Translated by Jasmine Nishino
Enjoy Japanese Calligraphy - Shodo Workshops for Tourists
Written by Sawada Tomomi
Find out about places where you can experience and enjoy Japanese calligraphy using a brush and ink. Learn the basics to write or draw your favorite word or image.
The Traditional Art Of Japanese Shodo Calligraphy
In Japan, there are many traditions and culture that has been passed down for ages. Shodo or calligraphy is one of them; a cultural art form that unites writing and text stylistically. In this article, we will feature the Japanese art of shodo calligraphy.
Shodo calligraphy is an art that uses a brush and ink to artistically write kanji and hiragana characters. Shodo originated in China, but in Japan, the usage of hiragana characters mixed in with the kanji characters that were originally from China became commonplace. At first, brush writing was used on a normal basis to write messages, however as time passed, methods to express feelings beautifully through writing were created.
During the sixth and seventh century, it was a requirement for leaders, nobles, and warriors of Japan to know how to write with a brush. The tradition and techniques gradually spread to the common people and now it is a part of the Japanese lifestyle. Currently, it's not only appreciated as a form of art, but many Japanese people nowadays use the brush and ink for special occasions, such as to write nengajo (*1) cards.
*1 Nengajo: A card or greeting message that is mailed out in the beginning of the new year.
Learn About the Brush and Washi Paper Used In Japanese Calligraphy
Must have utensils for shodo calligraphy are the brush and the washi paper. Brushes for shodo calligraphy come in many varieties and feature bristles made from the fur/hair of weasels, horses, sheep and other animals. Soft sheep wool is suited to write gently or softly, while harder weasel fur and horse hair is suited for stronger expressions.
Washi paper is a type of paper that is made by traditional Japanese methods using plants such as hemp, the kozo mulberry, and the mitsumata plant. These calligraphy supplies can be purchased at local Japanese stationery shops or at major retailers, such as Tokyu Hands. They make a great souvenir and are the perfect gift for any art lover in your life.
A Collection of Beautiful Writing
Did you know that in shodo calligraphy, the same kanji and hiragana characters have different variations?
The style of writing kanji and hiragana accurately and fitting each character into equivalent sizes is called kaisho (楷書), while loosely writing the kaisho style is called the gyosho (行書). Then there's also the style where you use many curves and freely written lines with great movement that is called the sosho style. All of them are very beautiful and artistic. There are also many types of paper depending on the style of writing you choose and what you wish to express.
Enjoy Shodo Calligraphy
In Japan, there are places visitors from abroad can experience or watch and enjoy shodo calligraphy. This time, MATCHA would like to recommend two such locations.
Mitsuo Aida Museum
The Mitsuo Aida Museum has works by the poet and literary artist Mitsuo Aida on display. Mr. Aida enjoyed shodo calligraphy and writing tanka (short Japanese poems) since middle school and met his Zen (*2) master when he was eighteen, from whom he was deeply influenced. His emotionally appealing messages draw many fans even today.
All of his works on display in the museum have an English translation, so visitors from abroad will be able to not only enjoy the literal beauty of each piece but also have a greater understanding of each poem.
*2 Zenshu: A branch of Buddhism that focuses their practices with their daily training.
Udoyoshi Shodo Class
At the Japanese Udoyoshi Shodo Class, located in Yushima, Tokyo, writers of all levels can come and experience shodo. The calligraphy classes at Udoyoshi are held in a Japanese room with all the writing tools prepared for you, making it an ideal place for visitors from abroad to easily enjoy the art of shodo.
At the Udoyoshi classes, you will be able to try your hand at authentic Japanese calligraphy in a peaceful classroom. The experienced instructor will teach you step by step, so beginners are welcome to try.
As you can see, there are many ways to enjoy shodo: appreciating it as an art, understanding the meaning behind the words, or even writing it yourself. It would be a great experience to have during your time in Japan.