What is the Japanese Symbol For Art?

The idea of “art” in Japan has a lot of porousness with the idea of entertainment. The main word or character which we will look at below is 芸 “gei”. This gets used in words as diverse as “Geisha”, meaning a person that practices a wide range of arts and performance entertainment. The word you often hear for something like “celebrity” in Japan is “Geinin”, meaning a “person with an art”. 

In this way, the word can also be close to the English word “talent”. 

If you ever go to a party in Japan, you might be called on to perform a “gei”. This doesn’t mean that they want you to paint a work of art or compose a poem (although these could be considered “gei” also). It usually means they want you to, say, do a handstand or fold a piece of origami while reciting the names of the countries of the world, or make a coin disappear and reappear from behind someone’s ear.

Art and Japan

In our fast-paced, technologically-driven world, it’s easy to forget the importance of the arts generally. We may not realize it, but art is a crucial part of our lives. It allows us to express ourselves, connect with others, and see the world in new ways.

But what is art, exactly? The answer is different for everyone. For some people, art is a way to escape the everyday grind. It can also be a reflection of personality, emotions, and thoughts. 

In Japan, art is not always just about beauty but it can also be a representation of traditional culture. The Japanese writing language itself, particularly its grapheme, is considered to be a work of art sculpted by a long and rich civilization. 

Because of the deep meaning of art in the Japanese language, it is not surprising that people have become more and more interested in having different Japanese writing tattooed on their bodies.

What is the Japanese symbol for Art?

The kanji (Chinese characters) for Art that is used in everyday conversation is 芸 and it original Chinese way of reading (On-yumi) is /gie/ (ゲイ). It has a dictionary meaning art, performance, and acting. 

The kanji 芸 (Gei) only has a Chinese reading since it is directly borrowed from the Chinese language from the Han period. However, this kanji is used very differently in the modern Chinese language.

It is also one of the most commonly used kanji in the Japanese language to refer to a general type of art. Any craft is considered art in the Japanese language as long as it conveys meaning, emotions, and technique. This is also one of the reasons why the name for different crafts uses the kanji 芸 (Gei).

Another symbol for art

Another kanji that is sometimes used to refer to art is 術. It only has the Chinese way of reading (On-Yomi) which is Jutsu (ジュツ). Yes, you read it right! If you are an anime fan, you might have heard this kanji from several ninja anime, especially that one anime that is crazy about ramen noodles (also see our article on the meaning of the word “Naruto” here)

Generally, this kanji has a meaning of “technique” or “skill”. However, because some fields consider technique as a form of art, it is sometimes referred to as the kind of art that requires precision and creates a visual impression. 

What is the difference between the Japanese symbols 芸 (Gei) and 術 (Jutsu)?

芸 (Gei) and 術 (Jutsu) are two separate kanjis and each has a separate meaning. When you say “art” in general, we often use the kanji 芸 (Gei). 芸 (Gei) has a more flexible meaning and can be used for anything one would consider art the same way in English. 芸 (Gei) primarily refers to one’s craft.

術 (Jutsu) focuses more on the performance and the technique. The only reason why it is also used in words relating to art is that many arts are performance-based and require technique. Some examples of arts that use this kanji refer to sculpture, painting, and fine arts. These kinds of arts highly value technique and visual appeal. 

The use of 術 (Jutsu) is very limited to a specific kind of field while 芸 (Gei) can be applied to all aspects of art—making it more dynamic and flexible than 術 (Jutsu). 

What words is the Japanese symbol for Art used in?

Some common Japanese words that use the Japanese symbol for Art are:

  1. 芸術 Art
  2. 美術 – Art (Bijutsu)
  3. 芸者 – Geisha
  4. 芸人 – Entertainer (Geinin)

1.      芸術  (Geijutsu) – Art

 芸術, pronounced as /Geijutsu/, is the general term used to refer to Art in the same way in English. It is commonly used in everyday conversation and often refers to anything that is perceived as “artistic” by different people.

This word is a combination of the kanji for art and technique all in one. 

Example Sentences For the Japanese word for 芸術 (Geijutsu):


Studying art requires a good taste to study art.


Art was in its golden age in Venice during the Renaissance.


My daughter prefers science to languages or art


Literature flourishes best when it is half a trade and half an art

2.    美術 (Bijutsu) – Art

美術 (Bijutsu) primarily refers to the kind of art that is often found in museums and galleries. While 美術 (Bijutsu) is also referred to as “art,” this word is considered to be a more specific term for paintings and sculptures that provide us with a more visual experience. 

The word is composed of the kanji for technique (術) and beauty (美). Essentially, Bijutsu (美術) is a kind of art that is primarily focused on visual arts and esthetics. 

Example Sentences For the Japanese word for 美術 (Bijutsu):


In this paper I would like to examine the notion of “dyad style” and its influence on fine arts.


She went to Paris in order to study art.


