Killer Japanese Mythical Beast Tattoos

Japanese mythology has inspired many awesome tattoo designs. Here are 6 unusual beasts illustrated on both paper and flesh.

These 6 mythical creatures each have their back story and significance in Japanese culture and were featured in an illustrated book called "Japanese Mythical Creatures" published by Gomineko Press in Japan. Each beast was beautifully drawn by various tattoo artists from across the globe showing their interpretations of the stories behind the monsters.

If you are looking for a cool Japanese style tattoo you are sure to find some inspiration right here.

KAPPA illustrated by Hiro.
KAPPA illustrated by Hiro.

A Kappa is a cross between a chimpanzee and a turtle, very often with a beak. This beast is a practical joker and is said to live in the rivers and ponds of Japan. It has an indentation on it's head which has to remain wet at all times otherwise it will die.

A mischievous looking KAPPA tattoo by Matt D. Mooney
A mischievous looking KAPPA tattoo by Matt D. Mooney
BAKU beautifully painted by Tsuyoshi.
BAKU beautifully painted by Tsuyoshi.

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This creature is known as "the nightmare eater" it is one part elephant with the body of a lion. Japanese children call out to the Baku when they have nightmares. The kanji for Baku is often placed on pillows to ward off evil dreams.

Colorful BAKU tattoo warding off other demons by Scott Ellis
Colorful BAKU tattoo warding off other demons by Scott Ellis
Huge BAKU backpiece tattoo by Mark Thompson
Huge BAKU backpiece tattoo by Mark Thompson
NUE illustrated by Jay Chastain.
NUE illustrated by Jay Chastain.

These beasts are evil malevolent beings that plague dreams and bring madness. They have the face of a monkey, legs of a tiger and a snake for a tail. In tattoos they are often shown wounded with an arrow. This comes from a legend of a Samurai, Minamoto No Yorimasa who shot one from the sky.

Rich color NUE tattoo from Dave Tevenal
Rich color NUE tattoo from Dave Tevenal
Killer realism spin on the NUE tattoo from Kashu Horishin
Killer realism spin on the NUE tattoo from Kashu Horishin
KIRIN illustrated by Cody Meyer.
KIRIN illustrated by Cody Meyer.

This creature is believed to be more powerful than a dragon but less aggressive. They are protective creatures and said to be good omens. They have the head of a dragon and a deer-like body covered in scales. Their legs are like horses' and sometimes have a single horn or antlers. They are known as "defenders of the innocent".

Stunning KIRIN design by Laura Jade.
Stunning KIRIN design by Laura Jade.

If you are looking for an alternative to the popular dragon, a Kirin tattoo is a cool option.

KITSUNE illustration by Uncle HO.
KITSUNE illustration by Uncle HO.

This creature is an important symbol in Japanese folklore. Kitsune is Japanese for "fox" and in mythology there are two types. The "good ones" are servants of the God Inari and considered good omens. The trickster foxes known as Nogitsune are said to cause mayhem in their trickster ways.

Beautifully inked KITSUNE back-piece by Calle Corson
Beautifully inked KITSUNE back-piece by Calle Corson
TSUCHIGUMO the "Earth Spider" illustrated by Adam Guy Hays.
TSUCHIGUMO the "Earth Spider" illustrated by Adam Guy Hays.

This final creature is soaked in legend and said to be the enemy of the warrior Minamoto No Yorimitsu. The story goes that he was protecting Kyoto from evil spirits when he was drawn away by a beautiful woman leading an army of gruesome Yokai. The woman hypnotized him and surrounded him with webs. She turned into a spider and the warrior attacked, splitting her belly with his sword. Thousands of baby spiders spilled out with hundreds of human skulls of all the victims she had devoured. Pretty creepy stuff!

A TSUCHIGUMO inspired half sleeve by Jarno
A TSUCHIGUMO inspired half sleeve by Jarno

sarah_calavera

@Sarah Calavera

Skull obsessed tattoo fanatic, writer for Tattoodo, voice actor and visual artist who loves metal and headbanging. Inspired by Neil Gaiman, Tool, horror & the macabre.

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