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The Meanings and Traditions of Koi Fish Tattoos

Sheetal Mandora Jan 9, 2019
Koi fish tattoos symbolize wisdom, courage, good luck, freedom, strength, and determination. Let us take a look at the meanings and traditions of this type of tattoos.
Japanese tattoos are always a popular choice because you can choose dragons, yin yang, Shinto deities, Buddha, nature, flowers, and even animals. A well-known animal symbol is the Japanese koi tattoo. Koi or Nishikigoi, is a Japanese word which means brocaded carp. These fish are widely used to decorate the outdoor ponds and water gardens.
Also known as the Japanese carp, the traditional tattoos are popular because it symbolizes courage, prosperity, and strength. These tattoos come in different colors because koi fish itself has vibrant colors. Each color has its own significance. Depending on your taste and likings, you can choose Japanese koi tattoos.

Japanese Koi Fish

The mythology of koi dates back to China and is over 2,000 years old. Since hundreds of years, these fish are kept as pets for good luck and prosperity.
Although the fish has originated from China, the Japanese have made the symbol famous all over the world. According to their culture, if this fish is caught and placed on the cutting board to be chopped, it will lie still and wait till the knife cuts it into pieces.
It would remain impassive and stare in the face of death. This quality is associated with a samurai warrior's courage, strength, power and energy. Western culture has picked up these tattoos for its diverse shapes and patterns. These tattoos don't have a significant place for being tattooed, but majority of people get them on their sleeves.
Other body areas could be chest, shoulder, legs, arms, ribs, and back. These tattoos come in vibrant colors of white, black, yellow, red, blue, and cream. These tattoos are inked with details and use dynamic color combinations.
Sleeves are a common location for these designs because it gives enough space to make the tattoo extraordinary. The tattoo may include a water background, to show the koi swimming against the strong currents.
So think hard about the design and colors of your tattoo before you go ahead and get one.

What Do these Tattoos Mean

The tattoo inked to swim upstream usually means that you have already overcome difficulties and hurdles in life. Contrary to upstream, downstream means you are still battling against life and trying to overcome all hardships, without giving up.
According to traditional Japanese tattoo art, the direction in which the fish swims and its background, collectively projects the meaning behind the tattoo. Just to give you a heads up, don't get a design where the fish faces towards the back.
If you have ever seen one, it will always face the front. Of course there are exceptions to this practice. The important thing is that the tattoo means something to you, and it really doesn't matter how others might interpret it.
Buddhist Belief: The fish represents courage in Buddhism. According to their belief, "humans 'swim' through the 'ocean of suffering' without fear, just like a fish swims through water."
Japanese Legend: An old Japanese legend states, when a koi reaches a point called Dragon Gate on the Yellow River, and it successfully climbs the falls, the koi transforms into a dragon. According to this legend, these tattoos are a symbol of ambition and progress.
There are about 22 different types of koi fish, and you can take your pick on which fish and color(s) to choose for your tattoo. Majority of tattoos come in fantastic colors and breathtaking patterns. But there are many tattoos contrived with black ink and tribal tattoos. Choices vary as per the cost of the koi tattoos and personal taste.
Getting colored tattoo can be more expensive than traditional black ink tattoos, however colored tattoo looks absolutely sensational on the skin. So make up your mind accordingly and take some time in finalizing the design, positioning, and colors.
Tattoos become a silent prayer for those who incorporate the design from their personal lives. The ideology behind getting koi sleeve tattoos is to show the world who you are and what you have accomplished in life.