These namakubi tattoos show that some Japanese motifs are a little more brutal than cherry blossoms and koi. Well known for the blood red splatters and detailed swords that pierce eyes and noses, namakubi are severed heads flying through the air. While sometimes these heads were the heads of criminals, the right was also performed by warriors.
Top Namakubi Questions
What is a Namakubi tattoo?
A namakubi tattoo is a severed head, usually done in the Japanese style of tattooing. It is illustrating the final moment of seppuku. Also known as harakiri, seppuku was a right reserved only for samurai for a very long time. Wikipedia states, "seppuku was used either voluntarily by samurai to die with honor rather than fall into the hands of their enemies (and likely suffer torture) or as a form of capital punishment for samurai who had committed serious offenses, or performed because they had brought shame to themselves."
During the Edo period the ritual of seppuku was very detailed, but the action is in two parts. First, the samurai puts a knife deep into his abdomen, and next a trusted person, another samurai, swings his sword in order to complete the decapitation. So, these namakubi tattoos show the last part of the sacred ritual: the head gliding through the sky.
What does a Namakubi tattoo mean?
A namakubi tattoo can mean courage, as well as virtue, strength, and dignity. These designs usually capture the most hardcore elements of warrior ethics, including dying at the hands of your enemy for the honor of being a true soldier. For many people, getting a namakubi tattoo design can be an eternal reminder of the dedication to higher ideals, like those of the samurai class. Or they can simply be a killer addition to your tattoo collection.
What does a severed geisha head symbolize?
A namakubi design that features a geisha head can symbolize the the power of love and freedom. In the time of the Edo period, criminal punishment was extremely brutal and often included beheading, hanging, and even boiling to death. A geisha could be executed for a number of reasons, but our romantic minds tend to muse that she stole money for her house mother in order to run away with her lover. Whatever the story is behind your geisha namakubi, it definitely adds an extra layer of heartbreak and dramatic flair.
Best Namakubi Body Placements
Namakubi Chest Tattoo
Want to make a strong statement? This might be the placement for you. A namakubi chest tattoo may just be the thing to either fill a tight spot, like the example below, or you could both sides of your chest for a great double seppuku tattoo. Depending on your dream namakubi and the space you have available, we suggest this as a top spot for this tattoo.
Namakubi Arm Tattoo
A heavy hitting standard in roation, a namakubi arm tattoo is just one placement you can't go wrong with. If you're looking for something you can easily hide with sleeves, like a true Japanese warrior, this is an excellent pick, but it's also great if you want to flex those arms during summer months! You'll bring on the babes with all that brutal namakubi business.
Namakubi Leg Tattoo
A namakubi leg tattoo can be a great filler or statement piece. Because there's so much wrapping involved with legs versus a spot like the chest, designs like a namakubi can be perfect for adding on more later or as a stand alone tattoo. They work really well with the natural curves of the body due to the range of sizing and add on details!
Namakubi Neck Tattoo
A definite way to make a statement, a namakubi neck tattoo is probably the most intense spot. We say this not only due to the pain of neck pieces, but also because tattooing a severed neck on your own neck is just downright brutal. We're talking Norwegian Death Metal status. But we have to admit, that this is our favorite body placement for this particular design. For some reason, it just looks so at home.
Top namakubi tattoo placements can also include hands, stomachs, ribs, and wrists. So much skin and space to cover, so many good designs to collect!
Top Namakubi Motifs
Just like most tattoo iconography, there are many ways namakubi tattoos have been designed and carried out. Many artists have also adapted the famed severed heads in their own style creating interesting and captivating takes on the namakubi tattoo design. But it's not just personal style that makes a great tattoo; here you'll find the top namakubi motifs to help create a truly unique piece.
Namakubi Arrow Tattoo
Because sometimes severing a head from the neck isn't enough. many namakubi designs also include arrows, bamboo shoots, or daggers shoved through their eye sockets and nose holes. These can actually be a great way to make your namakubi a little different than the average blood splattered head.
Namakubi Flower Tattoo
One of our favorite motifs, florals can be a perfect companion to a namakubi tattoo design. This can especially be true if you're particular about your choice of flower. As you may know, flowers have certain meanings. You'll often see cherry blossoms paired with a Japanese namakubi because those little buds symbolize the transient nature of everything. So, if you want to get existential about this tattoo design, pick a petal that fits.
Namakubi Geisha Tattoo
This is an absolute favorite motif of many people partly because the meaning behind a Namakubi geisha tattoo is such a strong statement. A design that boasts the power of love, a geisha namakubi tattoo also involves many details that other heads do not such as Kanzashi. Kanzashi are the hair ornaments geisha and oiran wear in their hair. These were also changed depending on the season and month of the year so keep that in mind if you'd like your geisha to have some extra layers of meaning!
Namakubi Skull Tattoo
The namakubi skull tattoo is iconic. If you're a fan of gore, or just want your namakubi to be a bit less fleshy and a bit more decomposed, this might be the perfect motif for you. We've seen this done a few ways including have skull bedecked in traditional samurai helmet or a half and half design like the example below. It's always fun to see an artist creatively blend the face of life and the facade of death!
Namakubi Animal Tattoo
Love animals more than humans but still want a Japanese severed head? Try a Namakubi animal tattoo. There are so many incredible kinds of creatures in Japanese mythology, this design is as simple as choosing your favorite and chopping off its head!
Namakubi Snake Tattoo
Perhaps this is the most disturbing motifs due to the fact that this harks to the moment when the head has rolled to the ground. A snake curling up, squeezing, or biting the namakubi is a powerful reminder that life moves on even after we die. By the time the snake comes to hang out, you'll already be far gone.
Namakubi Tattoo Designs
So, just in case all those tattoos up there weren't enough, here you have a collection of some namakubi tattoo design inspo that is sure to inspire. There are so many different styles, motifs, and details that you can use to create your perfect namakubi, but what will really help is finding the perfect artist to go with your design. The right artist for you can make sure you get the best tattoo and experience; one that you'll treasure a lifetime.