Tofu Boy Tattoo

Tofu Boy Tattoos Explained: Origins, Meanings & More

The long history of a short character

Tofu Boy Tattoo

Tofu Boy drawing

Americans tend to think of tofu as a new trend, something invented by hip millennials in LA.

The truth is, tofu has been a staple in China and Japan for thousands of years!

The dish started in China about 2000 years ago.

Though nobody knows for sure how this dish was discovered, legend talks of a Chinese cook who accidentally curdled his soy milk.

If that adventurous gentleman hadn’t tasted this accidental concoction, we wouldn’t have half the vegetarian and vegan dishes we do today!

The western world was introduced to tofu in the 1960’s and it has steadily grown in popularity since then.

Introducing Tofu Boy

But what does tofu have to do with tattoos?

Well- a lot actually!

An emerging trend in tattoo artistry is the Tofu Boy (Tōfu-kozō in Japanese) Tattoo.

Tofu Boy is a mischievous little character from the Edo period.

Unlike most Japanese characters, he doesn’t come from religious origins or traditional mythology.

It seems Tofu Boy’s origins come from tales told around the city.

Tofu Boy design

He has now been accepted as one of Japan’s Yōkai, and is a popular little figure.

Because he has no official origin story, it is more acceptable to take artistic liberties with Tofu Boy.

Tofu Boy is generally in a robe, sometimes in the style of a Buddhist monk. He always wears a pointed rice hat, and carries a cube of tofu on a plate.

This cube of tofu is often presented underneath a Momiji (Japanese Maple Leaf.)

Though he definitely gets points for presentation, it isn’t recommended you accept his tasty treat!

Tofu Boy’s tofu may look elegant, but it will rot you from the inside out, eventually killing you.

This is the mischievous, deceitful nature of the Yōkai.

What Is A Yōkai?

The Yōkai can seem like an intimidating bunch, which is what makes Tofu Boy such an intriguing character!

The Kanji characters for Yōkai translate to: bewitching, attractive, and calamity (Yō) plus mystery and wonder (kai).

Not the most peaceful combination!

The Yōkai are a class of supernatural creatures in Japan.

Many of them take animal form, though some appear more human.

These characters are sometimes demonic, and almost always mischievous.

Is Tofu Boy Good or Evil?

Being a member of the Yōkai doesn’t give someone the best reputation.

And Tofu Boy’s tofu is definitely not a kind offer.

However, despite his malicious intent- he is quite the beloved figure.

People find themselves endeared by this character, which is probably why there are so many tofu boy tattoos.

Tofu Boy is also rather shy and timid, so he isn’t exactly forcing anyone to eat his block of tofu.

It’s just unfortunate if they do!

Tofu Boy Theories

Legend has it that as Tofu became a popular dish, it may have been an artistic restaurateur who came up with the character.

If that is the case, that restaurant owner should have copyrighted his creation!

Tofu Boy is now a popular character for figurines, restaurant promo, cartoons, plush toys etc.

There is some debate about who Tofu Boy is.

Some say he is one specific character, a prince in the Yōkai world.

Others say there are many Tofu Boys and they work as servants for the Yōkai, who send them on endless errands.

There is a theory emerging about Tofu Boy as a victim of bullying.

Some say that, as a less powerful member of the Yōkai, he is teased for his weakness.

More recently, this side of Tofu Boy’s story has become part of educating children about bullies.

Tofu Boy is then seen as a sad, lovable character. A victim of not fitting in.

He may sometimes be used in children’s therapy sessions as well, to help the kids open up about their own struggles.

Common Themes In Tofu Boy Tattoos

The fun thing about Tofu Boy is that he isn’t sacred- so artists can come up with new ways of portraying him all the time.

You may want to talk to an artist who specializes in Japanese tattoo style, who can help you incorporate personalized elements according to Japanese symbolism.

No two Tofu Boy tattoos will look alike.

In some images he is a small boy with a giant baby head.

In others, he may be more of a one eyed, goblin-like creature.

Drawing Tofu Boy as one eyed has come in and out of style for years.

He is sometimes drawn this way because of his association with Hitotsume kozō- another Yōkai in Monk’s robes.

Like Tofu Boy, Hitotsume kozō is fairly harmless for the most part.

He does have a bad habit of coming up behind people in the dark though!

While Hitotsume kozō always has one eye, Tofu Boy is sometimes drawn as an average looking child.

He typically has a long tongue, which will sometimes be dangling over his poisonous treat, to make it look that much more irresistible.

Tofu Boy may be dressed in plain, humble clothes.

He is also sometimes adorned with several symbols.

You may see Tofu Boy sporting daruma dolls, taiko drums red rockfish, horned owls and taiko drums.

Interestingly, these are all talismans used to prevent smallpox as well.

Maybe Tofu Boy isn’t so bad after all.

Tofu Boy Tattoo Ideas

Whether you’re a vegetarian looking to declare your love of tofu- or someone who hates tofu and thinks it may be poisonous- a Tofu Boy tattoo may be a fun choice!

This could also be a great anti-bullying tattoo, if you or someone you know has been impacted by childhood abuse.

Having trouble picturing this funny little guy?

Check out our gallery for some soy milk curdling inspiration.

Tofu Boy tattoo on the skin
Tofu Boy tattoo on the forearm
Tofu Boy tattoo on the ribs
Tofu Boy tattoo on the arm
Tofu Boy tattoo on the shoulder
Tofu Boy tattoo on the forearm
Tofu Boy tattoo on the skin
Tofu Boy tattoo on the arm
Tofu Boy tattoo on the skin
Tofu Boy tattoo on the calf
Tofu Boy tattoo on the skin
Tofu Boy tattoo on the skin
Tofu Boy tattoo on the arm
Tofu Boy tattoo on the chest

For more Yōkai tattoos go to:

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