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Japanese Calligraphy And Kakizome; Things You Want To Know

the japanese calligraphy and kakizome Culture, Etiquette

Many custom rituals and traditions go on in Japan during the year-end and New Year holidays, and the Kakizome is one of them.

“Kakizome” literally means “the first calligraphy”- drawing the New Year’s resolution on a paper on the 2nd of January, generally.

Kakizome has a long tradition in Japan, and it is said that the royal family started the first “Kakizome” event during the Heian period (794-1185).

Japanese calligraphy is called Shodo or Shuji, and there are slightly different meanings between Shodo and Shuji.

Which, “whether or not there is self-expression”.

The goal of Shuji is to write beautiful, well-balanced characters in the correct stroke order, while in Shodo, boldly broken (unique) characters express power, delicacy, and sadness.

In both cases, calligraphy is one of the arts of drawing letters on paper with a brush and ink and expressing one’s thoughts through its strength and typeface.

Japanese calligraphy requires concentration and the skills to write beautiful characters, so it has been considered as training for the spirit. As a preliminary step to Shodo, the Japanese learn Shuji basics at school.

The Aesthetic Of Japanese Calligraphy

Japanese calligraphy aesthetic is its sensitive balance of the brushstrokes, pauses, sweeps, strength, the contrast of ink, and expressions of the entire letter.

Holding a brush and focusing on carrying it to help you focus is also helpful in refreshing and relaxing.

I am practicing mindfulness meditation, but, I have a similar feeling when meditating and when doing Japanese calligraphy.

I like that no one can copy someone’s character of letters exactly, Japanese calligraphy, which is the way of communication and self-expression of who you are.

Three Elements Of Japanese Calligraphy.

Calligraphy has three elements of calligraphy.

  • Hippo
  • Hitsui
  • Hissei


Hippo literally means “Writing technics”, which refers to all aspects of how to handle a brush such as proper physical posture, how to hold the handle, and how to carry the brush head.


The writer’s motivations, intentions, attitudes, feelings, and feelings when drawing.


The art of the brushwork. The expression of passion, power, motivation, and sensitivity.

Japanese calligraphy is so interesting since the drawing dramatically changes the impression given to other people based on these three elements. This is also why the Japanese calligraphy expresses yourself/ a drawer’s.

Why Do The Japanese Study Calligraphy At School

To start Japanese calligraphy, called Shuji(習字) or shodo(書道), we use a special brush called “Fude” and ink called “Sumi”.

Generally, we have calligraphy classes as a regular class in elementary school.

By the way, it was very common for school children to go to a private calligraphy school to learn more skills and techniques when I was a kid.

Recently, Japanese calligraphy has been more popular among adults to improve free time for themselves, moreover, it has been becoming more worldwide.

Japanese calligraphy has many purposes through the art form.

It is known as Zen practice, it evokes mindfulness meditation-it’s just focus on the harmony of each movement and substance-on the brush tip, the ink, the amount of the ink absorbs the brush, the balance of the structure, spacing… etc.

  1. Having a correct and proper posture will bring health benefits and easy keep concentration.
  2. Doing Japanese calligraphy can improve your concentration, and clear your mind.
  3. Letters are written by someone indicate characters of individual people. Which means writing neat letters can give a positive impression to others.
  4. It has the effect of clearing your mind and calming your body like doing meditation.

What’ll You Need To Start Japanese Calligraphy

There are four essential tools in the art of calligraphy.

  1. The brush called “fude“, generally need to have thick and thin brush.
  2. The ink called “sumi”, there are two types of sumi ink- a solid (stick) type and a liquid type.
  3. The inkstone called “suzuri“.
  4. The paper weight called “Bunchin
  5. The special mat
  6. The specila washi paper

It is the perfect set when you start Japanese calligraphy tomorrow!

The complete set for a beginner as far as Japanese calligraphy goes.

This is the exact set that we buy for the calligraphy class at the school.

