Hoan Kosugi was a famous artist and president of the Tabata Poplar Club, an artist guild and a very important figure in the development of Shotokan Karate in Japan.
As part of his enticement of Funakoshi, Hoan Kosugi told Funakoshi that if he would write a book about Karate, Kosugi would design it and provide a painting for the cover. When Gichin Funakoshi produced the book, Hoan Kosugi produced the now famous Shotokan tiger.
His idea for the tiger came from the expression “Tora no maki.” Tora no maki, in Japanese tradition, is the official written document of an art or system, which is used as the definitive reference source for that particular art. Since no books had ever been written about Karate, Hoan Kosugi told Funakoshi that his book was the tora no maki of Karate and since “tora” also means “tiger,” he designed the tiger as a representation of Funakoshi’s art.