The legend of Kintaro from Japanese folklore is one of our all-time favorites here at Tattoodo. We love the stories and depictions of this iconic figure. Some of the best Irezumi artists in the world have chosen his epic narratives as their subject matter. Check out their astounding illustrations of the time this samurai wrestled with a giant koi.
The story of Kintaro, whose name is often translated as "Golden Boy," is fascinating to say the least. This mythical samurai is thought to be based on the real-life individual Sakata Kintoki, who lived during the Heian period and served as a retainer for the famous samurai Minamoto no Yorimitsu. His legend, however, has become more of a tall tale over time. Some of the most compelling stories about his deeds are those from when he was a child, being raised in the mountains by an old woman. He is portrayed in these narratives as having extraordinary strength as well as the ability to communicate with animals. In one such story, he dives into a river while hunting a giant koi and wrestles with the fish until it finally succumbs to exhaustion. While there are many depictions of him grappling with mythological creatures, those that relate this particular narrative are some of the most incredible tattoos of him.
These tattoos show just how ideal of a scene this battle between Kintaro and the huge carp is for large-scale pieces of body art like sleeves, back-pieces, and bodysuits. It's also awesome how many dramatic postures in which their unforgettable combat can be depicted. Sometimes he rides upon the massive fish, steering it through the currents, and other times it seems as if he is holding on for dear life as the mythical beast speeds downstream. Regardless of their different dramatic gestures, each of these illustrations of the struggle between these legendary figures is full of energy and excitement.
We hope you enjoyed watching these legendary figures twist and turn in the rapids through these astounding pieces of Irezumi. If you want to see more incredible Japanese style work, make sure to check out the Instagrams that are listed in some of the captions. Also, make sure to look up some of the tattooists who aren't on social media. They are accomplished and prolific enough that they almost all have websites.