Choosing the floral component to go with your Japanese tattoo can be quite hard when you educate yourself on the meaning and symbology behind each motif. There are some basic pairings that go together, they just work. Like tiger and bamboo. They are a harmonious match. But what about everything else?
Cherry blossoms or sakura represent beauty and the fragility of life in Japanese culture. They are a spring blossom that bloom in abundance throughout Japan and are the centre of their festival culture. Their blossoming period is quite short, and they are susceptible to wind and rain. The flower falls off the tree in full bloom, each perfect and bright petal falling to the ground. The use of this flower in Japanese art or tattoos symbolise the transience of life, and have been often used as a metaphor for a warrior killed early in life. This flower can be used to represent life after illness, or to honour a lost love. It is a symbol of femininity and grace, and can be paired back with most Japanese tattoos.
The lotus flower represents purity, an exquisite flower emerging from a murky pond. It can also symbolise truth, faith, harmony and a spiritual awakening. They re usually used in tattoos alongside a watery theme, so are ideal with koi’s, and water based deities.
Peony tattoos symbolise wealth, good fortune and prosperity. The peony is a strong symbol of beauty, fragility and transitory nature of existence. Furthermore, they depict that getting great rewards is only possible by taking great risks.
In Japan, the chrysanthemum is associated with royalty–namely the emperor, who sits on what the Japanese have titled the Chrysanthemum Throne. It represents perfection and, in some interpretations, deity. It is also known as the “King of Flowers”. The chrysanthemum is also symbolic of happiness or joy, as well as longevity
It is important to note that the use of the maple leaf in Western tattoos is very different to Eastern tattoos. The Western use can be interchanged with a rose, and is a symbol of Canada. While the maple leaf in traditional Japanese tattoos refers to love, peace and harmony. It also symbolises transience and passing of time, it can be represented in a range of Autumnal colours, from greens to yellows, through to oranges and reds.
There are literally thousands of floral motifs which can be used for tattoos, and it is a good idea to research the ones you’re interested in and find some reference that you like to bring to your consult with your artist.