geishas are expected to entertain visitors.
Geishas will not, historically, echo something that a customer told them. They were trustworthy and discreet, and consumers were confident that everything they said would remain a secret.
Geisha tattoo ideas
You will find that the scale of geisha tattoos is normally medium to large. The key explanation behind this is that to correctly make even a clear picture of a geisha, a reasonable amount of detail is required.
The woman in the design has to clearly wear a kimono, a traditional bun, and sometimes white makeup in order to be distinguishable as a geisha.
If the image is too small (scaled down), these information will be missed and it will be hard to say that the woman pictured is a geisha.
Japanese geisha tattoos
The typical Japanese style is one of the most popular options for the theme of a geisha tattoo.
Interestingly, in Japan, tattoos are actually not common. This is partly attributed to their alleged links to criminal activities.
Firstly, the Yakuza-Japanese mafia is connected with them. Second, Japan has a tradition of using tattoos to label convicted prisoners as outcasts.
There is a separate type, however, that tattoo enthusiasts normally embrace as ‘Japanese tattoos’.
Almost always, Japanese tattoos are huge. The whole back, stomach, or arm is normally protected by them. Little outlining and lots of bright colors are used.
Moreover, in the designs, natural objects also appear: waves, clouds, trees, or animals. These designs are depicted in a style based on traditional Japanese art.
It’s a smart idea to locate a tattoo artist with skills in this niche if you’re getting a Japanese-style tattoo. Japanese tattoos are very unique and to get the look precisely right requires the artist’s skills.
It’s not just about filling the room with the correct elements: in order to be identifiable as Japanese art, the presentation of and component needs to be made in a particular way.
Check out this post to read more about Japanese tattoos and see further samples of traditional styles.
While geisha tattoos in the Japanese style are among the most common, they are by no means the only alternative.
Most individuals go for more modern-looking styles. For starters, you can see some genuinely amazing geisha 3D renditions.
On the other end of the realism spectrum, manga and cartoon-style art are also common choices.
It’s important to note that you are, in essence, appropriating an important part of the culture of a country, whichever look you select for your geisha girl tattoo.
It is therefore advisable to prevent disrespectful or insensitive portrayal of geishas in body art in.
We know a geisha would usually wear a kimono with a bun in her hair.
Often tattoo designs incorporate additional elements to highlight the association with Japanese society and the geisha occupation.
Fans and cherry blossoms are the two most common elements.
In tattoos, you’ll always see geishas carrying a fan, or with a fan appearing in the design elsewhere. For several individuals, fans are representative of the stereotypical portrayal of a geisha.
Since geisha, rather than naked nudity, were seductive by their beauty and charm, the fan is sort of a key prop. With the fan, Geishas will mask portions of their faces to create an aura of magic and beauty.
Cherry blossoms, meanwhile, are a nod to geisha’s Japanese heritage. The representations of Japan are these tiny pink flowers, and they feature very much in Japanese tattoos and art in general.
Cherry blossoms in tattoos, on their own, mean new starts, transformation, and life’s transient essence. They are also a reminder of our mortality in Japanese society and beyond, and of the value of living in the moment.
Cherry blossoms serve more as a direct link with Japanese art and culture in geisha tattoos.
Geisha tattoo design examples
Alternative 3D realism
This tattoo blends a geisha’s traditional imagery with a hyper-realistic, futuristic theme. In this style, the dynamic play of light and shadow is especially impressive: the designer made the geisha’s face in absolute 3D, achieving photorealism.
Besides the regular white for the mask of the geisha, the use of the color red is presumably a nod to Japan. You will note that the Japanese flag consists of white and red.
Interestingly, while we can’t tell what the lady is wearing in the design and her hair isn’t in a conventional knot, she’s also noticeable as a geisha. This is partially due to the make-up she is wearing, and otherwise the close links to Japan this tattoo entails.
Drawing on traditional style
A colorful fan, flowers, and a koi fish are also included in this conventional geisha tattoo.
In Japan, Koi fish are another significant cultural feature, with a number of symbolic meanings. They are primarily synonymous with bravery, ambition, and perseverance, since they are able to swim upstream, unlike most other fish.
Koi fish prefer to go against the wind, which gives them extra importance for breaking barriers. They reflect good luck as well.
In the background of this style, the koi fish is presumably an addition that highlights the Japanese theme of the tattoo. The design of the drawing, while not fully on the target, is identical to traditional Japanese tattoos.
Colorful illustration tattoo
This concept mixes traditional Japanese tattoo features with a more contemporary look, such as the distinctive form of the waves.
As well as the detailed coloring, the shapes and bright colors put this style somewhere between realism and old school tattoos.
This geisha tattoo, like the previous case, also includes koi fish. They are, however, cleverly worked into the style this time, appearing as accessories on the umbrella of the geisha.
Artistic and alternative
This tattoo blends reality with an imaginative angle by portraying a new twist on the image of a geisha. This is an extremely original style because of the distorted forms and the lack of outlines.
Sparse use of color and emphasis on negative space, despite the fact that it is very broad, makes this style look light and delicate, taking up the entire upper arm of the individual.
Colorful, traditional Japanese design
With the bright colors and lots of distinct artifacts, this full-back Japanese tattoo is at first intimidating.
Among the natural elements we see here are the geisha: flowers, a tree, a bird, and waves. In this landscape, the location of the geisha may mean that its attractiveness and grace suits the beauty of nature.
The tattoo style draws strongly from Asian traditional art. This is particularly noticeable in the forms of waves and trees.
There are smaller options, but most typical Japanese geisha tattoos would be large by requirement.
A plain outline style includes this pattern, with slight coloring, all done in black ink. It looks minimalistic and light because of this. However, the architecture does not look futuristic since the composition is akin to that of traditional Japanese sculpture.
The geisha is not fully evident in this style. However, by her hairstyle, kimono, and the two fans that she wears, we can classify the lady as a geisha.
The incorporation of floral motifs behind it fills the style with a more full and unified presentation.
Modern back design
This geisha tattoo reflects an entirely different perspective on the subject.
Tattooed in the form of a painting in black ink, it describes the subject by the kimono tied on the back and the hairstyle as a geisha.
The umbrella that the geisha carries, curiously, forms a perfect circle. This circle is positioned in the middle of the upper back of the wearer, producing an original effect.