2019.2.3 Tattoos

What does a Japanese-style goldfish tattoo mean?

Who gets goldfish tattoos?

Most Japanese “irezumi” tattoos feature powerful creatures like tigers, dragons and guardian foo dogs. However, there are some notable exceptions. One of those is the lowly goldfish.

People get goldfish tattoos for many reasons. They are popular with young women who want a small tattoo simply because they are cute and the flowing tails are so graceful. But, if you look closely at “munewari” or “donburi” body suits done in the traditional irezumi style, you can often find a little goldfish or two swimming somewhere in the waves of the “mikiri.”

All of my tattoos are done in the irezumi style by Horihide 2. My sleeves are a dragon and a phoenix, and I have a big tiger on my right thigh. I’ll write about them in another blog.

It may strike some as odd that I chose a goldfish for my next tattoo, but when I asked Horihide 2 to tattoo a goldfish on my calf, he understood the reason perfectly.

“That’s a good idea. With the new studio and everything.”


What does a goldfish tattoo signify?

In Japanese the two characters for goldfish 金魚, respectively mean “gold” and “fish”–exactly the same as English.

The reason the goldfish motif is so popular is because it symbolizes prosperity, improved fortune, being blessed with children (in Japan children are called kodakara, child treasures), household harmony and the accumulation of wealth.

Goldfish are usually either black or red. Red goldfish are believed to bring luck, while black goldfish, such as the one above, ward off misfortune.


What my goldfish tattoo means to me?

I wanted to get a goldfish tattoo because I just opened a new tattoo studio. My goldfish signifies my hope for the studio to prosper and for us to always have a harmonious atmosphere in the studio.

Personally, I don’t believe talismans possess mystical power. My goldfish won’t bend the laws of the universe to work things in my favor. It will however, remind me daily to do everything in my power to make our studio successful, to maintain a harmonious environment in our little Good Times Ink family, and of course to be fiscally responsible in managing our studio.

Here is the goldfish tattoo I received yesterday. Thank you Horihide 2!!

Jack Amano