Kanji refers to characters representing the written language of Japan. They are very popular for tattoos, often used to spell out a word or phrase with special meaning to the person sporting this body art. The latest craze in Kanji tattoos is to have a haiku poem inked onto your arm, leg, or back of the neck. It is estimated that of all Internet searches for tattoo designs, 20% are for kanji characters.
Photo by “greyloch” on Flickr
Why are so many people fascinated with kanji? Most likely it is because the writing is very artistic. The pictographic characters were “borrowed” from the Chinese centuries ago. Much of kanji, one of three alphabets used by the Japanese, is ideograms, or a character used to represent an idea rather than an actual word. Still others are words formed phonetically. The alphabet is comprised of some 3,500 plus characters, giving it rich and varied meaning.
Although kanji tattoos are quite popular, it may be difficult to find an artist who will apply one to your body. That is because there are far too many mistakes to be made in attempting translation. Only Westerners request tattoos of kanji characters, yet there are few artists fluent in writing and understanding it who can properly apply them. Not only that, kanji is a very complex system of writing; each kanji can take up to 30 strokes to create and each is subject to different interpretations. Then there is the font, or style of text, to select; there are at least three different ones.
Photo by “gbSk” on Flickr
Your tattoo could be merely an artistic representation of actual kanji characters, or you could seek an authentic Japanese tattoo artist who has been trained in the painstaking art of calligraphy. Either way, kanji makes for some very unique body art.