He has a fine library of books on art.


There is one University of Visual and Performing Arts and performing arts is taught in a few other universities as well. 

3.    芸者 (Geisha) –Geisha

A (芸者) Geisha is a Japanese traditional entertainer. They often wear kimonos and they are known to have pale white makeup on their face and alluringly red lipstick. 

The modern Geisha today is very different from the Geisha in the past. Originally, Geishas serve as an assistant for Oirans who work with men for pleasure. Eventually, Geisha starts to replace Oirans since Geishas offer cheaper “entertainment” for men than Oirans. 

Nowadays, Geisha are responsible for promoting Japanese culture and traditions through their aesthetics and entertainment. Geishas have deviated from entertaining men to the preservation and promotion of Japanese culture.

The (芸者) geisha is composed of the kanjis art (芸) and person (者). Thus, a Geisha is a person embodying Japanese art.

Example Sentences For the Japanese word for 芸者 (Geisha):


On this day, there was a surprise for a commemorative photo with a geisha from Nihonbashi Kabutocho.


Even for Japanese to dress up as “Geisha” and “Kabuki actor” is quite unfamiliar.


4.    芸人 (Geinin) – Entertainer

芸人 (Geinin) is a general word for “entertainer” in Japanese. It is often used to refer to personalities working as entertainers. The word is composed of the kanjis art (芸) and person (人), together it forms an entertainer or a person of art. 

A Geinin is very different from a Geisha. A Geinin can be anyone working in any form of entertainment, entertaining people in various media. A geisha focuses more on tradition and culture. While Geisha falls under the category of a Geinin, they are not synonymous and have very different lines of work. 

As a Geinin, the first thing that comes to people’s minds is singing, dancing, comedy, presenting, and other modern performance types of entertainment –although it’s not always the case. 

Example Sentences For the Japanese word for 芸人 (Geinin):


As a comedian, she’s active in a range of performance settings, including variety shows and radio.


He made good as an entertainer.


Long-time circus performer, Jackie LeClaire, remarked aerialists always try to calculate risk.


Active as an entertainer, actor, and film director.

Is the Japanese symbol for “Art” the same in Chinese?

The Chinese symbol for art is different from the Japanese kanji for Art. While the kanji 芸 in the Japanese language is used in the Chinese language, it has different usage and definition. The kanji 芸 refers to the Rue plant in the Chinese language–the same in Korean. 

The symbol for art in the Chinese language has several variations, however, the most commonly used Chinese symbol for art is 艺. It is a simplified version of 芸 but only the Japanese language use 芸 to mean “art”. 

How to write the Japanese character for “Art”

There are 7 strokes for the kanji 芸 (Gei) and it starts from the upper part going all the way to the bottom. 

Remember that stroke direction when writing kanji is from left to right and up to bottom.

Historical versions of the Japanese symbol for respect

There are no known historical glyphs for the kanji 芸 (Gei). However, it is known that this kanji has been around for a long time. This kanji has a complicated structure in its traditional form in the Chinese language. However, the Japanese language eventually switched to the simplified version as it continues to use the kanji to mean “art”. 

What is the Japanese concept of Art?

In Japanese culture, several characteristics are considered when looking at art. Art in Japanese often embodies elegance, perfect imperfection, mystery, discipline, ethics, subtlety, and craftsmanship. 

Japanese people highly value art and craftsmanship. It shows in the quality of their work which is often elegant and highly aesthetic. Art for Japanese doesn’t always have to be perfect. They see greatness in imperfection and they are often fascinated by the background story of an art. 

Next to Europe, it is safe to say that the Japanese have one of the highest regards for art since their culture itself manifests artistic elegance and craftsmanship. This is most especially after world war II when Japan started to focus on their human resources to raise back their people from the ground. 

It’s hard to say whether the tattoo for the kanji for art is popular since more people are more inclined to choose characters that represent personal characteristics. However, I have seen some websites that suggest the word “art” in the Japanese language as a tattoo. Some websites even go as far as giving tutorials on how to tattoo the word unto the skin. 

Should you get “Art” done as a tattoo in Japanese writing?

Words relating to the kanji for art are worth considering especially since Japanese people often see well drawn Chinese charcters of works of art in and of themselves. 

If you love art and consider yourself a creative person, then it might not be a bad idea to have the kanji for art tattooed on your skin. You can even go as far as choosing a special kind of art you are interested in and use the kanji word for it as a tattoo. 

If you are not very specific with arts but appreciate art – especially since a tattoo is a form of art – the general term for the word “art” in the Japanese language 芸術 (geijutsu) might be a tattoo worth considering. That being said, it could possibly come off as being too “literal” as well.

Just don’t forget to think it over before you choose your tattoo because once it’s inked on your skin, it will take some serious “arts” to get rid of it…

You may also be interested in taking a look at the “Japanese symbol for balance” or the “Japanese symbol for music


Article by John Salinas.

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