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7 Mystical Geisha Tattoo Design Ideas and Their True Meanings

Geisha Tattoo Meanings and Design Ideas
A geisha is a beautiful mystery, an artistic blend of elegance and hospitality, and perhaps, much more than that. Geisha tattoos are ideal for those who can sense the reality behind the white-painted face and the brightly-colored kimono. ThoughtfulTattoos will not only give you some great Geisha tattoo design ideas and meanings, but also help you understand the mystery behind this beauty, in a better way.
Shalu Bhatti
Last Updated: Feb 27, 2018
Geisha illustration tattoo
"Remember Chiyo, geisha are not courtesans. And we are not wives. We sell our skills, not our bodies. We create another secret world, a place only of beauty. The very word 'geisha' means artist and to be a geisha is to be judged as a moving work of art."
― Mameha, Memoirs of a Geisha
While there once were―and probably still are a handful―male geisha, now this term is used only for the beautiful woman who adorns herself with the most exotic silk kimonos, has perfectly tied hair beautified with ornaments that accentuate her loveliness all the more. She is the epitome of elegance, delicateness, courtesy, and beauty, perfectly preserving the traditional Japanese customs that she reigns from. Geisha tattoos are not as widely popular as some other tattoo themes, but for those who are intrigued by the real-yet-fantasy-like existence of this artist, these tattoo designs are a way to make this Japanese beauty, a part of your reality.
Geisha tattoos can either be highly detailed and extravagant with exotic usage of colors in the backgrounds, kimonos, hairdos, hand fan, and facial expressions;or they can be quite normal, with some strokes and shading using the normal black color. They also make great portrait tattoos. However, because these tattoo designs can look really graceful and exotic with extra detailing and shadings, it would be apt to get them inked where space is not a problem. The design would be completely justified if done as a back tattoo or sleeve tattoo. To place these on the fingers and nape would not be able to get them the attention that these painting-like tattoos deserve―just an opinion.
7 Gorgeous Japanese Geisha Tattoo Designs with Meaning
Many beliefs, assumptions, and misconceptions have been associated with the existence of a geisha. For some, she is a living piece of art who entertains the elite with her talents in performing arts. While, on the other hand, some people, especially in the West, consider her to be a prostitute whom only the elite can access. However, many knowledgeable sources in this regard say that a true geisha is not a prostitute. She is an independent artist who accompanies the elite and entertains them by singing, dancing, and playing music. Her love life and sexual life is private and very well separated from her professional life. The following tattoo ideas will allow you to peek her into the symbolism of a true geisha.
Full Geisha Tattoo: Symbolic of Beauty, Art, and Femininity
"There is currently no western equivalent for a geisha―they are truly the most impeccable form of Japanese art."
― Kenneth Champeon, The Floating World
Full Geisha Tattoo on Back
Everything about this tattoo is so magnificent. Right from her posture to her kimono, from the way she's done her hair to the flawless makeup. Everything about this design spells beauty and art. The femininity exuded by a geisha is no match to any other.
Geisha Holding a Fan: Symbolic of Mystery and Nobility
"Geishas are not submissive and subservient, but in fact they are some of the most financially and emotionally successful and strongest women in Japan, and traditionally have been so."
―Iwasaki Mineko, Geisha, A Life
Arm Tattoo of a Geisha Holding a Fan
Another popular design of this theme is that of a geisha holding a fan. The fan symbolizes nobility; however, if she is hiding half of her face behind the fan, then this tattoo can also depict a sense of mystery because not all of her face is revealed keeping the others intrigued by her beauty and grace.
With Cherry Blossom and the Color Red: Symbolic of Fertility
"The use of the color red in dress and makeup is very significant to Japanese society. Red is denoted as a color of beauty and happiness. Red undergarments are thought to ward off menstrual pain and keep the female reproductive organs healthy and functioning. Red is also thought to be erotic to men."
― The Art of a Geisha
Tattoo of a Dancing Geisha with Cherry Blossom Tree
Cherry blossom has been an integral part of Japanese culture and also their tattoos. You will find many such designs where the geisha is surrounded by cherry blossoms and perhaps even peaches in the background. This symbolizes fertility and prosperity. To accentuate the meaning, use the color red in the tattoo as it is the color of fertility.
Wearing Vibrant Kimono: Symbolic of Desire, Ambition, and Dreams
"Geisha needs an elegant wardrobe, just like an artists needs ink. If she is not properly dressed, than she is not a true geisha."
― Memoirs of a Geisha
Tattoo of a Geisha Wearing a Beautiful Kimono
A young geisha dresses up in colors that are vibrant and bright, compared to the older geisha. The colors of her kimono depict her ambitions, dreams, and desire to be successful in her life. A young geisha has hopes, a sort of radiance that is unique in itself, and this tattoo idea depicts the very same essence.
Performing Geisha Tattoo: Symbolic of Perfection, Culture, and Hospitality
"The whole idea is perfection. That's why we need so much training. We can't charge guests to look at imperfection. It has to be perfect."
― Mineko Iwasaki
Tattoo of a Geisha Performing
A tattoo that shows a geisha performing, be it singing, dancing, or playing musical instrument, is symbolic of the perfection attained when it comes to skillfulness and creativity, that together make a person a true artist. This tattoo may also be used to symbolize Japanese hospitality and represent their culture and tradition.
Skull-face Geisha Tattoo : Symbolic of Ugly Secrets, Mortality, Unraveling Truth
"She paints her face to hide her face. Her eyes are deep water. It is not for Geisha to want. It is not for geisha to feel. Geisha is an artist of the floating world. She dances, she sings. She entertains you, whatever you want. The rest is shadows, the rest is secret."
― Memoirs of a Geisha
Tattoo of a Skull-faced Geisha
Most of a geisha's life is a mystery, a secret that remains hidden behind her painted face, and her red painted lips are never to utter anything that puts a scar to the perfect image of flawless beauty that she carries along with her ... the very image that makes her desirable, that keeps her clients intrigued. The skull-faced geisha is symbolic of mortality, that all that shines also fades in time. Alternately, it can also be interpreted as the ugliness of reality behind a facade.
Tattoo with Shoulder Exposed: Symbolic of Sensuality, Unattainability, and Fantasy
"You cannot call yourself a true geisha until you can stop a man in his tracks with a single look."
― Memoirs of a Geisha
Tattoo of a Geisha with an Exposed Shoulder
Sexuality is synonymous with the life of a geisha. Although she is not the one who sells her body for money, but many rituals have been practiced since ancient times that bring this aspect of her life to the forefront. One of them was known as the Mizuage, where affluent men would bid to win rights over the virginity of a young geisha, also known as a 'maiko'. This tattoo where a shoulder is exposed depicts sensuality. Where every man desires to be with this exotic beauty, the truth is that she is unattainable to the common masses. Her presence to the "underprivileged" is perhaps a 'figment of imagination', and a fantasy that may never come true, for her world is different and to be with her is a dream ... an expensive one indeed!
While many aspects of the life of this artist are still not quite clear or understandable, she has emerged as one of the most powerful and independent women of Japan. Therefore, this tattoo also symbolizes power and independence. It is sad to say that the true essence of being a geisha is somewhere getting lost in the modern world, with cheap prostitutes and courtesans referring to themselves as geisha. Their true culture which is confined to entertaining guests in arts and wise and intellectual conversations is getting lost. These tattoos will do well to remind those who care, what the essence of a true geisha is. She is someone who lives to entertain others―she is in fact, an ideal epitome of moving art and hospitality.