17 Japanese Tattoo Phrases

Looking for some interesting Japanese tattoo phrases?

While most people end up getting something that doesn’t make sense…

…with this guide, you can get something that Japanese people know and understand. Phrases that weren’t awkwardly translated from English to Japanese.

What kind phrases are these “Japanese tattoo phrases” exactly?

They’re native Japanese proverbs and idioms. That have interesting meanings. That Japanese understand.

Most of these below are yojijukugo –  Japanese idioms made up of 4 Kanji characters… which means they won’t take a lot of space.

So, let’s take a look. Maybe you’ll find your next tattoo.

Want to learn how to read and write in Japanese? Get your free Japanese Hiragana/Katakana Workbook.

1. Shoshin kantetsu (初志貫徹) – Seeing things through until the end

Shoshin means the original objectives and goals you have.

Shoshin kantetsu expresses the meaning of going all the way through with your plans and goals.

It’s a motivational phrase that means that you shouldn’t give up on what you started.

japanese tattoo phrases

2. Ishin denshin (以心伝心) – Understanding each other without saying it in words 

This is a poetic phrase that represents a situation when you understand someone in a way that there is no need for words.

It also uses the beautiful kanji character for heart or 心 twice in the phrase. 

japanese tattoo phrases

3. Isshoukenmei (一生懸命) – Having intense determination

This is a motivating phrase that represents an intense determination.

The kanji characters isshou (一生), meaning life time, also adds to the phrase.

It means that it is a determination that is so powerful that you are putting your life on the line.

japanese tattoo phrases

4. Ichiji ga banji (一事が万事) – Understanding one thing can lead to understanding everything else

This is a phrase which can be a good reminder to focus on one thing instead of being distracted by everything else.

It can literally be translated to “one thing is ten thousand things.”

japanese tattoo phrases

5. Omoitatta ga kichijitsu (思い立ったが吉日) – The best day to start is now 

If you always find yourself feeling like you can’t keep resolutions, this phrase is the perfect one.

It means that the day you come up with an idea to start something is the luckiest day to begin.

It’s a phrase that can make sure that you don’t procrastinate! 

japanese tattoo phrases

6. Katte kabuto no o o shimeyo (勝って兜の緒を締めよ) – Don’t relax after winning, but prepare for the next

Kabuto is a traditional Japanese warrior hat.

This phrase emphasizes that even if you win, you must continue to prepare for the next battle.

It’s important not to get too proud after winning or being successful.

The phrase means that you should stay humble and continue to work hard.

japanese tattoo phrases

7. Kahou wa nete mate (果報は寝て待て) – Luck comes to those who wait

It’s easy to start to feel anxious when things are not going the way you want them to.

Since it’s not possible to control luck, this phrase means that it’s better to wait and let luck happen. 

8. Shippai wa seikou no moto (失敗は成功の基) – Failure is the basis of success

Shippai means failure and seikou means success.

Although they seem like opposites, this phrase puts them together and reminds us that there is no success without failure.

If you’re ever feeling down about a failure, this phrase can be uplifting to continue towards your goals. 

japanese tattoo phrases

9. Shoshin wasure bekarazu (初心忘るべからす)- Don’t forget the feeling of being a beginner

This is a phrase that embodies the Japanese culture of focusing on the basics of any skill.

Even if you become highly skilled at a craft or profession, it’s important not to forget the basics and the essence of when you started.

The phrase is about staying humble and true to your roots.

japanese tattoo phrases

10. Shinra banshou (森羅万象) – All that exists in the nature and the universe

If you’re looking for an all encompassing phrase, this means everything in the universe and nature.

It has a profound meaning that can make you conscious of the vastness of the universe and how small you are in comparison.

11. Warau kado ni wa fuku kitaru (笑う門には福来る) – A place with laughter brings luck

This is a saying that means that laughter can bring luck.

If you find yourself taking things too seriously, it can be beneficial to laugh things off and enjoy the moment.

japanese tattoo phrases

12. Tenka musou (天下無双) – Something unique and doesn’t exist anywhere else

Tenka(天下) means the world and this phrase describes something that is unique and doesn’t exist anywhere else.

It is an important phrase to celebrate everyone’s individuality and distinctiveness.

japanese tattoo phrases

13. Muga muchuu (無我夢中) – Being extremely concentrated and absorbed in something

This is a phrase that describes being so absorbed in something that you forget yourself. It includes the kanji character nothingness (無) and dream (夢). If you’re passionate about something it is common to fall into a state of intense concentration forgetting about everything else except the task at hand.

japanese tattoo phrases

14. Momo kuri san nen kaki hachi nen (桃栗三年柿八年) – Achieving things take time

The literal translation of this phrase is that “peach and chestnut take three years but persimmon takes eight”. It is referring to the length of time that it takes for these trees to bear fruit. It’s a great phrase that uses metaphors to show that success and achievement comes with time.

japanese tattoo phrases

15. Yuu yuu ji teki (悠々自適) – Living true to yourself

It’s common to be distracted by outside influences. This can make you live a life that’s not true to yourself. This phrase represents someone who doesn’t get fazed by other people’s opinions and lifestyles, but continues to live according to their own values.

japanese tattoo phrases

16. Fuukou meibi (風光明媚) – The beauty of the nature and landscape

This phrase expresses the beauty of nature and appreciating your surroundings.

It uses particularly eloquent kanji characters such as wind (風) and light (光).

Fuukou meibi can make you more conscious of being grateful for nature, even if you feel like your mind is cluttered with thoughts.

japanese tattoo phrases

17. Zento youyou (前途洋々) – a bright hope for the future

This phrase is ideal for those who easily become pessimistic and need a reminder to stay hopeful.

This phrase is brimming with positive energy and hope for the future.

japanese tattoo phrases


Now you know a whole bunch of Japanese tattoo phrases.

Interested in more? Check out this other Japanese tattoo phrases article here.

Which was your favorite?

Leave a comment.

– The Main Lingua Junkie


Notify of
1 Comment
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

[…] For more Japanese tattoo phrases, check out my other article here: Japanese Tattoo Phrases. […]

You cannot copy content of this page