Many ritualswill go on during New Year’s holiday in Japan, and “Kakizome” (書き初め) is one of them.
“Kakizome” literally means “the first calligraphy”- write down the New Year’s resolution
within 3 days after the new year between the 2nd through 15th after new year’s.
It is a long tradition in Japan, which is said royals originally started the original “Kakizome” event during the Heian period (794-1185.)
Japanese calligraphy is called Shodo or Shuji, Shodo is the art like you can write letters freely, and Shuji is the “calligraphy” of following the textbook.
In other words, “whether or not there is self-expression”. In Shuji, the purpose is to write beautiful, well-balanced characters in the correct stroke order, while in Shodo, boldly broken characters express power, delicacy, and sadness.
Japanese Calligraphy is one of the art to write letters on paper using a brush and ink and to convey one’s thoughts through the strongness and typefaces. It also a means of self-expression.
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 basic at school.
As for the origin of Japanese calligraphy, it introduced as a sutra copy along with Buddhism around the 6th and 7th centuries from China to Japan. Most Japanese have the opportunity to come into contact with calligraphy, such as private lessons and school lessons, and Japanese calligraphy is deeply rooted in modern Japanese life, such as those used at ceremonial occasions, New Year’s cards, and Kakizome.
Attractive Aspects Of Japanese Calligraphy
Japanese calligraphy, also known as shuji(習字) or shodo(書道), is the calligraphy using a special brush called “Fude” and ink called “Sumi”. The Japanese have a calligraphy class in most of the elementary school, so every student has a calligraphy set.
When I was a kid, it was very common to learn more skills at a private calligraphy class because the ability to do calligraphy requires a lot of training.
Recently, Japanese calligraphy has been popular as a hobby for adults, and Japanese professional calligraphers have been active internationally.
An interesting aspect of Japanese calligraphy is its sensitive balance of the brushstrokes, pauses, sweeps, strength, the contrast of ink, and expressions of the entire and each letter.
Using all your concentration while carrying a brush on the paper also helps to be refreshed and relaxed.
I am just a beginner of mindfulness meditation, and 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.
As I mentioned in the begging, “Kakizome” (書き初め) is the first calligraphy to indicate the aspirations and goals of the year or good luck words as the New Year’s ritual.
Traditionally, “Kakizome” should be done on the 2nd of January, but it got a little casual so it should be done between the 2nd though 15th after new year’s.
It is believed that sitting on the floor, focusing on the image of goals, and focusing on carrying the brushes will help clear your mind and improve your performance for the year.
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, means “If you always stay calm, you will be happy all the time.”
Steps For Japanese Calligraphy
So, anyway, this is the basic Japanese calligraphy set.
An ink, two types of brushes, a solid ink, a water tank, an inkstone, and a mat.
And, there is a bag of special paperfor Japanese calligraphy. It is very thin like tissues.
Certainly, there is no rule that you must use a special paper for Japanese calligraphy. However, I highly recommend starting practicing it with the special paper because other papers such as carbon paper, canvas, (that I have tried before) are not suitable for the “sumi” ink and the “fude” brush. One is not slippery enough, one doesn’t absorb the ink.
It is the perfect set when you start Japanese calligraphy tomorrow! The complete set for a beginner as far as calligraphy goes.
This is the exact set that we buy for the calligraphy class at the school.
- Dimensions : 224x45x310 mm.
- A Hardcase
- A bottle of Bokuteki (“ready-to-write” liquid ink)
- Fude (brush) set (Thick & Thin)
- Fudemaki- the straw screen for wrapping Fude
- Sumi (a solid ink)
- Suzuri (an ink tank)
- Bunchin (a paper weight)
- A mat
- A water bottle (for a solid ink) and also can be a brush holder
- Place the mat on the table.
- Put the paper on the mat. Fold and line a paper if you want to see the center lines.
- Place the paper stone on the paper.
- Pour the ink and set the brush.
Hold the brush
There are two ways to hold the brush, Tanko-hou and Soukou-hou. With Japanese calligraphy, hold the brush on higher than half-length, and don’t tilt too much.
Hold the brush with the thumb and forefinger, and lightly place the rest three fingers. It is similar to hold chopsticks and pencils, but be careful not to overly tilt the brush like holding a pencil. This way is suitable for writing fine letters.
Hold the brush with the thumb, forefinger, and middle finger. This way has more stability so that it’s easy to carry and handle the brush and its tip. This way is suitable to draw Chinese characters that have several strokes, steeps, and pauses. The picture above is this holding type.
Dip the brush in the ink
Dip the brush into the ink in the inkstone gently.
Make sure that the central core of the brush absorbs enough ink, not just soaking the surface. Once the brush has absorbed enough ink, remove excess ink on a sloping or flat area (it’s similar to when applying nail polish) to keep the tip of the brush pointed neatly.
It needs little time to get used to knowing the proper amount of ink absorbed because it varies depends on the type of paper, the brush, and the ink that you use.
Draw (write) the letter
I am always nervous to start to write a letter on paper.
Before the first drow, look at the entire letter on the textbook thoroughly.
The balance and position,
The spaces of each letter,
Where to make pauses,
Where and which directions of strokes, sweeps.
There are many checkpoints that you need to look at before starting. Take a time, copy those points in your head.
Be careful not to let the brush leaning too much. Also, do not overpower the brush against the paper, even when you want to emphasize the letter until you get skilled. It causes brush tip damaged.
Use the arm, not only using the fingers and wrist to draw (write) the letter.
If you are not ready for Chinese or Japanese characters, you can start writing with lines, circles, doodles. (Usually, we don’t write alphabets in Japanese calligraphy, and it was difficult when I tried.)
Indeed, doodling a snail is used practicing for Japanese characters because Japanese characters have lots of curves, but this tip is for writing with a pen though. So, it may be better to practice the aimed letter with a pen first.
You need to understand how the brush works. You also need to be able to draw a straight line and be able to make even space.
Unfortunately, I don’t have enough skills to teach Japanese calligraphy, why not find the short lesson the next time you visit Japan!
I am not a beginner but haven’t done Japanese calligraphy for a long time. (maybe for 30 years?)
I went to a private calligraphy class and have a Japanese calligraphy 3 grade- the level that anyone can pass it if you take lessons for a while.
My Works 2020
Hmmm, what do you think?
I think this is the best of today (2020)!
As you see, the balance of all is very important, this is the best but kind of lost balance of letters.
Japanese calligraphy is required that the characters be placed on paper with good balance. In order to do so, I recommend drawing (writing) with standing.
My Works 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”.
The 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.
We use fingers to type texts much in these days, how often hold your pen recently?
Maybe it is a little different for you to do Japanese calligraphy from my situation, but you would like it if you are interested in it.
It is said for the Japanese people that the calligraphy brings…
- the concentration skill (You can’t miss writing any letters)
- straighten the body core up
- touching with ancient culture
Maybe start looking at Japanese Calligraphy arts, think about Japanese culture.