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Fancy tattooing Japanese kanji (Chinese) characters? Kanji tattoos are getting more and more popular, but at least you should do some research because tattooing kanji without knowing their meanings could cause a disaster!

Here are some funny kanji tattoos that are wrong or don’t make sense. The Japanese are laughing at them! 😂

Funny kanji tattoos

馬鹿外人 (stupid foreigner)

I’m guessing that a Japanese told the tattooist that this combination of kanji would mean “God-Almighty,” but in fact they mean “stupid foreigner(s).” 😂

If used separately, these four kanji characters have the following meanings:

  • 馬: Horse
  • 鹿: Deer
  • 外: Outside
  • 人: Person

However, when combined, they have completely different meanings. “馬鹿” means “stupid,” and “外人” is a derogative way of calling foreigner(s). Tattooing foreign (Japanese) characters without looking up for them would indeed be 馬鹿, I must say…

冷奴 (chilled tofu)

This is one of the funniest kanji tattoo I have ever seen and the Japanese LOVE It! “冷” mans “cool” or “cold,” and “奴” means “guy,” but when they are combined, they mean “chilled tofu” instead of “cool guy” 🤣 Poor guy, he had no idea what these two kanji could mean when they were combined… But unfortunately I couldn’t find a picture of this tattoo. Maybe it’s an urban legend and nobody really has such a tattoo.

痛風 (gout)

This boxer is probably suffering from gout… The two kanji “痛” and “風” mean “pain” and “wind” when used separately, but when they are combined and become “痛風”, they mean “gout” because even mild winds blowing on your feet could hurt if you have gout 😂 I guess he was suffering so much that he had to say it aloud…

You could revert the order to make it “風痛,” but it would still make me think about gout.

冷蔵庫 (refrigerator)

Couldn’t the tattooist have checked the meaning of these kanji before inking?? The kanji “冷蔵庫” mean “refrigerator” and could mean nothing else. Maybe he is a fridge manufacturer… who knows.

性行為 (sexual conduct)

Wow, but this is rather bald! I wonder if she knows that “性行為” means “sexual conduct.” Maybe she wanted to tattoo “sexy”in Japanese, but if so, it should have been “官能的” (sexy or sensual). “性” means sex all right, but “行為” means “action” or “conduct.”

糞 (shit)

Poor guy, I’m sure he doesn’t know what this kanji means, but “糞” means “shit.” 😂 I guess this is another case where a Japanese told the tattooist the wrong kanji.

これは日本語です (this is Japanese)

This is Japanese. I mean, this tattoo says “this is Japanese” (これは日本語です) in a broken handwriting. 🤣 Did the guy tattoo it knowing the meaning…? I have no idea, but I’m sure this will entertain everybody once he is in Japan. The second picture says “ma” (ま) which is just a hiragana character and means nothing.

味噌 (miso/soybean paste)

This is another hilarious kanji tattoo that I love: “味噌” which means “miso” (soybean paste). Like this tweet says, she must love miso soup… If I were this Twitter user, I would have said to this lady “wow, such a cool tattoo you’ve got! I love miso soup too!”

春屁 (spring fart)

Uh, OK, this is another tattoo which doesn’t make sense. First of all, the word “春屁” doesn’t exist in Japanese. Second, the combination of the two kanji means “spring fart.” (“春” means “spring” and “屁” means “fart”). I have no idea why this person chose these kanji, but maybe he wanted to use “鹿” (deer) which looks somewhat like “屁” (fart)?? At least it’s a relief (or even more unfortunate) that he knows what “春屁” means. 😂

実 (fruit)

This guy is reportedly a white supremacist, but he has a kanji tattoo on his arm which means “fruit.” 😂 But this is just wrong on so many levels. Why a white supremacist with a kanji tattoo which is not white? And why did it have to be “実” (fruit)? 😂 If he wanted a fruit tattoo so much, he could have tattooed it in his own white language. (I’m not saying that any existing languages are race-specific)

混乱状態 (state of confusion)

I know how confusing it could be if you didn’t know the meaning of the kanji that you were tattooing… This guy has a tattoo “混乱状態” on his forearm, but it means “state of confusion.” This is not some random kanji, so I guess he tattooed it on purpose??

死ぬのため (for die), 水道 (water pipe)

These two tattoos are both hilarious. The first one, “死ぬのため,” isn’t correct Japanese and means something like “for die” or “in order for die.” If you want to say “for death” or “to die,” it should be “死ぬため” (the unnecessary “の” in the middle has been removed) instead of “死ぬのため.”

The second one, “水道” means “water pipes” or “water supply.” I have no idea why she has such a tattoo.

父がいなくて寂しい etc. (I feel lonely because my father is missing)

I think he (or she) wanted to tattoo “I miss my father,” but there is no direct translation of this in Japanese and the literal translation “父がいなくて寂しい” sounds terrible because it’s just a plain sentence meaning “I feel lonely because my father is missing.” It would have been slightly better if it was “父が恋しい” (closer to “I miss father”), but it still sounds a bit… awkward, to say the least.

