Oni Mask Tattoo Meanings – In Japanese folk lore, the Oni is the demon correlated with all types of bad and distressful emotions. These demons are said to lurk around the expiring, rushing in to pull spirits down to hell. In devil hierarchy, they’re worse than the Tengu (the crow-like or long-nosed goblin mischief-maker), wreaking serious damage to people and devastation to the property.
Tats of Oni masks are popular with admirers of Japanese traditions and designs. With its ferocious expression, bulging eyes, snarling mouth, and horns sprouting from either side of its forehead, the Oni strongly resembles the demon as depicted in western spiritual and folk art. As tats, they are often sported on the backs of hands and snarling up the sides of torsos.
Belief in devils, evil spirits and phantoms has a very long history in Japan, and is rooted in religious beliefs going back thousands of years. Devil pictures and masks were used to terrify people and also to frighten away other evil spirits. Plagues, famine and earthquakes were attributed to the Oni. Before Buddhism came to Japan, ceremonies to keep away the Oni were conducted around shrines and temples.
The Oni character appeared in mime and dance, and in addition in prayers for peace, fertility and longevity, customs that became an intricate part of the Japanese culture. In the traditional Japanese Noh theatre performances, the essence of the Oni character is displayed in each mask. The demon character generally appears at the ending of the play, together with other non human entities.
Noh theatre as seen now is said to have been crafted by two great celebrities of the 14th and 15th century. Though it dropped after the fall of the last shogun around 1867, the custom was restored after WWII. The devilish mask of the Oni can still be seen in Japanese performances, looking as bad now as they did more than 500 years ago.