Japanese Hannya Tattoo

japanese hannya painting

The Corona Quarantine goes into the next round and our Matteo has made the effort to bring you closer to the Japanese Hannya tattoo.

Have fun with it !!!


Pretty much everyone who moves through the tattoo scene with their eyes open has already stumbled across this horned face with demonic eyes and pointed teeth. The Hannya is a very popular motif in today’s tattoo scene and is worn in all shapes and colors. But what is really behind the mask with distorted facial features?

We have put together some information about the most well-known Yokai for you here.


The name probably comes from the “Hannya Shingyo Sutra”, which plays a central role in Budhism.

The background of the figure is based on the play “The Lady Aoi” which is itself based on the novel “The Story of Prince Genji” (1021).

In the play, Lady Rokujo is beside herself because Hikaru Genji rejects her after having had a short affair with Lady Aoi. Her hateful soul leaves her body in her sleep and follows Lady Aoi, with fatal consequences.

“Oh, the terrible voice of Hannya”, in this Lady Aoi exclamation the character is associated with the name for the first time.

Since then, the name has generally stood for a woman who becomes a kind of female Oni through hatred and jealousy.

In the classic Noh theater, the mask we used to represent Hannya was used on stage.

Overwhelming feelings

So a person becomes a Hannya when their soul is caught up in overwhelming feelings. The soul leaves the body and thus allows the change to another being.

Female demon

In Japanese traditional folk beliefs, female jealousy is particularly feared, which is why Hannya is portrayed as a female demon. Corresponding female attributes can be found in the mask. One of the most striking is the split hairline on the head. This hairstyle was not common for men, that’s why it clearly indicates a woman.

Other striking features of Hannya are:
fangs, pronounced jaw area, high forehead, horns, enlarged eyes, the skin color (from white, to bluish / greenish and finally red, according to the intensity of the negative feelings).

Of course, there are hardly any limits to creativity here. So the Hannya is reinterpreted in all imaginable styles today.

Hannya as a tattoo motif

The Hannya concept is known across cultures.

Everyone carries “demons” within them, if you are not careful and are obsessively guided by negative feelings. They will overwhelm you. A modern example of it in the western world is “Dr. Jackyll and Mr. Hyde”.

You have to learn how to control yourself. This obsession can give you a lot of strength and bring you closer to your goals.

The Hannya, as a tattoo, stands for being aware of your inner demons: you use them for your purposes always being careful to not let them use you!

Of course, everyone can create a connection to the design themselves, because a Japanese Hannya tattoo is simply a very aesthetic motif for small and large tattoo projects!

Do you want to know more about Hannya? Once everything is over, stop by the shop for coffee. Let Matteo tell you more about the exciting world of Yokai.

See you soon at Good Old Times Tattoo Berlin.