Bright Side

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

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.

Bright Side wants to share with you some of the replies so that you can have a laugh and read some good advice before getting a tattoo in another language.

  • 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

  • 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

  • The 4 elements tattoo with “dirt, hot, blow, wet” was pretty funny. © chronocaptive

  • 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 the Chinese place when he is super hungover. He wears shades, and noise-canceling headphones, points to his wrist, and is able to stay in his happy place while getting his favorite hangover meal. And yes, he was hungover when he got the tattoo. © GRF_McElroy
  • 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

  • A friend of mine had a tattoo he thought said "faith" but in reality it said "soup." © nhr1993

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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. © Sidneyfigtree

  • 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

  • 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. © Silently-Fangirling

  • 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

Do you have a tattoo in another language? Are you entirely sure of its meaning? Would you dare to share it in the comments so that other readers who know that language can confirm if it really means what you believe? We'll be waiting for you in the comment section below!

Preview photo credit whereegosdare84 / Reddit