  1. Dimensions : 224x45x310 mm.
  2. A Hardcase
  3. A bottle of Bokuteki ink (“ready-to-write” liquid ink)
  4. Fude (brush) set (Thick & Thin)
  5. Fudemaki- the straw screen for wrapping Fude
  6. Sumi (a solid ink)
  7. Suzuri (an ink tank)
  8. Bunchin (a paper weight)
  9. A mat
  10. A water bottle (for a solid ink) and also can be a brush holder

You need to use special washi paper for Japanese calligraphy which is very light thin paper like tissues.

Can you use other types of paper?

The washi paper is made for that Sumi ink and fude brush, which means the washi paper has excellent ink retention and friendly carrying fude brush.

Certainly, there is no rule that you must use special paper for Japanese calligraphy.

However, I highly recommend the special washi paper because other papers such as drawing paper, canvas, (that I have tried before) are not suitable for the “sumi” ink and the “fude” brush since they are slippery and doesn’t absorb the ink.

Step By Step For Japanese Calligraphy

Prepare For The Paper & The Brush

  1. Place a paper on a mat.
  2. I recommend folding paper into 4 equal parts.
  3. Place a paper stone on the top part of the paper.
  4. Pour Sumi ink into an inkstone and set the brush.

The Best Posture For Japanese Calligraphy

The posture is very important like meditation/ Yoga. Keeping a proper physical posture means everything in Japanese calligraphy as well as handling the brush.

When you have an incorrect alignment such as bending the spine, you can’t even draw the proper letters and it affects concentration-hard to clear your mind.

Physical posture refers to the correct alignment of the body and relaxes your muscles.

A good posture and relaxing muscles can bring great performance to your calligraphy.

You can either sit on the floor or on a chair.

Straight up your spine.

The height of the desk should be at your belly button height.

Adjust the height by sitting on a cushion if needed.

How To Hold The Fude Brush In Japanese Calligraphy.

There are two ways to hold the brush, Tanko-hou and Soukou-hou, for a beginner In Japanese calligraphy.

• Tankou-hou

  1. Hold the brush with thumb and index finger.
  2. Support the fude brush gently with the rest of the three fingers.
  3. The holding posture is similar to holding a pen, but be sure to hold it straight, not to overly tilt.

• Soukou-hou

  1. Hold the brush with three fingers-thumb, index finger, and middle finger.
  2. Be sure to attach the index and middle finger to the brush.
  3. The rest of the fingers will gently support the brush.
  4. This way has more stability so that it’s easy to carry the brush. Especially, it is suitable to draw Chinese characters required brushstrokes, sweeps, and pauses.

Choose either way that you can be comfortable drawing letters.

Where To Hold The Handle Of Fude Brush In Japanese Calligraphy

The important hey is where you’ll hold the handle.

I don’t recommend having the lower position for a beginner.

Hold the handle around the middle/ a little lower than the middle in straight.

Let The Brush Absorb The Ink

Let the brush absorb the ink.

Dip the entire brush and let excess ink off while pressing the brush against the inkstone.

Make sure that the core of the brush absorbs enough ink.

Once the brush has absorbed enough ink, remove excess ink on a sloping or flat area (it’s similar to when applying nail polish).

Make the brush tip neatly at last.

How much you should let the brush absorb the ink?

It’s a difficult question, and it’s one of the points why Japanese calligraphy is the art and expression of yourself.

Keep practicing to find out the ideal ink amount for drawing your letter.

You’ll know a certain amount while practicing calligraphy. If the ink is too much, the paper will be torn, or the ink will be smudged.

Contrary, if the ink is not enough, you will not complete drawing the letter. Or you can’t draw a beautiful stroke.

How Do You Break In A Brand New Fude Brush

You need to remove the glue for the first use.

Thoughtfully massage from the tip with your finger.

Do not press the brush on the counter since it can damage the brush.

If the glue is hardly removed, soak the tip in cold/ lukewarm water and gently remove the glue.

