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The Japanese calligraphy and Kakizome; Things you want to know

the japanese calligraphy and kakizomeCulture, Etiquette
Culture, Etiquette
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There are lots of Japanese traditional things goes on during New Year’s holiday in Japan, and “Kakizome” (書き初め) is one of them.

Kakizome” is the Japanese term of the first calligraphy of the year, where one year’s aspirations and goals are written at the beginning of the year, and the original “Kakizome” event was held among the royals during Heian period. (794-1185)

The Japanese Calligraphy

japanese calligraphy

Japanese calligraphy, also known as syuji(習字) or shodo(書道), is the calligraphy by hand using a special brush dipped in ink. Japanese kids have a Japanese calligraphy class in the elementary school, so every students have a calligraphy set. 

When I was a kid, it was very common to go to private calligraphy class outside of the school because the ability to do calligraphy requires a lot of training.

Japanese calligraphy is also popular hobby for adults, and some professional calligraphers have been active internationally.

Attractive aspects of Japanese calligraphy

japan calligraphy wa rico

An interesting aspect of Japanese calligraphy is the sensitive balance of the brushstrokes, pause, sweeps of character written, the contrast of ink, strength and so on.

It also helps you to be refreshed and relaxed while you concentrate to carry brush on the paper. (in my opinion.)

No one can copy your character, Japanese calligraphy is one of the ways of communication and self-expression who you are.

Kaki zome

As I mentioned in the begging, “Kakizome” (書き初め) is the first try of Japanese calligraphy as the New Year’s event and write the aspirations and goals of the year or good luck words.

Generally, “Kakizome” is supposed to do on the 2nd of January. (at least done by 3rd)

To sit on the floor, focus on what is your goal, and concentrate to carry the brush is believed to help your mind clear and improve your performance of 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.”

Step by step Japanese calligraphy

First I have to say this, 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 when I was a kid, and have 3 grades which anyone can have if you take lessons for a while.

kakizome kit

So, anyway, this is the basic Japanese calligraphy kit.

An ink, two types of brushes, a solid ink, a water tank, an inkstone, and a mat.

I bought ink and brushes at the 100yen shop in Japan.

calligraphy paper and thin brush

And, there is a bag of special paper for Japanese calligraphy. It is very thin like tissues.

I also bought this at the 100 yen shop with the new thin brush.


paper stone calligraphy

  1. Place the mat on the table.
  2. Put the paper on the mat. Fold and line a paper if you want to see the center lines.
  3. Place the paper stone on the paper.
  4. Pour the ink and set the brush.

Hold the brush

how to hold the brush

There are two ways to hold the brush, Tanko-hou and Soukou-hou. With Japanese calligraphy, hold the brush on more higher than half-length, and don’t tilt too much.

• Tankou-hou

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.

• Soukou-hou

Hold the brush from with thumb, forefinger, and middle finger. In this way, the brush is more stable so that it’s easy to carry and handle the brush (tip). This way is suitable to draw Chinese characters which have several strokes, steeps, and pauses. In my way of the picture above is this type.

Dip the brush in the ink

dipping the brush in the ink stone

Dip the brush into the inkstone gently.

Don’t dip just ink on the surface of the brush, make sure to get the core soaked in the ink well. Once the brush is soaked enough ink, lightly remove excess ink with the slope or flat area and keep the brush tip neat.

If you have done the nail polish by yourself, it’s easy to get what I say. (I guess.)

It needs little time to get used to knowing the right amount of the ink soken the brush, it also varies depends on the paper, the brush, and the ink.

Draw (write) the letter

japan calligraphy wa rico

I am always nervous to start to write a letter on paper.

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 parts. It causes the brush tip damaged.

Use the arm, not only using the fingers and wrist to draw (write) the letter.

If you are not familiar with 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.)

It is important that you will figure out how the brush works.

Unfortunately, I don’t have enough skills to teach Japanese calligraphy, why not find the short lesson the next time you visit Japan!

There some apps you can learn the Japanese calligraphy and chracters. 

My works today

all my works today

Hmmm, what do you think?

the best of today

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.

Clean tools

clean tools

Clean the brush well, especially a thick(big) brush.

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

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.

Enjoy yourself

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)
  • relaxation
  • straighten the body core up
  • touching with ancient culture
  • self-confidence

Maybe start looking at Japanese Calligraphy arts, think about Japanese culture.

The New Year’s day in Japan

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