A famous mask from Japanese theatre, this tattoo is not closely tied to wounded love, but rather seems to keep away evil spirits. Here is the story…

Let’s begin with the meaning of the word. “Han’nya” comes from Sanskrit and means “wisdom”, “virtue” or, more generally speaking, the “path which leads to enlightenment”. But Han’nya is also a mask which is very popular in Japanese Noh theatres.

Kostas Tzikalagias, Dirty Roses Tattoo, Thessalonki, Greece
Kostas Tzikalagias, Dirty Roses Tattoo, Thessalonki, Greece

The mask represents a jealous female demon and the most famous play in which it features is “Dojoji”, inspired by the famous story of the monk Anchin and the unrequited love of Kiyohime.

Calle Corson, King Carlos Tattoo, Stockholm, Sweden
Calle Corson, King Carlos Tattoo, Stockholm, Sweden

Over time Han’nya (or Hannya) thus became a classic of Japanese style tattoos because of the countless stories and folk legends connected with it..

Johan Svahn, Soul Rebel Tattoo, Malmo, Sweden
Johan Svahn, Soul Rebel Tattoo, Malmo, Sweden

Let’s take a closer look. In the collective imagination it is a large head with sharp horns, two bulging eyes glaring at whoever is looking and a leering mouth ready to devour, or at best, gobble up, whoever is in front of it.

Dan Sinnes, Luxembourg Electric Avenue, Luxembourg, Luxembourg
Dan Sinnes, Luxembourg Electric Avenue, Luxembourg, Luxembourg

Be careful though, the meaning of this tattoo is not strictly associated with the famous legend by which it is inspired!

The Han’nya tattoo cannot actually be traced back to a woman turned into a demon by her jealous rage at the unfaithfulness of her lover (a platonic love at that…) but it is said to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck to those who wear it on their skin. Another story altogether, in fact.

David Tevenal, Memento Tattoos, Columbus, USA
David Tevenal, Memento Tattoos, Columbus, USA

At the same time, the legends say that Han’nya was a strikingly beautiful woman, and the protagonist in a particularly painful love story. Her beauty – the myth continues – was so unusual, with her great emerald green eyes, skin soft and velvety like peach blossom and an exceptionally gentle and docille manner.

Evan Griffiths, Grey Street Tattoo, Melbourne, Australia
Evan Griffiths, Grey Street Tattoo, Melbourne, Australia

In short, Han’nya was a true free spirit, but that was until she crossed paths with a samurai warrior – with a great talent for singing his own praises and telling the stories of his warlike deeds – and fell madly in love. And then, one fine day, discovered that her beloved had taken himself off to the river bank with another woman…

Lucky Luchino, On The Road, Barcelona, Spain
Lucky Luchino, On The Road, Barcelona, Spain

That was when the shy girl with the emerald green eyes went mad with jealousy and accepted the offer of an evil demon to turn her into a monstrous demon just so she could put an end to her terrible heartbreak.

Max Titanic, One Door Community, Moscow, Russia
Max Titanic, One Door Community, Moscow, Russia

Han’nya flung herself into the river a stone’s throw away from the scene of betrayal by her samurai, was immediately transformed and the rest, as they say, is legend.

We will leave you with our gallery dedicated to the best Han’nya tattoos!

If you’re looking for new ideas and inspirations for your next oriental tattoo, take a look at our digital bookstore! Don’t miss it! VIEW NOW >>
If you’re looking for new ideas and inspirations for your next oriental tattoo, take a look at our digital bookstore! Don’t miss it! VIEW NOW >>