14 Users Reveal the True Meaning of Some Tattoos in Chinese and Japanese

11 months ago

It’s common that, when getting a tattoo, people pick a design in a language other than their own to make it even more special. However, it also happens that if the person doesn’t speak that language, they may end up with something unexpected tattooed forever on their body. Two of the most used languages used for tattoos are Japanese and Chinese. That’s why a Reddit user asked people who spoke those languages to translate the meaning of some tattoos and share stories related to this phenomenon.

  • While stationed in Japan, a friend got a tattoo done by some random guy outside of his military base. He wanted some Shinto quote, for a prosperous life, but instead got a tattoo in kanji that said something like “fat fish eat long,” the Japanese workers just called him fat fish for the next 3 years. © Axino11 / Reddit
  • Saw a guy with a 田力 tattoo going down his arm. He probably wanted 男 (boy/man)... I’m guessing.
    田力 translates to “Rice field power.” © Kyalon / Reddit
  • The 4 elements tattoo with “dirt, hot, blow, wet” was pretty funny© chronocaptive / Reddit
  • My uncle has “Egg Drop Soup” tattooed on his wrist in Mandarin. He tells everyone it means something different (strength, destiny, etc.), but he got it so that he can go to a Chinese place when he is not feeling well. He wears shades, and noise-canceling headphones, points to his wrist, and is able to stay in his happy place while getting his favorite meal. © GRF_McElroy / Reddit
  • I don’t speak Japanese or Chinese, but I once had an Art Academy colleague who had 2 kanjis tattooed on each of her shoulders. She believed they meant “eternal happiness” or something because she saw them in a book at a flea market.
    I copied the kanjis on a piece of paper and translated them on Google. They roughly translated to “foot fungus.” Ew. © dravazay / Reddit
  • A friend of mine had a tattoo he thought said “faith” but in reality, it said “soup.” © mhr1993 / Reddit
  • I saw someone with the characters for “Big” and “Father” and figured it was like, an approximation of Big Daddy. The guy got really agitated at me and told me it was Chinese for “eternal wealth.” © breadtanglewrangler / Reddit
  • I don’t know if this is stupid or brilliant, but someone had "您有小龍湯圓嗎?" which is a respectful way of asking whether someone has soup dumplings. I thought it was really stupid until someone said that they must really like soup dumplings... © 1n1billionAZNsay / Reddit
  • My sister has an apprenticeship at a tattoo parlor, she sent me a pic of a customer’s tattoo asking what it said. The customer said that it meant “Inner Power.” The word was ハンバーガー (pronounced hanbaga), in English this means “hamburger.” My sister chose to not tell her, as it would’ve definitely ruined her day. © PattonNormstrum / Reddit
  • I’m not Chinese or Japanese, but I have a tattoo. My tattoo was supposed to mean “fearless,” but a friend of mine who majored in Mandarin says it means “small cake.” © thelionintheheart / Reddit
  • A lot of women have “女” written on them. For some reason, they think having the word “woman” written in Japanese adds some sort of mystical feminine power to it, when in reality, people most often associate it with a bathroom door. © Sydneyfigtree / Reddit
  • Translator here. So many good ones... Had a metal head guy think he had “Rock and Roll” in Japanese on his arm. Turns out it was “岩滑り,” which is rockslide/landslide, a natural disaster. © popebarley / Reddit
  • Learning Japanese, and then I saw someone bragging about a tattoo on their wrist in public, saying it meant “deep” and “meaningful.” It was in katakana, which I can read, so I carefully glance at it as I walk by. It was “ケロ.” As in “kero.” That’s the sound a frog makes. © Unknown author / Reddit
  • Not my story but a friend of mine’s: She could read kanji and was in class one day, noticing this girl’s tattoo for the first time. Confused, she inquired about it: “What does your tattoo say?”
    “High princess.”
    Turns out, it actually said, “Pig princess.” © whereegosdare84 / Reddit
Please note: This article was updated in March 2023 to correct source material and factual inaccuracies.
Preview photo credit whereegosdare84 / Reddit


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Poor people. I wonder what did they think when they realized the mistake they've made?


This is why I stick to my language when thinking of something else ?


Hahaha Rice field power, that sounds like something people would actually put on their arm just for fun


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