Rinse off the glue on the brush thoughtfully after loosening the brush tip.

In the case of a thin brush called kofude, you need to be more careful to loosen the brush.

Loose only the 1/3 part from the tip.

As with a thick brush, gently loosen the brush from the tip with your finger.

Soak ONLY THE TIP in water to remove the glue.

Or, you can skip the rinsing step.

Dip the brush into the ink in the inkstone gently.

How To Draw The Letter

Concentrate to look at the entire balance of letters on the textbook before you start drawing.

There are many checkpoints that you need to look at before starting. Take time, copy those points in your head.

The position of each letter,
The spaces of each letter,
Positons to make pauses, strokes, sweeps.

Use the forearm, not only using the fingers to draw the letter.

Be sure not to lean the brush too much.

Also, do not press the brush tip against the paper too much, even when you want to emphasize the letter until you get skilled.

It causes brush tip damage.

How To Practice Writing Japanese & Chinese Characters

It is a good idea to practice writing Japanese & Chinese characters with a pen or pencil before practicing the calligraphy.

Start practicing drawing straight horizontal and vertical lines and circles.

Indeed, doodling a “snail” or “whirlpool” is good for you to practice Japanese characters since Japanese characters have lots of curves.

Practice doodling the snail or the whirlpool” until you can draw perfectly. (with even space in each circle. )

Then, try to use a fude brush.

Repeat drawing lines, circles, and doodles until you understand how the brush works.

Practice drawing a straight line as the first goal.

How To Clean A Fude Brush

Clean the brush well, especially a thick(big) brush. Some people say “brushes should not be cleaned after use”, it is better to wash the ink off the brush to make it last longer.

Use a cup or a small container to clean the brush. Avoid rinsing it with running water directly, which damages the brush.

Don’t forget to wash gently. Let the ink off well, and hung up the brush down until dry completely.

Use waste papers used for practicing to wipe off excess water from the bottom (the part attached with a holder) to the tip. Do not wipe vice versa. Make the tip pointed neatly to complete.

About a thin(small) brush, should avoid washing the whole tip because the starch goes away and you can’t write a thin letter again.

The Ink Stone

If you do not keep the inkstone clean, the old ink will remain which causes the ink color to deteriorate or give off a foul odor. After use, clean the inkstone with the waste paper used for practice. Then, rinse it with lukewarm water. (watch out for the ink splash!)
You can use a sponge but not a scrubbing brush.

After washing it thoroughly, wipe it gently with a cloth and let it air dry.

My New Year’s Resolution Idea: 2020

Traditionally, “Kakizome” should be done on the 2nd of January, but the rule got a little casual, so it should be done between the 2nd through 15th after the new year’s.

Sitting on the floor, focusing on your new goals, and starting to carry the Fude brush will clear your mind and naturally make you motivated.

It’s already 5th, but I tried “Kakizome” this afternoon.

There are many four-(Chinese) character idioms suitable for “Kakizome”,

I picked up “和気致祥”waki syou o itasu, which means “If you always stay calm, you will be happy all the time.”

all my works today

Hmmm, what do you think?

the best of today

I think this is the best of today (2020)!

My New Year’s Resolution Idea: 2021

Meditation, Meiso, Kakizome, 2021

My new year’s resolution 2021 is “Meditation”. “Meisou” in Japanese.

I had been under-stressed and easily got frustrated at home. I wanted to change my habit of thinking, so I finally started learning “meditation”.

My New Year’s Resolution Idea: 2022

Enjoy Yourself

We recently type and text letters much these days, but, how often do you write letters with pens and pencils?

Maybe it is a little challenging for you to start Japanese calligraphy, but I am hoping you can find a way that you can find yourself, calm, and rest your mind.

I guarantee that Japanese calligraphy can bring…

  • Improve concentration your focus and concentration
  • Bring relaxation,self-healing
  • straighten up the core balance
  • Touching with Japanese aesthetic
  • Increase self-confidence
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