Hannya Tattoo

Hannya tattoos are an intimidating Japanese design based off masks that date back to Japanese Noh and Bunraku plays from the 14th century. These plays often dealt with the supernatural. These masks were carved from wood and were used to show a character’s state of mind, which from these masks was usually anger, hatred, and sadness. The Hannya in particular represents a woman betrayed by love who is then filled with hate, jealousy, and sadness, turning her into a demon. This image is also a popular design for good luck, as the terrifying demon is supposed to ward off evil spirits.

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Traditional Japanese theatre masks, including a Hannya.

 

The Hannya is supposed to show different emotions based on how you’re looking at it. From the front it is supposed to look menacing and full of hatred, but from an angle from the top, it is supposed to appear full of sadness. These mixed emotions are meant to reflect the complexities of humans.

tumblr Shige Yellowblaze tattoo
Back piece done by Shige at Yellow Blaze Tattoo

 

Hannya tattoos are obviously a Japanese design, but don’t necessarily have to be done in the typical Japanese style for tattooing. While the majority are done in Japanese style, they can also be done in a more American Traditional style, neo traditional, or new school design.

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More neo traditional Hannya done by Dan Molloy at Bold as Brass.
tumblr Dean Sacred
By Dean Sacred in his unique Japanese influenced style.

Hannya’s are also typically done in a fairly large design. They are often done as a full back piece, or on the stomach, or as part of a full sleeve. They can be done as a smaller tattoo as well, such as on the hand or as a stand alone arm or leg piece.

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Three full body pieces featuring a Hannya done by Ivan Szazi at Four Elements Tattoo.
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Small hand Hannya by Mick Gore

 

The Hannya is also often paired with other Japanese designs, such as snakes, warriors, waves, flowers, or dragons, which all have their own meanings and their own roots in Japanese culture.

tumblr Senju Horimatsu
Sleeves with other Japanese imagery by Senju Horimatsu

 

The colour of a Hannya changes the meaning as well. It is said that the deeper the colour, the more malicious the demon is supposed to be.

tumblr Kintaro Horiyoshi III
Amazing back piece by the brilliant Horiyoshi III.

What do you think of Hannya tattoos?

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