Traditionally, Irezumi is based on a full body concept that is built in sections. Each section normally takes entire body part and has it’s own pattern which fits the previously done and possibly the next one, though also are looking great alone. The backgrounds ensure that all tattooed body parts become one piece of tattoo which is ‘framed’ by a body shape itself – body suite. The backgrounds are always done in black and grey, never in color, and the real subject of the tattoo, oppositely is usually done in color to some extent. Irezumi clearly have it’s own distinct and timeless style, which – if done properly, still looks good even after 20/30 years.

The important thing in irezumi is that the layout makes sense, both thematically and as a reflection of reality.


A “subject” or central motif called SHUDAI. Usually this is an animal (mystical or real), a character, or even an element from nature, such as a flower.

Shudai. Koi fish is a subject of the tattoo.


A kind of “trimmings” or “decoration” called KESHOUBORI. Secondary elements of the design that support the central motif and help to underscore a main theme. Typical keshoubori can include such elements like cherry blossoms, maple leaves or other kind of flowers.

cherry blossoms tattoo
cherry blossoms tattoo

Keshoubori. Cherry bloosoms are secondary elements.

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