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GALLERY: Hannya Tattoos

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The Hannya is undisputedly one of the more popular subjects used in Japanese-themed tattoos. Designed with devil's horns, somber eyes, and a wide mouth, the mask looks terrifying, formidable, and full of character. Veiled behind that sinister sneer is a fascinating backstory and a couple of interesting tidbits you might not have known.

The hannya mask has historically been an extremely popular Japanese tattoo design, and there is good reason why it looks so demonic.  The hannya ( 般若 han-nya) originates from stories told in traditional Japanese theater and is perhaps the most recognizable mask in Noh, a style of traditional Japanese theater comprised of music and dancing. It can also be seen being used in other styles of traditional Japanese theater such as Kyōgen and Kagura. The hannya mask represents souls of women who have become demons, full of anger and sadness as a result of jealousy.

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