Mythology is full of vengeful gods, wicked tricksters and benevolent entities.
A culture’s mythology represents all the struggles and triumphs a person may encounter throughout their life.
But every culture needs a comedian to help them laugh at the best and worst of times.
Even in today’s mythologies, by way of popular movies and TV shows, the comic relief is usually the most beloved character.
Hyottoko is one such figure.
For Japanese folks and people familiar with the culture, Hyottoko is a staple in art, festivals, and tattoo designs.
So many people choose to commemorate trauma with their tattoos and there is certainly a healing power in that.
But it’s nice to bring some balance to the things and people you pay homage to.
Having a funny character by your side can be very healing during the sad times, and a sunny companion for better times.
Let’s take a look at this funny guy, where he comes from and why so many people have Hyottoko tattoos.
Who is Hyottoko?
Hyottoko, like many of our favorite Japanese characters, was popularized as a mask character in Noh theatre.
Noh theatre is still performed in Japan today though they have greatly reduced the running time to adjust to modern attention spans.
There is one legend that some people associate with Hyottoko.
The story is of a little boy who can produce gold from his belly button.
When families are in need of some good luck or a family member has just passed away, they place a mask of this boy’s face on the mantel to attract good vibes and prosperity.
The boy in the legend was known for having a very distinct face (more on that later) and his name was Hyoutokusu, so many people believe this is the beginning of Hyottoko’s tale.
In adult life, Hyottoko is often seen with his wife and companion Okame.
She is a pleasant looking figure with a round face, apple cheeks, red lips, and a demure smile.
She was once thought to be the epitome of female beauty.
Okame’s name translates to “Tortoise,” which is a Japanese symbol for a long and healthy life.
Okame is also known as the goddess of mirth.
Seen as Okame’s male counterpart, Hyottoko is an equally pleasant figure.
Hyottoko’s name roughly translates to “fire man,” and in some cases he is thought of as a fire deity or the god of fire.
He is a symbol of luck, prosperity and overall jolliness.
His appearance is quite comical when compared with his partner Okame.
Part of the reason why so many people get Hyottoko tattoos is because there’s a lot of fun to be had with the design.
Hyottoko is a round faced man with bushy black eyebrows, a moustache, and usually one eye squinted with the other wide open.
This comical character’s most distinct trait is his mouth.
He has a small round mouth, puckered and pushed all the way to one side of his face.
This gives him quite the clownish appearance, and his face is a favorite for festival masks and charms.
Hyottoko’s mouth is in this curious position because he is said to be breathing fire through a bamboo shoot!
He is also often wearing a blue and white polka dot scarf around his head, emphasizing this silly expression even more.
The Element of Fire in Japanese Culture
The five elements are an important part of day to day life in Japan, a person should always try to keep these energies balanced.
Fire, known as Ka in Japanese, is the energy that creates as well as destroys.
Passion and excitement are represented by fire, so inviting some of Hyottoko’s smiling energy into your life may be a great way to balance out this element for yourself!
Common Themes in Hyottoko Tattoos
Hyottoko tattoos have become something of a staple among tattoo enthusiasts.
Once you’re acquainted with this little guy, you will start to see him everywhere!
In Japanese tattoo design, people love to exaggerate Hyottoko’s funny features even more so.
They will turn his head slightly to the side, so you can see his puckered lips jutting out from his round face, making him look almost like a teapot.
Some artists draw flames shooting out from Hyottoko’s puckered lips.
As far as style goes, these tattoos are generally done in a modernized Japanese art aesthetic.
A little bit cartoony, a little bit traditional, just like Hyottoko himself really.
It’s best to incorporate all the details in your design, so don’t forget his blue and white bandana!
If you aren’t sure about getting a tattoo, but want to invite some jolly energy into your life- there is a 2 day Hyottoko festival every summer in Miyazaki Japan.
There are festival dancers in Hyottoko masks, competitions, parades, and all kinds of merriment.
Hyottoko Tattoo Ideas
Tattoos can be a celebration.
Finding a funny character who resonates with you is a great way to join that celebration.
Looking for some clownish inspiration?
Check out our gallery for the best Hyottoko tattoo designs!