4 Most Popular Japanese Animal Tattoos and their Meanings

Previously, we went over the most popular Japanese mask tattoos we often see our clients requesting. Much like these mask tattoos, animal tattoos are also deeply rooted in Japanese culture and have significant meanings attached to them. Getting inked with an animal tattoo can also reflect one’s personality, beliefs and values, a beautiful way to express oneself.

Here are the top five most popular Japanese animal tattoos and their meanings:


Koi Fish

Brightly coloured koi fish tattoos are known for their ability to swim upstream against strong currents, fighting against all odds. This is seen as a symbol of good luck and success;  overcoming adversity and achieving one’s goals. Koi fish tattoos are also often fused with other elements such as lotus flowers to represent blooming in adverse conditions

Another popular interpretation of koi fish tattoos is the concept of yin and yang, with balance and harmony represented by the contrast between the black koi (yin) and white koi (yang). Couples often get matching koi fish tattoos to symbolise their complementary relationship.



Dragons have long been a prominent figure in Japanese mythology and folklore, seen as powerful, mythical creatures that hold great wisdom and strength.

Compared to Western depictions of dragons, Japanese dragons are typically depicted with more serpent-like features and can carry different meanings depending on their appearance. In addition to their ferocity, dragons in Japanese culture also represent balance and harmony between the elements of fire, water, earth and air. This is why dragon tattoos are often depicted with colourful scales, each representing a different element.



The mythical phoenix, commonly known as the ho-ho bird in Japanese mythology,  is a symbol of rebirth and regeneration. The image of the phoenix rising from its ashes represents overcoming adversity and coming out stronger, a perfect representation of the Japanese concept of resilience and perseverance. Phoenix tattoos are often chosen after a difficult period in one’s life, as a reminder to keep pushing forward no matter what.



Ah, the mighty tiger, the protectors and bringers of good fortune. Our clients often look for tiger tattoos to display strength, courage and protection. In Japanese culture, the tiger is also associated with autumn and the element of metal, symbolising sharpness and determination.


Ready to Embody the Spirit of These Powerful Creatures?

Lighthouse Tattoos is your best choice! Our skilled artists are well-versed in traditional Japanese tattooing techniques and can help you design the perfect animal tattoo that represents your inner strength, resilience and personal beliefs. Book a consultation today so you can embrace your spirit animal and wear it proudly on your skin.

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A geometric dot work tattoo with flower by Lighthouse Tattoo