The second one that the woman has on her right arm is “殺人者とスター” which means “murderer and star.”

The last one is “お兄さん” (“your/my dear elder brother” in a polite form) and “妹さん” (“your dear younger sister” in a polite form), but unfortunately “妹さん” means somebody else’s dear younger sister and not “my dear younger sister” because it’s a polite form. If you want to simply say (my) brother/sister, it should be “兄” and “妹” without “お” at the beginning and “さん” at the end. It they were “兄” and “妹,” they would have been far better and no Japanese would have laughed about them.

気違い (madman)

Some rugby player had a tattoo “気違い” (madman) on his arm and Japanese TV couldn’t air his game due to broadcasting guideline breach. I think he meant to tattoo “crazy” which could mean “infatuated” or “excited,” but the Japanese word “気違い” simply means “madman” and doesn’t mean infatuated nor excited. Such a pity.

足 (foot)

I think this is the thumbnail of a youtube video, but there’s a picture of a tattoo saying “足” (foot or feet) in it. Yeah OK, it’s your foot. Why doesn’t he have a tattoo on each body part of his such as “手” (hand) and “顔” (face)? Or maybe he already does…

腕白 (naughty or impish)

A tattoo meaning “naughty” or “impish.” Couldn’t have he tattooed something better? Maybe he thought it was cool, but… the Japanese word doesn’t sound cool at all, unfortunately…

大騒ぎ (fuss)

A tattoo meaning “big fuss.” Maybe he is a crazy person and wanted to have a tattoo that would describe his personality, but the word “大騒ぎ” doesn’t sound cool at all.

By the way, the way this twitter talks sounds as if “大騒ぎ” means “fuss” and/or “fufu,” but “fufu” or “fufufu” is a Japanese way of laughing and it’s not a word. Am I the only one that he shouldn’t have used a confusing Japanese English if he wanted to point out somebody else’s mistake in the Japanese language…?

å¹³ (flat)

A tattoo saying “å¹³” which means “flat.” It looks like she thinks this kanji means “peace” (平和), but å¹³ without 和 means “flat” or “plain” 😂

What do the Japanese say about funny kanji tattoos?

So, what do the Japanese say about those funny kanji tattoos foreigners have? Are they mad at them because it’s cultural appropriation? No, they aren’t necessarily. As far as I could see from Japanese Twitter, there weren’t many negative comments on foreigners’ wrong kanji tattoos simply because they give them a good laugh.

Here are some tweets from the Japanese:

Quick translation: “There is no problem for foreigners to have kanji tattoos, but I feel sorry that their tattoos look uncool from the eyes of native speakers. I felt this when I was in India.

Quick translation: “I have a collection of overseas athletes with kanji tattoos and I like this British mixed martial artist’s tattoo. Unfortunately I don’t have his name though.”

*I don’t know why exactly he “likes” this tattoo, but this martial artist’s tattoo “家族” means “family” and it kinda looks funny to me.

Quick translation: “I like tattoos, but I’m not in favor of foreigners’ kanji tattoos.”

Quick translation: “I inked some kanji like foreigners’ kanji tattoos

*”年末調整” means “annual adjustment.” I think she wrote this so that she won’t forget to submit the annual adjustment form.

Quick translation: “How’s it? Cool huh? with a smug face. It has a flavor of foreigners’ kanji tattoos doesn’t it? (surely not)”

Quick translation: “Foreigners’ tattoos are miserable but they are such a laugh lol

Some Japanese don’t like the wrong kanji tattoos, but others love them and even reimport them for the fun of it (but they are not scorning foreigners who have funny kanji tattoos. They are just having fun). The Japanese use “Engrish” themselves and they are not in a position to criticize wrong kanji tattoos anyway you know. 😂

Westerners are sensitive about cultural appropriation, but the idea was invented by Westerners and the Japanese wouldn’t quite care even if foreigners used the wrong kanji. I personally don’t like kanji tattoos that don’t make sense, but that’s probably because I’m not fully Japanese.

As a proof of the fact that the Japanese don’t have the concept of cultural appropriation, they have adopted all sorts of foreign stuff such as African braided hairstyles, Hawaiian dance, Western wedding dresses and Polynesian tattoo stickers. Not only that, the Japanese also enjoy Halloween and Christmas for no religious reasons. They even hold Oktoberfest (German beer festival) and wear Dirndl, women’s traditional clothes from the southern part of Germany. The Japanese simply adopt whatever they feel is cool and there are no intentions to offend anyone. They don’t even understand why Westerners wearing kimono could be racism (see this post in Japanese).

That said, you are not recommended to have wrong kanji tattoos. If you must have one, make sure to consult a native Japanese speaker first.

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